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Monday, March 26, 2012

Barbecue Secret Number 2 - Avoid Cross Contamination With this Simple Trick

Pork Butt and Beef Brisket Trimmed, Seasoned, and Ready for the Smoker
As cooks, we must always be extremely careful when preparing foods by making certain that we select, store, and handle them safely. Like many people, I have had my share of scary experiences at restaurants. Like the time I watched a food handler wearing gloves, then handling cash, and then back to handling food without washing his hands or even replacing his gloves and then having to explain to the manager that I wouldn't accept the food until I saw it handled in a clean and safe manner before serving it to me. I have even had a couple of scary experiences while judging barbecue competitions like the time I got an under cooked chicken thigh (which I refused to put in my mouth) and the time I found what could only be described as the residue leftover from when a barbecued spare rib is dropped and an attempt is made to clean it off to make it look like it hadn't been dropped. (I didn't put that rib in my mouth either.)

Unfortunately, about 48 million Americans (1 in 6) will become ill from food borne illnesses this year and some of the illnesses will be fatal. Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc., if they are not handled properly. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood, so keep these foods and their juices away from already cooked or ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce. When handling foods, it is important to Be Smart, Keep Foods Apart — Don't Cross-Contaminate. By following a few simple steps provided by the USDA, you can prevent cross-contamination and reduce the risk of food borne illness.

When Refrigerating Food:

  • Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. Raw juices often contain harmful bacteria.
  • Store eggs in their original carton and refrigerate as soon as possible.

When Preparing Food:
Wash hands and surfaces often. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops. To prevent this:
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers; or handling pets.
  • Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
  • A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils.

Cutting Boards:
  • Always use a clean cutting board.
  • If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, you should replace them.

Marinating Food:
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
  • Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry, or seafood should not be used on cooked foods, unless it is boiled just before using.

When Serving Food:
  • Always use a clean plate.
  • Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.

When Storing Leftovers:
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours or sooner in clean, shallow, covered containers to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying.

Now, here is Barbecue Secret Number 2 - When prepping meat to be grilled or smoked, one hand handles the food, the other hand handles the seasonings.

Have you ever watched someone applying rub to meat while prepping it to be barbecued and they touch the meat with the same hand they are using to apply the rub? I have even seen people handle meat with both hands and reach into a bowl of rub with a hand covered with the juices of the raw meat. That practice is a recipe for making someone sick. First, the container/shaker that the rub is stored in is contaminated and second, in the case of reaching in to get a handful of rub, the entire container of rub is contaminated. I learned a great tip a long time ago that prevents those kinds of cross contamination problems: use one hand to touch the food and one hand to handle the seasonings.

Once I am finished trimming meat before I cook it, I remove and discard the nitrile gloves I always wear when prepping food, wash my hands thoroughly and then put one clean nitrile glove on one hand only. I use the gloved hand to position the meat while I use my other hand without a glove on it to handle the seasonings and/or rub shakers. My hand without a glove never touches the meat. This way, I never cross contaminate anything. It takes a little practice and discipline to get in the habit of using this technique but it's well worth learning the skill. My rub shakers remain clean during the whole process and the juices from the raw meat never touch them.

For more Barbecue Secrets Click Here.

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