The importance of cooking meat correctly

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Article provided by: Jackie Edwards

The importance of cooking meat correctly

If you’re a meat eater, then there must have been at least one occasion when you have eagerly cut into your delicious piece of meat, only to be hit with the disappointing reality that it’s not cooked. One might eat it regardless, though, as it may not always be obvious that it’s undercooked. However, there are serious health risks associated with consuming undercooked meat, and with 27% of Americans responding that food borne illnesses from bacteria is the most important food safety issue, it is something that can’t be ignored. Therefore, it is much safer to always cook your meat properly, and there are various ways to ensure this.

FoodBorne Illnesses

A rare steak doesn’t necessarily cause illness, but undercooked meat can increase the risk of contracting an illness relating to food such as E. coli, listeria or salmonella. E.Coli is mainly caused by consuming undercooked ground beef and the symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting. It is best to ensure the meat is cooked until it is at least 145 degrees fahrenheit and the outside is seared.

Listeria is particularly dangerous for pregnant women as it can cause miscarriage and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women are twenty more times likely to develop listeria than woman who are not pregnant. It can be contracted through undercooked seafood, meat or poultry and the symptoms include muscle aches, vomiting and fever.

Salmonella can be contracted by eating raw or undercooked red meat or poultry and the symptoms are similar to E.Coli. Shockingly, salmonella may result in death, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, if the affected individual has ‘a compromised immune system’. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year in the U.S. salmonella causes one million foodborne illnesses with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths, highlighting the importance of thorough cooking.

How to ensure thorough cooking

There are visual factors which will influence the cooking time of meat such as the type and thickness of the meat, how much fat and connective tissue there is and whether the meat has bones. However, recipes may not take into account other less obvious factors which affect meat cooking times such as humidity levels and even altitude. The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service provides temperature charts with safe minimum internal temperatures for meat, so a meat thermometer is useful to gauge such temperatures.

There is no exact science as to how to cook meat properly. It is nutritious as it contains a lot of protein. Some of it is logical and it takes practice to test cooking times and types of meat. Although it is not necessary to chargrill meat until it resembles a piece of leather devoid of flavor, it is certainly worth cooking all types of meat thoroughly. Next time you eat at a friend’s and the meat appears undercooked, it might be worth forgetting your embarrassment and challenging your host.

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