We have recipes, blogs, TikTok, and TV to inspire us. However, online amateurs and even professional cooks may not follow food safety protocols. Viral shortcuts and obsolete procedures may cause genuine sickness.
“People have been trained a particular way, or they simply aren’t aware of certain safety issues, and then they start to post on social media, which spreads to many more people,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety specialist Meredith Carothers.
Carothers said she has seen increasingly inappropriate advice online, particularly on short-form platforms that lack safe-handling recommendations. Cookbooks and TV programs also fail food safety tests.
US foodborne infections affect millions. Carothers said the greatest preventative is avoiding disease-causing bacteria. So, whether you’re plunging spoon-first into the current culinary fad or merely perusing a simple chicken recipe on a food blog in 2023, here are some phrases—and omissions—to consider.
Salmonella-causing organisms are killed by cooking chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which may be confirmed by placing a food thermometer into the thickest section. Rinsing raw chicken spreads them.
“There’s nothing that you can do to eradicate any of the hazardous bacteria,” said North Carolina State University food safety research program director Ben Chapman. “Putting it in or near your sink increases risk.”
According to a 2016 U.S. Food and Drug Administration study, 67% of customers wash chicken before cooking.
Carothers said the tradition typically travels with family recipes. It may be a remnant of dirty poultry arriving in households with feathers.
She recommends disinfecting your sink after washing chicken (otherwise, you risk contamination when you rinse an apple or wash a dish). The USDA discovered that most individuals either don’t clean the sink or don’t clean it properly enough to kill germs. When a recipe says “pat dry,” it means eliminate surface moisture to help spices cling and chicken brown. Rinsing raw meat or seafood also spreads microorganisms.
First, Cool It, Then Refrigerate
Food safety requires keeping hot dishes like stews hot or cooling them quickly. Between 40 and 140 degrees, “danger zone” microorganisms thrive. Rutgers University food scientist Don Schaffner said a common foodborne illness-causing bacterium grows exceptionally quickly between 80 and 120 degrees. When huge, improperly cooled batches of food make people ill, this bacterium survives the intense heat of cooking as thick-walled, dormant spores, then changes into multiplying bacterial cells when the food dips into the danger zone.
“The more you can do to move it out of the higher end of the danger zone as early as possible, the better,” Schaffner said.
No need to chill food before refrigerating it. However, promptly covering and putting your pot in the fridge absorbs heat, particularly in deep dishes and thick meals.
Transfer food to shallow containers and leave it uncovered in the fridge to chill it (covering once cooled). Schaffner explained that if the meal isn’t beneath raw meat, an uncovered dish in the fridge is less likely to contaminate than too-warm food. He claimed to put a pot out while eating is fine—he does it at home.
Cook Till No Pink
Clear fluids, browning, and texture don’t indicate safe doneness, Chapman added. “If someone is telling you in a recipe that there’s some other proxy for doneness, it’s not science.” Hamburger patties require 160 degrees to eradicate viruses like E. coli, but they lose their “pink” below that temperature. Myoglobin, an oxygen-storing protein, makes raw beef pink (the liquid in packaged meat is myoglobin dissolved in water). Myoglobin denatures and browns at a food-safe temperature, but several factors—from the animal’s life experiences to whether you’ve frozen or salted the meat—can result in an undercooked burger that’s completely brown or an overcooked burger that’s still pink.
Undercooked burgers are riskier than steak, Chapman said.
He stated he can cook a steak rare and reduce contamination. “I’m making the exterior incredibly heated and I don’t anticipate infections inside.”
“I’m mixing it all up and suddenly the exterior becomes the inside,” he said of ground-beef patties, which may not eliminate infections if left rare. Bacteria may lurk under tenderized and brine-injected meat. If you want rare meat, assess the danger.
It is feasible to prepare a shelf-stable garlic or herb oil infusion at home, but it is more complicated than many people—including well-meaning social media posters proposing a “simple DIY gift”—think.
“If you don’t follow a proven step-by-step recipe… you may get someone very, terribly sick or even kill someone,” said National Center for Home Food Preservation director Carla Schwan.
Oil and garlic are maintained at room temperature, so people may think they may be blended and stored in a cabinet. Botulism spores are widespread and readily settle on garlic and plants, which we consume without harm. Spores may germinate into ordinary bacterial cells and release toxins in a low-acid, room-temperature, anaerobic environment like a bottle of oil.
Acid balance stops spores from growing. Schwan shared an oil infusion recipe after many requests. Botulism is dangerous yet uncommon. Jarred garlic must follow rigorous bacterial growth limits. Pestos, stir-fries, and other garlic-and-oil recipes are good if refrigerated and used within a reasonable time (the USDA recommends four days for leftovers).
When recipes incorporate food safety guidelines, individuals are more likely to follow them. “Safe recipe style guide” from the Partnership for Food Safety Education for food writers. These points please food safety professionals:
- Use a thermometer to guarantee food safety.
- Avoid cross-contamination. After touching raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, wash surfaces and utensils. Hands too.
- Pasteurize eggs for uncooked meals.
- Avoid substitutes and utilize reliable canning recipes.
Feature Image: Pixabay