Sausage, hamburgers, ribs and other types of meat are crowd pleasers well beyond grilling season. And, the food safety concerns that apply to them in the summer remain in effect throughout the year. Keep the following tips in mind to reduce your risk of food poisoning from spoiled or undercooked meat.
- Select temperature sensitive foods, such as meat, after shopping for shelf-stable items.
- Look for a "safe food handling" label on the package. This label explains how to safely store, prepare and handle raw and partially pre-cooked meat and poultry at home.
- Choose packages that are tightly wrapped. Many grocery stores also have plastic bags available in the meat department to place packages of meat in. These can help prevent raw meat from leaking their juices onto other foods in the cart.
- Ask to have raw meat bagged separately from other groceries at checkout.
- Always handle food with clean, dry hands.
- Store raw meat on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator or in the refrigerator's meat drawer.
- When refrigerated, use ground meats within two days of purchase. Whole cuts of meat, such as pork chops, steak and ribs, should be used within three to five days of purchase.
- Freeze raw meat in freezer-safe wrap at or below 0°F.
- Eat or freeze cooked meats within three to four days.
- Wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before, during and after preparing food, especially after handling raw meat. Remember to wash hands before touching knobs or door handles and before preparing other foods.
- Defrost frozen meat in the refrigerator, microwave or under cold running water — never on the counter.
- Use two separate cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination, one for raw meat, poultry and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods
- Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to their proper internal temperature. That’s 145°F for whole cuts of meat, such as steaks, chops or roasts, and 160°F for ground meats. Chicken and turkey should always be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F, no matter how they’re prepared.
- Whether raw or cooked, meat should not be left un-refrigerated for more than two hours. And only one hour if the temperature is above 90°F. Bacteria grow rapidly within this temperature range, so perishable foods left out beyond this time frame are unsafe to eat and should be thrown out.
With these tips in mind, you’re ready to prepare raw meats safely any time of year.