Southern Mom Loves: Handling Raw Meat: Basics, Tips, and Tricks

Handling Raw Meat: Basics, Tips, and Tricks

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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Handling raw meat might be no big deal to some, but others aren't so gung-ho. Maybe it's because they're unsure how to keep from cross-contaminating surfaces or what the safe temperatures are, or maybe they're a bit squeamish about handling it. I was once in all of those categories (and still am a bit grossed out sometimes.) No matter in what category you fall, or if you just need a refresher, I've got a full rundown of basics, tips, and tricks for handling raw meat.

You may think that people are being overcautious about raw meat, but there’s a good reason for it. Raw chicken, for example, can carry the salmonella virus, which can cause extreme illness.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, possible blood in the stool, headache, dehydration, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, chills, and pain in the abdomen and muscles. Most cases can be treated at home with rest and plenty of fluids, but severe cases may require a trip to the emergency room along with antibiotic and IV fluid treatments. It can be serious stuff, but it's not likely to happen with a little prep and know-how.

Practice Safe Kitchen Standards and Don’t Cross-Contaminate

You want to have separate cutting boards in your kitchen, one for raw meat and one for produce. Never, ever cut raw vegetables where you just cut raw meat. You can find an inexpensive set of flexible plastic cutting boards (like these) in a lot of stores. I always use the red one for meat!

Also, make sure to wash knives thoroughly before using them again. Once you’re done with something that touched raw meat, put it in the sink to be washed or rinse and place in the dishwasher.

Rinse Chicken Before Cooking with It

It’s best to thoroughly wash out your sink and open the chicken packages in the sink. This will help prevent the chicken juices from getting on your countertops. As you remove it from the package, rinse the chicken well and pat dry with a paper towel. Discard the packaging and paper towels in the trash. As an added bonus, rinsing and drying your chicken before cooking will help it crisp up better!

Put on a Pair of Gloves

If you have a thing about handling raw meat, try wearing the food-safe gloves that people in food service use. Food-safe gloves can be found in almost any store or online and they come in a large box that should last you for a while. Nitrile and vinyl gloves are both good options, but make sure they are powder-free and say "food-safe".

They're also awesome for handling food in places you might not easily be able to wash your hands, like while camping!

Use a Meat Thermometer 

If you’re worried about your meat being cooked all the way through, use a meat thermometer.

Poultry should be cooked to an internal reading of 165° Fahrenheit. Beef steaks and roasts should be cooked to 145°F and allowed to rest for 3 minutes before consuming. Ground beef is different as it can carry E. coli bacteria and should be cooked to 160°F. Pork should be cooked to 160°F.

Wash Kitchen Surfaces and Sanitize

Wash your kitchen counters down with antibacterial dish soap and hot water, making sure to place the towel in the dirty clothes hamper when you’re done.

Next, fill a spray bottle with half water and half white vinegar. Add 10 drops of tea tree oil per 2 cups of water/vinegar mixture. You can add additional oils to help make the sanitizer smell better, such as lemon, orange, or lavender. Shake the bottle well and spray down any surfaces where you handled the raw meat. Allow the spray to set on the surfaces for a few minutes before wiping the surfaces dry.

You can also use a mix of bleach and water if that makes you feel safer. :)

Clean the Sink

You want to follow the procedure above for washing your sink.

Sanitize Cutting Boards and Knives

You can wash your cutting boards and knives in a sink filled with hot soapy water and one capful of bleach. This is how industrial kitchens sanitize their tools and work surfaces. This small amount of bleach will kill any germs and bacteria lingering on your equipment.

I hope these tips will help you feel more comfortable handling raw meat. Bon appétit!


How are your raw meat skills? Do you have any tips to add? I love to read your comments!

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