This installment will cover how to perform different types of food preparation safely.
Thawing Frozen Items
Completely thaw meat, poultry and seafood before cooking it so that it cooks evenly. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight or all day, or thaw sealed packages in cold water, changing the water frequently until the item is completely thawed.
A marinade is a solution in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Poultry and cubed meat or stew meat may be marinated from 4 hours to overnight. Beef, veal, pork, and lamb roasts, chops, and steaks may be marinated for up to 24 hours, and some specialty recipes, sauerbraten is a good example, may require marinating the meat for 3 to 5 days. Seafood, on the other hand, should not be marinated for more than 30 minutes. Never use a metal container to prepare or use marinade. Use a glass, ceramic or plastic container. We at Amoretti highly recommend the use of zipper bags for marinating. Add the marinade to the bag, put the item to be marinated inside, squeeze out all the air, and zip the bag shut. This way, the item is totally covered by the marinade and you won’t have to keep coming back to turn the item being marinated.
If some of the marinade is to be used as a cooking medium or as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before using it to marinate raw meat or poultry. Once the marinating is complete, discard the marinade. It is much easier to prepare more marinade than to suffer the slings and arrows of food poisoning.
Brining is soaking meat or poultry in a salt solution. The brining solution can also contain sugar, fruit juices, and herbs & spices to enhance the flavor of the food being brined. There is a long, drawn out scientific explanation on how brining works, but suffice it to say that brining raw lean meat or poultry for 6 to 12 hours will result in juicer cooked meat and poultry.
Methods of Preparation
There are several different methods of cooking food for yourself and your family. Each method presents both challenges and rewards for the home cook. Common terms are roasting, frying, braising, grilling and broiling.
Roasting – Roasting uses dry heat, whether it’s an open flame, an oven, or some other heat source to cook the food. Meats and most root vegetables can be roasted. Roasting enhances the flavor of whatever you are roasting through caramelization and the Maillard browning of the exterior. Roasting uses indirect diffused heat, such as in an oven, and is suitable for slower cooking of meat in a larger, whole piece.
Frying – The cooking of food in oil or another fat. A variety of foods may be fried. Sautéing involves cooking foods in a thin layer of fat on a hot surface, such as a frying pan or griddle. Stir-frying involves frying quickly at very high temperatures, requiring that the food be stirred continuously to prevent it from adhering to the cooking surface and burning. Deep-frying involves totally immersing the food in hot oil, which is normally topped up and used several times before being disposed.
Braising – A combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor. Braising relies on heat, time, and moisture to break down the tough connective tissue in meat, making it an ideal way to cook tougher cuts.
Grilling – A form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of food, commonly from above or below. Grilling usually involves a significant amount of direct, radiant heat, and tends to be used for cooking meat quickly. Food to be grilled is cooked on a grill, a grill pan or on a griddle. Heat transfer to the food when using a grill is primarily via thermal radiation.
Broiling – When the heat source for grilling comes from above, grilling is termed broiling. In this case, the pan that holds the food is called a broiler pan, and heat transfer is by thermal radiation.
Cooking Times & Temperatures
Cooking meat and poultry to the proper temperature is the only way to insure that it will be safe to eat. The table below specifies the internal temperatures required to ensure food has been cooked to the proper temperature. Use a probe thermometer and timer to check internal temperatures while cooking items such as whole poultry and roasts and an instant read thermometer when checking baked, braised, broiled, or sautéed food items. Insert the probe in the thickest part of the food, ensuring you aren’t touching any bone, fat or gristle. For large, irregular shaped items, be sure to check the temperature in several different areas.
|Eggs and Egg Dishes|
|Eggs||Cook until white is firm|
|Egg Sauces and Custards||160|
|Turkey or Chicken||165|
|Beef, Veal, Lamb or Pork (raw)||160|
|Roast Beef, Veal, Lamb or Pork, commercially cooked, ready-to-eat||140|
|Beef, Veal, or Lamb|
|Fully Cooked (reheating)||140|
|Whole Or Pieces||165|
|Stuffing, inside or separate||165|
|Seafood (clams, mussels and oysters that do not open should be discarded)||145|
Information courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture