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Just Cook It!

Posted: March 5, 2013

Raw meat products all have the potential to carry bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli, so there are two things in particular to keep in mind when handling raw meats.

                There have been a number of reports over the past few years about meats causing illness due to bacteria. While meat processors have put into place a number of practices to prevent food borne illnesses, there are some basic things that anybody can do to protect themselves and their family.

                Raw meat products all have the potential to carry bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli, so there are two things in particular to keep in mind when handling raw meats. First, is to make sure to keep raw meats and any juices away from other foods, especially those that will be eaten raw. Wash your hands after handling any uncooked meats and before handling other foods. Don’t forget to also wash any utensils, cutting boards, or surfaces in the kitchen that came into contact with the meats.

                When cooking meats, use a thermometer to insure that the meat has been cooked to the proper temperature. Roasts and other whole pieces of meat should be cooked to at least an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Ground meats should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees for beef, pork, veal and lamb. Ground turkey and chicken should be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees, according to federal food safety guidelines. At these minimum temperatures, potentially harmful bacteria should be killed.

                Foodsafety.gov also recommends that you allow meat to rest for a period of time after the meat is removed from a heat source. This is another insurance that the meat temperature will remain steady or continue to rise and thus kill any harmful bacteria. This is very important for steaks cooked to medium rare, as they should reach a temperature of 145 degrees and then be allowed to rest for three minutes before consuming. Temperatures for medium steaks come in at 160 degrees and well done at 170 degrees, well within the recommended minimum temperature guideline.

                So, if you are ever concerned about the presence of bacteria in your meat that could cause a food borne illness, remember that all you have to do is “just cook it” properly to kill any harmful bacteria. For more information on cooking food properly, visit http://extension.psu.edu/food-safety or contact Melanie at the Penn State Extension office in Bedford County at 814.623.4800 or by email at meh7@psu.edu