(BLACK PR WIRE) (June 19, 2009) For many African American families, summer just isn’t summer without cookouts, picnics and potlucks. That familiar smell of cooked fish, steak, vegetables, pork, chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs topped with the right sauces are the ingredients to filling meals and fun gatherings.
One guest you don’t want to invite to your next barbecue is harmful bacteria. Yet bacteria can crash the party when food is not cooked and handled properly, as evidenced by the recent salmonella outbreak. While vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy products can potentially carry bacteria, not all bacteria are harmful. Cheese and yogurt are actually products of bacteria. Bacteria in meat, however, require special concern as they may carry salmonella, E. coli and other illness-causing organisms.
Before purchasing meat, check the freshness date and make sure the packaging is secure. Clean all utensils with warm soapy water before and after cooking. Keep all uncooked meats separated from each other and from cooked meats. That means using separate cutting, cooking and serving utensils for all foods.
Whether you grill, stir fry or cook with an oven, pay attention to the color, texture and temperature of the food to determine if it is ready for consumption. Pork and chicken should be cooked until the meat turns completely white. Ground beef should be cooked until there is no pink meat left. Cooked fish should separate easily when poked with a utensil and be thoroughly solid in color. All meats should be free of any traces of blood before consumption. A meat thermometer can be a useful tool in figuring out your meal’s readiness. Your grocer can also make recommendations for ideal cooking temperature of a specific meat item.
Prior to cooking, you should keep food frozen or refrigerated in the same manner as it was kept in the grocery store. After the big meal, promptly place leftovers in the refrigerator or throw them away. Meat left out in room temperature for more than an hour is at risk of bacterial contamination and food borne illnesses, and that is no picnic!