Keeping Your Kitchen Safe
Beef Food Safety Tips from Peggy Bledsoe, Houston County Extension Agent

Thereís an invisible enemy in your kitchen ready to strike. You know him as bacteria! You canít see him, smell him or feel him, but he can make you and those you care about sick. He can invade the food you eat and cause food borne illness. You can fight bacteria and make the meals and snacks you prepare safe by following four easy steps! Clean-Separate-Cook- and Chill!

First, letís focus on clean! Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get into cutting boards, utensils, sponges and counter tops. Therefore, wash hands and surfaces often. Wash your hands with hot soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.
Use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards. These boards should be run through the dishwasher or washed in hot soapy water after use and rinsed. Make a sanitizing solution, using one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water to sanitize utensils and washed surfaces.

Counter tops, dishes and utensils should be washed after preparing each food item and before you move on to the next item.

Use paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. These cloths should be washed often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

Next, think about separate. Bacteria can spread from one food product to another. This is especially true when handling raw meats, poultry and seafood. Therefore, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

Separate raw meats, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery cart and in your refrigerator. Store ready-to-eat foods in the upper portion of your refrigerator and store raw meats below them.
Always wash hands cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meats, poultry and seafood.

Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.

The next step is cook. Food safety experts agree that foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause food borne illness.

Always use a clean thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked foods, to make sure meat, poultry, casseroles and other foods are cooked thoroughly.

Cook roasts and steaks to at least 145Ý F. Whole poultry should be cooked to 180Ý F. for doneness.
Cook ground beef , where bacteria can spread during processing, to at least 160Ý F. If a thermometer is not available, do not eat ground beef that is still pink inside.

Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly.

When preparing food in the oven, set the oven to at least 325Ý F. Cook food to the safe recommended temperature. Always check the temperature in several places with a food thermometer.

If you are using a convection oven to prepare food, you may reduce the oven temperature by 25Ý F.
The last step is chill. Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Your refrigerator should be set at 40Ý F or lower and the freezer at 0Ý F. Use an appliance thermometer to check these temperatures occasionally.

Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours or sooner.

Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave.

Marinate foods in the refrigerator. Use food grade plastic, stainless steel or glass containers. Marinade must be boiled before it can be used as a sauce. Do not reuse marinade for other foods.

Divide food into shallow containers. For example, slice road beef into portions for service. Be sure containers do not exceed 4 inches in depth. Place food in the refrigerator

Donít overfill the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.

Clean, separate, cook and chill are simple concepts, yet we often fail to follow them when handling food. Review your food safety practices. Determine where you need to make improvements. Practice-Clean, separate, cook and chill and make the food you serve your family as safe as possible.