Follow these tips when handling and preparing meat:
CLEAN. Wash hands and surfaces often. Unless you wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces the right way, you could spread bacteria to your food, and your family. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling ground beef to make sure you don’t spread bacteria. Use soap and hot water to wash utensils and surfaces which have come into contact with the raw meat. Utensils and surfaces can be sanitized with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
SEPARATE. Don’t cross-contaminate. Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw ground meat can still spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods-unless you keep them separate.
Bacteria in raw meat juices can contaminate foods that have been cooked safely or raw foods that won’t be cooked, such as salad ingredients. Bacteria also can be present on equipment, hands, and even in the air. To avoid cross-contamination, keep everything clean. Don’t reuse any packaging materials. Don’t put cooked hamburgers on the same platter that held the raw patties unless you wash the platter again.
COOK. Cook to the right temperature. Did you know that the bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest in the “Danger Zone,” the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F? To destroy harmful bacteria, cook ground beef to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
CHILL. Refrigerate promptly. Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within 2 hours unless you refrigerate them.
Some tips and techniques
- When you go to the grocery store, you will notice that there are lots of different kinds of ground meat. There is hamburger meat, ground beef, ground round, ground chuck, and ground sirloin. Which do you buy?? It depends upon what your family prefers. Some will look at the pricing, as it is directly related to the different levels of fat in beef. Usually the lower the fat content, the higher the cost will be per pound. Ground sirloin is the leanest kind of ground beef that you can purchase and will taste the best—but it is usually at a significantly higher price. Most can buy ground round or chuck and then drain off the remainder of fat after cooking.
- Place a colander and drain out the beef after it has been cooked. DO NOT let this go down your drain. As it cools it will solidify in your pipes and ruin them. Pour outdoors out of the way, or let cool and put in the trash.
- When buying ground beef, you should use it fresh within 2 days of buying it. If you want to use it for a later time you can put it in the freezer.
- One of the BEST things you can do when you buy ground beef is to immediately place it in a pan and cook it. Drain and let cool. Place in freezer bags or containers and place in your freezer. When your recipe calls for ground beef, you won’t have to take the time to cook it. You can just thaw your meat and continue on with the recipe. This is a HUGE timesaver in food preparation.