You can cook all of the healthy food your heart desires, but if you do not use safe cooking practices in the kitchen, you will still end up getting sick! It is so important to follow guidelines regarding how long to keep leftovers, at what temperatures to store foods, + what temperatures to cook foods!
Your Guide to Safe Storage
Follow these guidelines regarding how long fresh foods can be safely stored in the refrigerator + the freezer!
Safe Storage for Lovely Leftovers!
Saving some delicious leftovers for another day? Here is a guide of how long they can be safely stored in the refrigerator.
In order to prevent bacterial growth, it is essential that foods are cooled rapidly to a safe refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below. The “Danger Zone,” in which bacteria multiply rapidly is between 40°F + 140°F. This is why cooling quickly to below 40°F is important for food safety. If you need to cool large amounts of food, such as a pot of soup, divide the soup into shallow containers to decrease cooling time. Other large leftovers such as whole roasts, hams, turkey, or chicken breasts can be cut into smaller pieces to facilitate more rapid cooling. Keep in mind that leftovers must be cooled + refrigerated to a safe temperature within 2 hours of cooking! Also, remember to always seal + wrap leftovers in airtight containers to help retain moisture + keep bacteria out.
** When in doubt, throw it out!
Always Check for Safe Internal Temperatures
In order to ensure foods are cooked to safe temperatures, the internal temperature of the food needs to be taken. Relying on sight, smell, or taste to determine if food is safe to eat can be quite risky. For the most accurate reading, a thermometer should be used on the thickest part of the food, not touching bone or fat. Compare food temperatures to the safe internal cooking temperatures listed below. Keep in mind that some foods, such as beef, veal, lamb, pork + raw ham, require a resting time of three minutes post cooking to ensure safety for eating.
*Always clean thermometers with hot soapy water after each use!
Safe Thawing of Frozen Foods
Just take the meat out of the freezer + set it on the counter until it is thawed + ready to be cooked, right? Wrong. Thawing meat is a more delicate process. Foods cannot spend too long in the “Danger Zone” of 140-40°F, the temperature in which bacteria can rapidly multiply, or they will be deemed unsafe for eating.
1. Refrigerator thawing: Thawing frozen foods in the refrigerator is a safe, but lengthy process. Because this thawing takes such a long period of time, be sure to plan ahead so foods are ready when needed. If frozen, a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breast may require a full day to thaw. Foods thawed in the refrigerator could be frozen again without cooking if plans change + the food is not cooked.
2. Cold water thawing: This is a faster process than refrigerator thawing. It is important the item is contained within a leak proof package or plastic bag. This is to prevent bacteria from the air getting into the food + to avoid meat soaking up water + losing quality. The item should be submerged in cold tap water + the water needs to be changed every 30 minutes. Depending on the amount of meat, this could take anywhere from less than an hour to 3 or more hours. Foods thawed using this method need to be cooked before refrozen.
3. Microwave thawing: Microwave thawing should be done right before the food item is cooked. The microwaving process causes some parts of the meat to get hotter than others; therefore some parts of the meat may actually start to cook in the microwave thawing process. Partially cooked meat is at a dangerous place for bacterial growth, so immediate cooking is recommended in order to kill potential bacterial growth.
** DO NOT thaw foods using hot water, or by leaving them out in the open. This would subject the food to the danger zone optimal bacterial growth temperatures for too long, deeming the foods unsafe to eat.
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