Stay Safe! The Do’s and Don’ts of Meat Defrosting
We bet you can relate to this familiar scene: You plan a healthy meal for you and your family, and look forward to partaking in it with them after a long day of work. But once you reach home, you realize that dinner is about to be delayed… in your excitement, you forgot that crucial step of taking the meat out of freezer that morning to let the ice thaw.
There are many different ways to defrost meat and what you chose to do here can prove to be crucial for your own as well as your family’s health.
Keep Your Food Out of the “Danger Zone” Temperature Window!
It’s really important to understand that your food should always be kept at a safe temperature because not doing so can cause rapid bacteria growth. The “danger zone” describes the temperature window in which pathogenic bacteria have the perfect environment to multiply. The danger zone ranges between 40’degree F and 140’degree F and consuming food left too long at these temperatures can result in some serious health risks for your family and yourself, including food poisoning. In order to avoid this scenario, keep your hot foods properly hot, and your cold foods properly cold.
Keeping Cold Foods Cold: Safe Fridge and Freezer Temperatures
If you are using a freezer to store your raw meat, then make sure to set the temperature at around -10 to -20 degrees F. This temperature won’t destroy the nutrients of your meat, but it will create an environment too harsh for bacteria to thrive and multiply. If you use the refrigerator when storing meat, then set your fridge to 35 degrees F (safely below the danger zone).
Keeping Hot Foods Hot: Safe Cooking Temperatures
To avoid the spread of harmful bacteria, make sure you’re checking the internal temperatures of meat dishes. The following guidelines tell you at what temperature hidden bacteria are killed (making it safe to eat).
Poultry –In order to cook good poultry, the temperature has to be set at 165 degrees F. If poultry is not cooked properly, it can spread salmonella and other dangerous diseases.
Ground meat– the minimum cooking temperature requirement for ground meat like beef, pork and lamb is 160 degrees F. These types of meat need to be cooked at an increased temperature because bacteria is more than likely to spread during the mixing process.
Egg dishes – Eggs and dishes including eggs (that includes baked goods!) should reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F.
Fish – The minimum safe temperature is 125 degrees F for Tuna, Swordfish or Marlin, or 140 degrees F for other fish.
Lastly, be sure to pack up leftovers quickly and avoid leaving food out for extended periods of time at room temperature.
Safe vs. Unsafe Ways to Defrosting Raw Meat
Now that you know how to keep your meat safe to eat in the cold and safe to eat in the heat, how do you safely bring it from one state to the other? There are safe and unsafe ways of defrosting raw meat, and knowing what they are will help you make the right decision in terms of what to do when you are dealing with meat.
The 3 Safest Ways to Defrost Meat:
- Refrigerator thawing– All you have to do is place the meat in a sealed container or platter. When using this method, the most important thing to remember is to place the meat at the bottom-most shelf so that it does not spread germs or bacteria towards the other foods in the fridge.
- Cold Water thawing– Wrap the meat with protective plastic that does not cause leaks and place it over tap. Turn the tap to cold water and spread it all over the meat until you can feel it defrost.
- Microwave thawing- (Use this option only if you’re comfortable microwaving your food). Place the meat in containers or wraps that are microwave friendly. Press the defrost button on the microwave and wait for it to completely thaw. It’s important to keep a close eye on your dish while it’s defrosting- don’t let it cook in the microwave! Secondly, don’t waste any time between defrosting and cooking.
5 Unsafe Ways to Defrost Meat:
- Placing meat in hot water – Using hot water on meat is a bad idea because it will breed bacteria in the process.
- Defrosting meats in countertop– This may be the worst option since it keeps food in the danger zone for the longest period of time. Since bacteria counts can double every 20 minutes, you’re opening up a serious risk of food poisoning.
- Forgetting to wash your hands – Hello, cross-contamination! Don’t be a vehicle for the spread of harmful bacteria. Wash your hands with warm water and soap before touching anything else in the kitchen.
- Marinating on the counter– You should only allow your meat to marinate in the fridge in a sealed container. Leaving it at room temperature is dangerous.
- Washing raw meat in the sink – (After defrosting) It’s usually the germ-conscious that wash their meat in the first place, but researchers have found that washing your meat before cooking can actually cause more bacteria to spread and risk cross-contamination! More on that here.
Did any of these facts surprise you?