Avoid the Danger of Undercooked Meat
(Photo: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net) People who work in the food service industry should be aware of the dangers that undercooked meat presents to their customers. Cooking meat and poultry at the incorrect temperature makes people liable of contracting food poisoning as the harmful bacteria in the meat is not neutralised at a high enough temperature. Under-cooking meat and poultry can be very dangerous because of the harmful bacteria that the raw meat/poultry could contain. Some of the bacteria include salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and E. coli and we hear cases each day of one of these bacteria causing sickness in people, some even dying. The good news is that these dangerous bacteria can easily be combatted by cooking food properly and at the correct temperatures, especially meat and poultry. Although different meats require different cooking temperatures to kill these bacteria, the temperature must be high enough and for a long enough period. Steak for example only requires minimal cooking and most people prefer it rare, which shouldnâ€™t be problematic but minced meat on the other hand requires longer cooking times to destroy the bacteria in the meat because of the greater risk of contamination in mince. The high risk meats are minced meat, sausages and poultry. Because of the great risk of bacteria these meats should be thoroughly cooked until browned (ie. There should be no pink in the centre). A good way of knowing when it is cooked is when the juice emitted by the meat runs clear and not red from the blood. Authorities recommend using a meat thermometer to check whether meat reached a high enough temperature to destroy the bacteria. A cooking thermometer can be inserted into the centre of the meat to ensure it has reached the right temperature because this is the area of the meat that is usually underdone. In this way you can ensure it is thoroughly cooked through the centre.
Meat thermometers are a useful tool for every kitchen to have but the thermometer should not be put into the oven or the pot in which you are cooking the meat. The general rule is that you should insert the thermometer into the centre of the piece of meat. For chicken and poultry products the best place for the thermometer to be placed is in the fleshy inner thigh near the breast. Minced meat and ground poultry present a serious health hazard if they are not cooked thoroughly through the middle. In order to make sure of this insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the piece of meat. The same method can be employed when checking beef, pork, lamb, ham and veal but keeping the thermometer away from the bone. The same applies when cooking casserole type dishes and egg dishes. Safe temperatures are around 63ºC for fish and around 71ºC for minced meats. When cooking beef, veal and lamb different people have different preferences some prefer it rare, some medium and some well done. Generally between 63ºC –77ºC will be safe. Once the meat has been cooked, allow it to sit for about 3 minutes to rest. Generally in a food preparation role you would be trained on how to cook meat if it is part of your job description but it is useful to learn the basics. For customers who frequent take-aways and restaurants, although you cannot be sure if the meat has been exposed to a high enough temperature, you can do a simple check of the centre of the meat that it is not too pink and that there is no pink juice running from it, especially poultry.
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