The Extension Service phone has produced many excellent questions lately. Here are some of the better ones, along with the answers I provided to the callers. You are encouraged to contact the local Extension Office with Food Safety questions any time. Or you can contact me directly at Rhonda@clemson.edu.
We need to cook a large quantity of meat for a group fundraiser. The meat will be served over a 4 hour time span. We don’t have lots of space in our kitchen. What are our options for making sure the meat is cooked safely, served hot, and tastes good?
First, cook the meat to the correct minimum internal cooking temperature for safety. Then keep the meat hot by either keeping it in
· a warming oven,
· a hot box which is manufactured to keep food very hot for long periods of time, or
· a well-insulated cooler that has been washed and sanitized.
If you use a cooler, consider these options: add boiling water to the cooler before adding your containers of hot meat to the cooler or bricks heated in the oven and wrapped in a towel can be placed in the cooler before adding containers of hot meat. It is also a good idea to insert a thermometer in the meat so the temperature can be monitored. A thermometer with a long, flexible probe is ideal since the probe can remain inside the cooler while the temperature readout unit remains outside the cooler. This will allow you monitor the temperature inside while leaving the cooler lid closed. Make sure the meat stays at 140oF or warmer for safety.
I want to make and sell my own BBQ sauce. What is step #1?
The first step is to have your product tested for pH and water activity. This is done at Clemson University in the Food Science Department. Email me or phone the local Extension Office and I will put you in touch with the correct faculty members. The next step is to contact the South Carolina Department of Agriculture to discuss where you will be making your product. Your food product must be made in an inspected kitchen (your home kitchen does not qualify.) The SC Department of Agriculture can also assist you with labeling requirements. Another helpful agency will be SCORE, Service Corp of Retired Executives. This agency is part of the Small Business Administration. The other necessary component of successfully getting your product to market is to attend the Better Process School (offered at Clemson University and North Carolina State.) This school is required for all makers of South Carolina products that are acidified (pickles, relishes, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, etc.) or low acid (vegetables, meat, fish, etc.)
I’m cooking chicken for lunch tomorrow. I’ve got it thawing overnight in the sink. Is that OK?
No. Poultry is a known carrier of salmonella and campylobacter. Both these pathogens have the ability to grow from a single cell into the thousands when given several hours at room temperature. If you fail to cook the chicken thoroughly, and then consume a viable number of the pathogens, you will become sick. If you wash the chicken and the wash water splashes the pathogens onto you and the surrounding area, there is great potential for cross contamination (you or someone else accidentally ingests the pathogen.) If you fail to wash and sanitize your sink and the surrounding area adequately, the pathogens could contaminate your hands or other foods and cause illness. The best options for thawing are
· in the refrigerator overnight in a dish with an edge so drips won’t spill
· under cool, slow running water
· in the microwave immediately before you are ready to cook the final dish.
I never want to give people the impression they should be afraid of eating good food. Chicken is an excellent source of healthy and tasty protein. But you should be smart when you handle it just like you should be smart when you handle any other food you cook. Thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator. Wash your hands when you work in the kitchen. Keep your food contact surfaces clean and sanitized. Cook properly seasoned chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. These easy steps will give you safe and yummy chicken for you and your family.