Summer means cookouts, but common cooking mistakes could mean health risks and unpleasant side effects.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every year, foodborne illnesses sicken nearly 50 million Americans and hospitalize 128,000. Smart food preparation and cooking are the most effective ways to make sure you get only enjoyment out of your summer cookouts.
When thawing frozen foods, move them from the freezer to the refrigerator a few days before cooking. If you forget, you can also thaw frozen foods relatively quickly by placing them in cold water — or even faster in the microwave. Germs spread quickly at room temperature, so never thaw food on the counter. Washing raw meat isn’t necessary and only increases the likelihood that you’ll spread bacteria to your sink or counter, where it can sit at room temperature and multiply, possibly spreading to other foods you prepare.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, raw and undercooked meat can lead to a variety of foodborne illnesses. For example, ground beef may contain E. coli bacteria, poultry may contain salmonella bacteria and pork may contain trichinosis, a parasite. Cooking all these foods to proper internal temperature kills the danger, making them safe to consume. Instead of guessing, use a meat thermometer.
- Beef and pork (whole cuts): 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Ground beef and pork: 160 degrees Fahrenheit
- Poultry: 165 degrees Fahrenheit
Don’t serve cooked food on the same plate you used for raw meat. Doing so can transfer germs and bacteria to the cooked food. Also, let whole cuts of red meat sit for at least three minutes between cooking and eating. The internal temperature will continue to rise during this time, helping make sure all bacteria is killed.