How NOT to thaw that turkey

If you’ve followed my posts you know that I’ve worked for the Cooperative Extension System for almost 40 years.  I remember when the phone rang-off-the-hook this time of year with various questions about thawing and cooking that Thanksgiving turkey. Calls to the office have lightened with telephone “help” hotlines and the internet, but the unique and potentially unsafe methods that people are trying to thaw a turkey haven’t changed—maybe they’re getting worse.

Here are some of my favorites from over the years. Remember: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! These are just for your amusement and in the “you want to do WHAT?” with that turkey category https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/thanksgiving-quiz/.

Thawing the turkey in the laundry sink for three days. WRONG. As the turkey thaws, the outside would be within the temperature danger zone for a long period of time allowing potentially dangerous bacteria to multiply.

Thawing the turkey in the garage or in the trunk of the car.  RISKY. Even if it’s cold outside there is no guarantee that the temperature within the garage or trunk will stay below the required 40 degrees to allow the turkey to defrost safely.

In the dryer. DON’T EVEN GO THERE! Don’t ask me how this worked—or if it did—I just can imagine how a 20 pound turkey sounded going around—and –around. THUMP THUMP THUMP.  The warm temperatures in the dryer would just be perfect for that bacterial incubation—not to mention the mess and clean-up.

Putting in a cooler with ice blocks—this might work if you are very conscientious and keep checking the temperature and changing the ice. Remember: the inside of the cooler needs to be kept below 40 degrees the whole time. This could take several days.

My ultimate favorite—shared by a colleague—someone put their turkey in the toilet and flushed it every ½ hour.  I really know what they were thinking here, the recommendations for thawing in water say to submerge and change the water every ½ hour. BUT, there are so many other PROBLEMS with this scenario.

The SAFEST way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator where the temperature can be kept below 40 degrees F.  Place the turkey in the refrigerator in its wrapper—unopened—on a tray or plate to catch any drippings. It will take approximately 24 hours for each five pounds of turkey. So your 20 pound turkey will need to be in the refrigerator for at least four days. Once thawed, your turkey can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking. It is a good idea to take your turkey out of the freezer on Saturday before Thanksgiving. Of course you can always buy a fresh turkey and skip the defrosting step.

For faster thawing you can use the cold water method. Submerge the frozen turkey in its unopened original wrapper in cold water.  The key to this method is that you need to change the water every 30 minutes to keep the outside cold. This method takes about 30 minutes per pound—so for a 20 pound turkey you’re changing keeping an eye on it and changing the water every half hour for 10 hours. This method does work well if you the turkey needs just a little more thawing time at the last minute.

You can defrost a smaller turkey in a microwave oven.  To defrost unwrap and place in a baking dish.  It will take 3-8 minutes per pound on 30%-50% power or the defrost setting. Check your manufacture’s book for specifics with your microwave. The important thing to remember if you defrost in the microwave is that you need to finish the cooking right away. This can be done in the microwave or transfer it over to the regular oven.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Blowing out the candles

This may seem gross…but have you ever thought about germs from people blowing out birthday candles? Or worse yet, accidentally spitting on a birthday cake while blowing out the candles.

Researchers from Clemson looked at this topic and published in the Journal of Food Research.  Their research shows that blowing out candles on a birthday cake does deposit bacteria onto the cake. They found that blowing out candles on a cake increased the amount of bacteria on the cake’s frosting by 14 times.

This however does not necessarily make you 14 times more likely to get sick from eating the birthday cake.  It really depends upon the type of bacteria.

In an article in The Atlantic www.theatlantic.com (July 2017)  even the lead author of this study,  Dr. Paul Dawson, Professor of Food Safety at Clemson,  says that he doesn’t think bacteria from blowing out birthday candles is a big health concern and your chance of getting sick from a birthday cake is probably very minimal.  So breathe easy.

The handling of the cake itself is probably riskier than the candle blowing.  Did the person decorating or cutting the cake use standard safe food procedures? Did they wash their hands before handling the cake after using the rest room? Perhaps that person was sick when they were decorating the cake. Did they lick frosting off their fingers and then go back to decorating?  Or was there accidental bacteria transfer from raw meat or poultry onto the cake?  Things happen in kitchens, especially when people are rushed or feeding crowds that they aren’t used to doing.

A final word of caution:  if you know the birthday celebrant is ill—give them their own personal cake with a candle and don’t share those germs with the other party goers.

Reference: Journal of Food Research,  Vol 6, No 4 (2017) Bacterial Transfer Associated with Blowing Out Candles on a Birthday Cake

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

See our “Better Treats for Birthday” post here for 4 scrumptious desserts that are easier and better than cake especially for school classrooms.

 

Early November Checklist

As we move into the month of November, our minds start thinking about Thanksgiving and all the related foods and details that need planning. Here are a couple things to think about early this month. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/thinking-about-turkey/

  • Is there room in your refrigerator for that turkey you’re going to thaw? It takes 24 hours for each pound of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator –that means if you have a 20 pound turkey you’ll need to get it into the refrigerator at least five days before you want to cook it.  This might be time to get that refrigerator cleaned out.  The same goes for the freezer, there are usually sales on whole turkeys just before or just after the holiday. Do you have space for an extra turkey at a great price? Even if you’re going to buy a fresh turkey, you’re still going to need refrigerator space for a day or two. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/three-turkey-tips/  
  • Another somewhat related question…..Can you use that year-old turkey in your freezer for the holiday meal?   Technically, YES. Frozen turkeys will keep for a long time if held below zero degrees. They’re usually packed in air- and water-resistant plastic wraps that help prevent loss of quality during freezer storage. The general recommendation for freezer storage is one year, if the food has been frozen that whole time. This is a quality recommendation and not a food safety deadline. I like to tell folks to thaw and cook that year-old early in the month as a “trial run” because if it’s a year-old you probably haven’t cooked a whole turkey in a long time. This will give you practice and then purchase a new turkey for the holiday.  It isn’t necessary for safety, but you really want the best quality for your holiday meal. Remember FIFO—first in, first out. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/how-old-is-that-turkey/
  • Find the food thermometer.  You may have an old meat thermometer rolling around in the back of your silverware drawer—these can be put in the food inside the oven. They work better than nothing.  A better bet would be to invest in a new instant-read thermometer. Digital ones are great and can be used for many different types of foods.
  • Do you have an adequate roasting pan? Or gravy defatting cup? 

With these things out of the way, you can get on with the rest of the planning for your holiday meal. Sometimes when you get in the store you see so many ideas for side dishes, desserts, appetizers, and beverages that you can get overwhelmed and feel unprepared or make excessive purchases. It is a good idea to plan your menu, research and print your recipes, and stick to a shopping list.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

Germy Water Bottles

Many people are conscientiously carrying refillable water bottles.  One key positive here is that drinking water  on a regular basis gives the  body the fluid it needs to keep itself healthy https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/hydrate-for-health/.  Also using a refillable bottle helps keep more waste from plastic water bottles out of the trash. There’s also the cost savings of refilling your own bottle compared to purchasing bottled water whenever you’re thirsty.

But the question is:  how often do you need to wash these refillable cups and bottles?  This would be of even more concern if you put something in the bottle other than plain water—perhaps a sports drink, flavor packets or made infused water with cucumbers or lemons.

A recent study and on-line report in Treadmill Reviews http://www.treadmillreviews.ca/water-bottle-germs-revealed/  says that unwashed reusable water bottle could harbor bacteria.  Their team swabbed the lids of reusable water bottles and had the samples tested at an independent lab to determine the types and levels of bacteria present.

They looked at 12 different bottles and four different types. Each water bottle had been used by an athlete for a week and not washed.   The samples showed that these water bottles each had a unique combination of bacteria. Not all were “bad” germs, but some were the types known to cause illnesses.

The type of bottle made a difference. Slide-top bottles harbored the most bacteria.  This makes sense because these bottles have direct contact with the mouth and more nooks and crannies for bacteria to grow.  Bottles with squeeze-tops and screw-tops respectively had fewer bacteria.  Bottles with straw tops contained the least amount of bacteria.

The folks at Treadmill Review admit that they are not researchers or microbiologists.  Even though this topic could probably use a little more scientific research methods and the types of bacteria studied a little more, it does give us all some “food for thought”.

If you use a refillable water bottle or are thinking of buying one…here are five important tips to follow to avoid getting ill:

  1. Don’t let a half-full bottle of water set in your gym bag between uses, empty wash and dry between uses.
  2. Select one that uses a straw and replace the straw frequently.
  3. Check the label to see if both the bottle and the lid are dishwasher safe.
  4. Wash after every use in the dishwasher or with hot water and soap.
  5. Rinse well. Allow to dry.

Don’t let your quest for good hydration expose you to unnecessary risks.  Use some common sense when it comes to these water bottles.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Shellfish Safety

There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t eat oysters in months that don’t have an “R” in them? That would be May, June, July and August.

The idea behind this may have originally been sound.  These months are summer months when coastal waters where shellfish are harvested are warmer and the risk for bacterial growth might be higher.

The concern behind this warning is Vibrio. This bacterium is a natural inhabitant of unpolluted coastal marine waters that is more prevalent in warmer water. People can get sick from this bacteria and the resulting illness is called vibriosis. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/index.html estimates that vibriosis causes 80,000 illnesses with 500 hospitalizations and 100 deaths a year. About 52,000 of these illnesses are estimated to be the result of eating contaminated food and the rest are caused by exposing open wounds to brackish or salt water containing the bacteria.

About 80% of Vibrio infections occur between May and October…oops…September and October has “Rs” in them….so there goes that myth.

The reason for the concern is that many people like eating raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish and this can make people sick. Thorough cooking of shellfish will kill these bacteria.

Healthy people exposed to Vibrio may experience nausea, stomach pain, abdominal cramps, vomiting and/or diarrhea. For most healthy people a mild case of vibriosis will recover in about 3 days.

Caution needs to be taken by those with chronic illnesses. At highest risk are those with diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, stomach or blood disorders. People with alcoholism and liver disease are at extremely high risk.  These people should NOT eat raw shellfish.  Cooked seafood and shellfish is safe for these at-risk people. 

Oysters seem to be the food most commonly linked to Vibrio. An oyster that contains harmful bacteria doesn’t look, smell or taste different from any other oyster. To protect yourself and family members:

  • Oysters should be purchased from approved sources that are inspected and regulated. Oysters harvested from approved waters, packed under sanitary conditions and properly refrigerated are usually safe for raw consumption by healthy individuals
  • If purchasing shellfish to serve raw make sure they are alive. Shells of live oysters will be tightly closed or slightly open. If the shell is gaping open or does not close after tapping it, the animal is dead and may harbor high number of bacteria. Discard any shellfish with open shells. After cooking, only eat shellfish that have opened during the cooking process.
  • Don’t eat shellfish raw that has been shucked or removed from the shell and sold as “shucked” products. These previously shucked products are intended to be cooked before serving.
  • Follow standard food safety precautions of washing hands before handling raw shellfish and avoid cross contamination with raw seafood and cooked foods.
  • Properly cooking shellfish reduces the risk of illness. Oysters, clams, and mussels should be cooked in small batches so that those in the middle are cooked thoroughly. When steaming, cook for 4 to 9 minutes after the start of steaming. When boiling, after the shells open boil for another 3 to 5 minutes. Shucked products should be boiled for 3 minutes, or fried at 375°F for at least 3 minutes or baked at 450°F for 10 minutes. Shellfish should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. They can also be cooked on a barbecue grill to the proper temperature.

Hog Island Oyster Company's finest

You know how these “old sayings” go… so don’t believe the one about hot sauce or lemon juice either—they DO NOT kill the Vibrio bacteria. Neither does drinking alcohol while eating raw oysters.

If you’re an educator, the folks at Sea Grant http://www.safeoysters.org/ emphasize the importance of education and not frightening the consumers when teaching about seafood.  Remember seafood can be a part of a healthy diet and is good source of low fat protein and Omega 3-faty acids with lots of positive health benefits.  But we do need to remind consumers that eating raw shellfish can be risky and teach ways consumers can protect themselves and specifically those at the most risk.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

It is time for holiday education

 

Is this safe to eat?

Sometimes it’s more a question of quality than safety.  Frozen food is a great example of this. When it comes to freezer burn, this problem is more of a quality issue.  While safe to eat, the quality of freezer burned food may be poor.

But, before I go on, I must stress that the safety of food in a freezer is always based on the fact that the food and the freezer has been at zero degrees or below. If there has been a power outage and/or the food has reached a temperature over 40 degrees at any time while in the freezer, the safety of the food may be in question.

What is freezer burn in the first place?  It is simply the result of air coming into contact with the food while it’s in the freezer.  Usually there is a color change and dry spots develop on the food. Freezer burn may just be dehydration or food may also have an “off flavor”.  While it may not look  or taste appetizing the food is completely safe to eat.  If the damaged area is small, it can be cut off before or after cooking.  If the damage is extensive the food may need to be pitched.

To help keep frozen food from getting freezer burn, there are some fundamental tips:

Re-wrap meats when you come from the store. That thin film found on grocery store meat is not thick enough to keep air from getting in. For best quality rewrap meats with moisture and vapor–proof wraps or bags.  This is also a good time to separate the food into serving-size pieces and remove foam containers to ease defrosting and cooking in the future.

Not all bags are created equal.  Don’t use “storage” bags when you should be using “freezer” bags.  Bread bags and plastic bags from grocery stores are not moisture or vapor proof and will not protect food in the freezer no matter how tight they are wrapped or how many layers have been used.

Air is not your friend. Since air is the real problem, make sure to squeeze as much air out of freezer bags and other container as possible before putting the food into the freezer.  Those vacuum sealers do a good job of getting the air out when freezing foods.

Use freezer quality containers.  Leftover margarine, cottage cheese or sour cream containers are not designed for this purpose and won’t do a good job of keeping that air out. Also, it is not recommended that you reuse the plastic containers and trays that come with microwaveable entrees. Use plastic containers or wide-mouth glass jars specifically designed for the freezer.

Prevent FISH food. Make sure everything that goes into the freezer gets labeled with its name and the date it was frozen.  Often food get stuffed into the back of the freezer and forgotten. Develop a frozen food inventory and practice FIFO—First In-First Out. This will help prevent what food safety experts call FISH food—First In-Still Here.

If care is taken, the quality of frozen fresh foods like meat, poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables will be good for a year.  Precooked foods and leftovers are best if eaten within three to four months. Sometimes veggies with a few freezer crystals, that have been frozen at the proper temperature, can be rinsed under a colander and then steamed. Using up food in the freezer on a weekly basis is a good budget-inducing habit that helps you avoid food waste.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

PS for a fantastic tip on how to use the freezer for planned-over meals see “Was the caterer just here?”

Freezing the Taste of Summer

One of the great tastes of summer  is corn-on-the-cob. Lots of people try to retain that great flavor for later in the year by freezing corn when it’s at its peak.

People are always looking for quick and easy ways to do things and the internet tends to perpetuate this with the latest fads and quick-you-have-to-try recipes. Preserving corn-on-the-cob is frequently a topic. I’ve heard two new corn “ideas” this year. While neither are “unsafe”, the quality of the final products may not be so great.

One of these  methods is freezing corn cut off-the-cob  in a mixture of water, sugar and salt in lieu of blanching. There is no research to prove that this sugar and salt brine would be a substitute for heat to inactivate enzymes.

Another  “tip” going around is to put the corn directly in the freezer (husks and silk and all). This method obviously doesn’t include blanching either.  For my personal thoughts on cooking in the husks see an earlier blog post Shucks with the Husks .

If you’re going to freeze corn, blanching is highly recommended.  This is for quality not safety. Blanching inactivates enzymes within the food. If not destroyed,  these enzymes can cause loss of flavor, color and texture in the frozen food. Blanching is scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time and the immediately cooling in ice water.  Without blanching you may have a very poor quality product.

Fresh sweet corn may be frozen cut-off or on-the-cob. I usually tend to avoid frozen corn-on-the-cob because sometimes it’s mushy, watery and “cobby” tasting  when cooked. If you really love eating corn from the cob, here are some tips that can help you be successful:

According to the National  Center for Home Food Preservation  http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/corn.html medium ears of corn should be blanched for 7 minutes. One of the key steps to keep this corn from tasting like the cob when thawed is to leave them in the ice water and even adding more ice to completely chill the cobs after blanching.  The general “rule of thumb” is to chill the corn for as long as it was blanched. Don’t allow it to stay too long or it will get soggy and allow to drain well before freezing. Another tip to get better quality results is to slightly thaw the corn-on-the-cob before cooking.

I usually suggest to people to try freezing a few ears and then prepare and see if you and your family likes them before getting carried away and using a lot of freezer space on something you won’t like come January.

Here are a few more tips from Chef Judy Doherty to savor your favorite foods this summer:

  1. Berries can be frozen in zip bags so they are ready for smoothies, muffins, pies, sauces/purees, and cobblers. Mix them for a fun new flavor sensation or keep them separate.
  2. Tomatoes can be cooked into sauce or salsa and frozen in a zip storage bag.
  3. Herbs can be made into pesto or frozen in tupperware so they can be slipped into your favorite foods and dishes. To make a simple pesto, puree your favorite herbs with a little olive oil then freeze on foil, slice and freeze the squared in a zip storeage bag.
  4. Corn should be steamed and then cut off the cob for the best results. Or just cut it off the cob and then steam before freezing. The problem with freezing a whole cob is that you will overcook your corn trying to heat the whole cob.
  5. For peaches and tree fruits, cut them into wedges, freeze on a sheet, then put them into zip bags.
  6. Spinach and other greens may be flash steamed (steam quickly) and then stored in zip bags or plastic containers in small serving sizes.
  7. If you have a lot of fresh mint consider freezing it in ice cubes so you can flavor water or tea.
  8. Grate zucchini and carrots and freeze them in ziplock bags so they are ready for muffins and quick breads.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

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Keeping Bread Fresh

I bet everyone, at one-time-or-another, thrown a loaf of bread or an extra bag of hot dog buns directly into the freezer in the store wrapper.  Then a few weeks later wondered what happened  and why it was crumbly, dry, tasted like the inside of the freezer and was basically inedible.

Easy answer: freezer burn.

This is the process of food drying out inside the freezer. This usually happens if the food has been improperly wrapped.  Cold moving air inside the freezer is your enemy when it comes to the quality of the food once thawed.  This air can get into inappropriate containers and wraps and causes the food to be dehydrated, develop off-flavors along with other quality and texture changes.

Bread is a perishable product. The main problem with bread is that it becomes stale and may develop mold.   In general, commercial breads can be kept in a cool dry place (like the pantry, kitchen counter or bread drawer) for two to five days. Homemade breads and those commercially made without preservatives have a shorter shelf life.

You can put bread in the refrigerator to inhibit mold growth, but this tends to speed staling. 

 Freezing bread is generally the best alternative for storing bread for longer than a few days. Staling and  mold growth will be slowed or halted in the freezer.  The  main thing to remember is that it should be wrapped well. Just putting it in there in the bag it came in from the store is asking for failure.  Bread wrappers are not sufficiently moisture-vapor resistant to be used for freezing.  Well wrapped bread keeps in the freezer for two to three months.

Bread should be removed from the store wrap and placed in what they call moisture and vapor proof packaging. This packaging will not become brittle or crack at low temperatures and keepd that damaging air out. This packaging will also protect foods from absorbing off-flavors or odors.

What is a good wrap? Specifically developed freezer paper is good.  Heavy-duty aluminum foil also works well. Another good way to package bread is in zip-top freezer bags.  These allow you to take out just what you need and keep the rest frozen.

A few kitchen hacks to keep bread fresher longer:

  • I wrap my bread in two slice packs inside the freezer bag, just right for a sandwich or easy to separate if I only want one piece.
  • I slice English muffins and bagels before freezing and separate the layers with plastic wrap. That way if I only want half a muffin I can easily take out just one half and keep the rest frozen.
  • I do the same with bagels. Cut them in half and then in quarters and separate the pieces as I wrap. That way if I only want half a bagel I get both a top and bottom and not just the boring bottom half.
  • When purchasing loaves of bread from a store it is always better to get the bakery to pre-slice them on a machine for you. Then you can wrap the slices into 2 serving packets or double bag them all if you are going to use them up fast.

Thawing a piece or two of frozen bread only takes a few minutes on the counter.  Individual slices, bagels  or English muffins can go straight into the toaster.

One last thing. What about if the bread does become moldy, should you just cut it off and use it anyway?  NO.  Bread is porous allowing molds to quickly and easily spread. It may be contaminated with toxins deeper than you can see. Moldy bread should be pitched.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

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Grill it safely

I recently went to a large outdoor family event where lots of hamburgers were being cooked on grills.  Was there a food thermometer in sight?

Nope.

I really don’t understand why people are so resistant to using a food thermometer when cooking. The only way to be sure that meat is cooked to a high enough internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria is with a thermometer.  This means on the grill, too. Many folks are not in the habit of using these tools and they are easily forgotten when cooking outside.

A June 27, 2017  news release * from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service  says that recent research “found that only 24 percent of the public uses a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers and only 42 percent do so when cooking chicken.” “I’m glad to see that the percentage of people using a thermometer is getting better, a 2002 survey showed that only 6% of cooks used thermometers on burgers.

The safe minimum cooking temperature for ground meats, including beef, pork, veal and lamb, is 160 degrees.  If you have turkey or chicken burgers they should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  If you’re making steak or pork chops they only need to be cooked to 145 degrees.

While many folks use it as a guide, color is not a good indicator for doneness of ground beef.  If raw ground beef is somewhat brown to start with, it may look fully cooked before it reaches a safe temperature. Conversely, some burgers may still be pink and have already reached a safe temperature.

You may ask: “why are there different temperatures for steak and ground beef?”  The pathogen of concern here is E.coli and the problem is with the grinding. If there are any bacteria on the surface of the meat it will be mixed in when the meat is ground. On-the other hand, when a steak is placed on a grill or under the broiler, any bacteria that may be on the surface is destroyed by the high heat.

Chicken and other poultry are usually associated with the bacteria called salmonella. It takes a little higher temperature to destroy this, so that’s why all chicken or other poultry should be  cooked to a minimum internal temp of 165 degrees F.

The take-home message:  if you don’t have a food thermometer—think about buying one.  If you already have one, please dig it out and use it. It takes the guess work out of cooking meats and lets you have confidence that the meat you’re serving will not make someone sick.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

*https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2017/06/27/fsis-provides-pro-grilling-tips-summer-barbecues

Teachable Moments

Educators call lessons learned in real life “teachable moments.” That’s the time that is just right for someone to learn something.

Wouldn’t you think that would be true with food safety? Especially when it’s related to cooking.

Cookbooks and on-line recipes could be a really good source of food safety information.  Putting the appropriate information—like cooking temperatures, cross contamination risks or storage times — right into a recipe would provide the cooks the info right when they need it.

This seems so simple. But it’s not being done. A study at North Carolina State University, that was recently published in the British Food Journal* looked at cookbooks and the advice they gave about food safety. The researchers evaluated a total 1,497 recipes from 29 cookbooks that appeared on the New York Times best sellers list for food and diet books.

One thing they specifically looked at was if a recipe did tell the reader to cook the food to a specific internal temperature. In other words—did they encourage the use of a food thermometer?

They also looked to see if the recipe perpetuated food myths. Some of these were cooking poultry until the “juices run clear” or hamburger until it is brown.  Both of these are unreliable for determining if the food has reached a safe temperature.

Some of the cookbooks recommended cooking temperatures. Yeah!  But not very many—only 8% or 123 of the recipes reviewed even mentioned a temperature.  But unfortunately not all of these temperatures were right. So even if a person followed the recipe exactly they may not be cooking the food to a high enough temperature reduce the risk of a foodborne illness.

Overall, only 89 out of 1,497 recipes gave readers reliable information that they could use to reduce their risk of foodborne illness.

This isn’t new info. A similar study was done about 25 years ago, and found similar results. So nothing really has changed in the past quarter of a century.

Ideas for educators:

  • put minimum cooking temperatures into recipes that you share with students
  • when doing food demonstrations use and explain good food safety practices including hand washing, heating to a proper temperature quickly, refrigeration or ice chests to keep cold food cold, avoiding cross contamination on cutting boards and with utensils, and using a food thermometer when appropriate
  • don’t use vague terms such as “cook till done” or “bubbly inside” to describe when a food is done; explain the process like cook chicken until the juices run clear and the internal temperature is 165 degrees F.
  • offer storage tips for finished products like refrigerate in shallow pan immediately

Here is one example from foodandhealth.com

Chili on The Grill

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Total Time: 20 min | Prep: 5 min | Cook: 15 min

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked pinto beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 bell pepper chopped
1/2 jalapeno, chopped fine (no seeds)
Dash of cumin
Dash of chili pepper
Dash of dried oregano
Drizzle of olive oil
Juice of 1 lime

Directions:

Place all items, except for the lime, on foil with the drizzled olive oil. Place on preheated grill of 400 degrees F. Grill until the beans are heated through and the veggies are caramelized and tender, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with lime juice.

Serve the beans and vegetables with grilled chicken that is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F and steamed brown rice. A side salad is great, too! Serve all food hot immediately. Refrigerate leftovers immediately.

Serves 4. Each 1/2 cup serving: 172 calories, 4g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 8mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 2g sugars, 8g protein.
© Food and Health Communications

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

*Katrina Levine, Ashley Chaifetz, Benjamin Chapman, (2017) “Evaluating food safety risk messages in popular cookbooks”, British Food Journal, Vol. 119 Issue: 5, pp.1116-1129, https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-02-2017-0066

Here is our food safety temperature poster:

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