· Whole cuts of meat (roasting joints, steaks, whole chicken fillets) that have not been chopped up or minced, will have harmful bacteria on the surface of the meat only. This is because the outside of the meat has not been pierced or sliced to allow the bacteria get inside the meat.
· Minced meat, and chopped up cuts, will have more bacteria because the outside layer has been “mixed in” with the inside, allowing the bacteria from the surface to spread within the meat.
Hand washing is one of the most important things to do to maintain health within your household.
When you are handling raw meat it is important to think about everything that the meat will touch in the process. Your hands should be clean before you touch the meat, so that you don’t add any bacteria to it. When you have finished preparing the meat and will no longer touch the meat in its raw state, then wash your hands again. If you absolutely MUST pick up that toy or carrot while you are preparing raw meat, wash your hands before and after!
Here is where you need to think about surfaces! What did the meat touch? What did your hands touch, after you handled the meat? Counters, utensils, tea towels, the lid handle on the pot… All of the items that the meat may have touched could now have bacteria on it. This is important because when you take the safely cooked meat out of the oven or pot, you could undo all your good work by placing it on a dirty counter!
When the meat is cooking, take a clean cloth with hot soapy water and wash down the counter. If you use a chopping board, make sure you wash it before you start chopping the veggies or peeling the spuds. Wash the knife, wash the tongs you used to put the meat into the dish, anything you think may have been in contact with the meat. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s more about habit than effort. Once you have had to clean everything a couple of times, you start to reduce the things that you touch!
How should I cook meat?
· Heat kills bacteria. The temperature should be hot enough to cook the meat the whole way through (think of the thickest piece in the pack) but it should not be so hot that it burns the outside before the middle has a chance to cook
· If you are cooking a number of small pieces, like sausages, move them around a lot so that they cook evenly on all sides. They should be brown the whole way around, not just on two sides!
· If you can, pick up a meat thermometer. They are not too expensive, and can be so useful in the kitchen. They let you know when the food is safe, stopping you from overcooking it “just in case”. See temperatures below.
How do I know when the meat is properly cooked?
· Find the thickest piece of the meat. Pierce this part with a knife or fork and pull it apart so that you can see the juices running from the meat. If the juice looks clear like water, then it’s done! If the juices look a little pink, or red, then keep cooking.
· There should be no pink meat left
· It should be really hot the whole way through – when you cut it open there should be steam coming from the deepest part. (think of chicken nuggets and Goujons that were never pink to begin with)
· For meats cooking in a casserole dish, or a lasagne dish, you should check the meat in a couple of places, because some parts of the dish may not be as hot as others.
As a general rule, you should check the temperature of the meat in the thickest part of the piece. For example on a whole chicken the thickest part of meat is the breast. On any type of meat, you should not put the thermometer in as far as the bone, just to the centre of the meat.
The temperature of meat products (including minced/chopped fish) should reach 70°C, and should remain at this temperature for at least two minutes. Sometimes if you check the temperature too soon, it may read 70°C but then drop when the oven has been opened. This is a false reading – remember to look for pick meat and juices!
Eating meat Rare
When you go out to a restaurant and order a steak, they will most likely ask you how you want it; rare, medium or well done. I know what you are thinking; How can they serve you rare (bloody) meat safely? It goes against all the rules you just gave me!
Not exactly. Meat like steaks, whole joints of beef or lamb, are pieces of meat that have not been pierced. The bacteria is settled on the outside of the meat, and has not made its way inside. When cooking a piece of meat Rare, the outside of the meat is sealed. This is done by ensuring that ALL areas of the outside of the joint have been exposed to a high temperature. This kills the bacteria on the outside, making the meat safe, and leaving the middle part rare. You can tell it has been properly sealed when the outside layer of the meat has changed colour.
Vulnerable people including the elderly, babies, toddlers, pregnant women and people who are unwell should avoid eating meat rare.
You cannot have minced meat rare. Minced meat has all of the bacteria mixed in among it, so cooking the outside only will not kill all the bacteria.
Got any Food Safety questions? Click here to contact Shóna – our Food Safety Manager