By Diane Van, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service
Every year, one in six Americans will fall ill due to some form of food poisoning. Many times it’s the result of not cooking food to the right temperature.
Cook It Safe! with these Four Steps:
Read and Follow Package Cooking Instructions
- Most convenience foods are not ready-to-eat products and must be properly cooked first. Reading the product label and package directions tells you whether the product needs to be thoroughly cooked or simply reheated. Be sure to follow all package instructions for microwaving food, such as covering or stirring the food or allowing a “stand time” between cooking the food and eating. These steps ensure the food is cooked evenly. Skipping these key cooking directions may allow harmful bacteria to survive and lead to foodborne illness.
Know When to Use a Microwave or Conventional Oven
Some pre-prepared products may appear to be fully cooked but actually consist of raw, uncooked product. It may be tempting to cook these foods quickly in a microwave, but doing so may result in unsafe food. Some convenience foods are shaped irregularly and vary in thickness, creating opportunities for uneven cooking. Even microwaves equipped with a turntable can cook unevenly and leave cold spots in the product, where harmful bacteria can survive.
It’s important to use the appliance recommended on the food package instructions. The instructions may call for cooking in a conventional oven, microwave, convection oven, or toaster oven. Instructions are set for a specific type of appliance and may not be applicable to all ovens.
Know Your Microwave Wattage Before Microwaving Food
- If your microwave’s wattage is lower than the wattage recommended in the package cooking instructions, it will take longer than the instructions specify to cook the food to a safe internal temperature. The higher the wattage of a microwave oven, the faster it will cook food. If you don't know the wattage of your oven, try looking on the inside of the oven's door, on the serial number plate on the back of the oven, or in the owner's manual. You can also do a "Time-to-Boil" test to estimate the wattage.
Always Use a Food Thermometer to Ensure a Safe Internal Temperature
To be sure food has reached a temperature high enough to kill any bacteria that may be present, use a food thermometer and test the food in several places. This applies when cooking in microwaves or any other heat source. For more information, review this chart of safe cooking temperatures.
For more information, check out these resources:
By Kate Levinson, MPH, MA, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, CDC
After “flowers or chocolate” (hint: both!), the next big Valentine’s Day question isn’t whether to order the heart-shaped pizza (hint: yes!)—it’s whether to go out to a cozy neighborhood restaurant or cuddle up on the couch and eat takeout. No matter where you dine, make sure you celebrate love with a safe meal.
People in the U.S. do a lot of eating out, on Valentine’s Day and the other 364 days of the year. According to the National Restaurant Association, 49 cents of every dollar spent on food was predicted to be spent at restaurants in 2011. Most diners do have a safe meal. However, more than half—59%—of the 13,405 outbreaks of foodborne illness reported in the U.S. between 1998 and 2008 involved food prepared in a restaurant or deli setting, according to CDC.
So whether you’re reserving a corner table at the local hotspot or grabbing takeout on your way home this February 14, make sure to keep you and your valentine safe.
Table for Two
All restaurants are required to follow food safety guidelines set by state and local health departments—but you can also follow these simple steps to keep your food safe.
- When you get to a restaurant, look at how clean things are before you even sit down. Are the glasses, silverware, napkins, and tablecloths clean? Is the floor free of bits of food and debris? If not, consider eating elsewhere. If available, check the results of the restaurant’s latest health inspection.
- Always order your food cooked thoroughly. Remember that foods like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs need to be cooked thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria that may be present. When you're served a hot meal, make sure it's served to you piping hot and thoroughly cooked. If it's not, send it back.
- Don't eat undercooked or raw foods, such as raw or undercooked eggs. Undercooked or raw eggs can be a hidden hazard in some foods like Caesar salad, custards, and some sauces. If these foods are made with commercially pasteurized eggs they are safe, but if you are unsure about the ingredients in a particular dish, ask before ordering it.
- Not going to finish that? Get that doggie bag in the fridge—fast. If you will not be arriving home within 2 hours of being served (1 hour if temperatures are above 90°F), it is safer to leave the leftovers at the restaurant. Also, remember that the inside of a car can get very warm so any food left inside may be affected. Bacteria grow rapidly in temperatures above 40°F, so it is always safer to go directly home after a meal and put your leftovers in the refrigerator.
A Quiet Night In
Whether you’re picking up food to eat at home or having food delivered, do the following to keep your food safe.
- Keep HOT Food HOT! Once food is cooked it should be held hot at an internal temperature of 140°F or above. Just keeping food warm (between 40°F and 140°F) is not safe. Use a food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the food. A preheated oven, chafing dishes, preheated warming trays, or slow cookers may be used.
- Keep COLD Food COLD! Cold foods must be kept at 40°F or below.
- Follow the Two-hour rule. Throw away all perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles that have been left at room temperature longer than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).
- Save it for later—safely. If you plan to eat at a later time, take-out or delivered food should be divided into smaller portions or pieces, placed in shallow containers, and refrigerated.
The Celebration Continues…with Leftovers!
If your romantic dinner is just too big to finish, go ahead and put it in the fridge—but eat it soon, within three to four days. Consult this chart for storage times for the refrigerator and freezer.
For more information, check out these resources:
By Diane Van
Have plans for the big game? We all know this day is more than just football. It’s the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, next to Thanksgiving day. Chips, wings, guacamole, chili – sounds like a good time right? It should be!
Don’t let this snack-filled day end in food poisoning. Food poisoning has lots of causes, including leaving food out too long. Here are some tips to ensure everyone enjoys the big game between the Giants and Patriots, and all the good food that comes with it.
Clean: When preparing party foods, wash hands and surfaces often.
Separate: Use separate plates for raw and cooked food when grilling.
Cook: To the right temperatures.
Chill: Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.
“More than 1.25 billion wing portions will be consumed during Super Bowl weekend in 2012, totaling more than 100 million pounds of wings, according to the National Chicken Council’s (NCC) 2012 Wing Report.”
Here’s a recipe idea for you - Chicken Wings with Mango-Tamarind Sauce/ Alitas de pollo en salsa de mango y tamarindo - courtesy of Ingrid Hoffmann which incorporates the food safety steps.
Recipe Courtesy of Ingrid Hoffmann
Serves 4 to 8
2 large mangoes, peeled, fruit cut off of the seed and roughly chopped
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons tamarind paste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 pounds chicken wings, wing tips removed, or drumettes, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil, for greasing baking sheet
- Clean work area. Wash hands and surfaces often. Use two separate cutting boards during preparation, one for raw meats and the other for fruit, vegetables and condiments.
- Place the mangoes, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, tamarind paste, oil, red pepper, and garlic in your blender and purée until smooth.
- Place the chicken wings in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add just enough sauce to coat the wings (about 1/2 cup, reserve the rest) and toss to coat. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease the foil with the oil. Lift the chicken out of the sauce letting the excess marinade drip back into the bowl. Place the wings on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, and then adjust a rack so it’s 6 inches from the heating element, heat your broiler to high, and broil the wings for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce is sizzling and the internal temperature of the chicken comes to 165°, as measured with a food thermometer. Hold food hot after cooking (at 140 ˚F or above), by using a heat source such as an oven, chafing dish, or warming tray.
- While the wings bake, place the remaining (reserved ½ cup) sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the chicken wings hot with the mango-tamarind sauce on the side for dipping.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate promptly within 2 hours. Use refrigerated leftovers within 3- 4 days.
Receta de Ingrid Hoffmann
Sirve para 4 a 8 personas
2 mangos grandes, pelados, y cortados en trozos grande
1/3 de taza de azúcar moreno
2 cdtas. de salsa inglesa
4 cdtas. de pasta de tamarindo (no pulpa de tamarindo)
1 cdta. de aceite vegetal
½ cdta de pimienta roja en polvo
2 dientes de ajo cortados en trozos grandes
2 libras de alitas de pollo (las puntas cortadas) o de muslos de pollo, enjuagados y secos
Sal y pimienta fresca molida
1 cda. de aceite de canola o aceite vegetal para engrasar la parrilla de hornear
- Limpia toda el área. Lava tus manos y limpia las superficies frecuentemente. Usa diferentes tablas de cortar durante la preparación, una para las carnes crudas y otra para las frutas, los vegetales y los condimentos.
- Echa los trozos de mango, el azúcar moreno, la salsa inglesa, la pasta de tamarindo, el aceite, la pimienta y el ajo en el tazón de la licuadora y haz un puré suave.
- Coloca las alitas de pollo en un tazón grande y sazona con sal y pimienta. Agrega sólo la salsa suficiente como para cubrir las alas (alrededor de ½ taza, reserva el resto), y revuelve para que se impregnen bien. Cubre el pollo con papel plástico y refrigera de 30 minutos a 1 hora.
- Precalienta el horno a 400 ˚F. Forra una plancha de hornear con borde con papel aluminio y engrasa el papel con el aceite. Saca las alitas de pollo de la salsa, dejando escurrir el exceso en el mismo tazón. Coloca las alitas en la plancha de hornear y hornea durante 30 minutos. Entonces, ajusta la parrilla de forma que esté a 6 pulgadas de la fuente de calor, calienta el asador a nivel alto y asa las alitas durante 3 a 5 minutos o hasta que la salsa empiece a chisporretear y que la temperatura interna del pollo alcance 165 ˚F, al medir con un termómetro para alimentos. Mantén los hot dogs calientes (a 140 ˚F o más), usando una fuente de calor como el horno, u hornos y bandejas calentadores.
- Mientras se hornean las alitas, pon la salsa reservada en una cacerola pequeña y deja que hierva. Reduce el fuego a mediano-bajo y deja hervir a fuego lento hasta que tenga consistencia de sirope, entre 5 a 10 minutos. Sirve las alitas calientes con la salsa de mango y tamarindo para remojar.
- Divide las sobras de comida en porciones pequeñas y refrigera dentro de 2 horas. Usa las sobras almacenadas en el refrigerador, dentro de 3 a 4 días.