Proper food handling and storage when shopping
The easiest way to safely store food is to keep cold food cold and keep hot food hot. Bacteria growth is significantly reduced and is said to lay dormant in the colder temperatures of a refrigerator or freezer, or at temperatures hotter than 141°F. Bacteria thrive between 41°F and 140°F, a region known as the “Food Temperature Danger Zone.”
To substantially reduce your chances of contracting, or passing along, a food-borne illness, make sure that your perishable foods never spend more than an hour in the Food Temperature Danger Zone. Below is a list of basic food handling techniques to help you properly handle your food.
- Buy cold or frozen food at the end of your shopping.
- Keep your raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood away from other food in your grocery cart so you don’t spread foodborne bacteria from raw food to ready-to-eat food.
- Put raw food in individual plastic bags and pack them separately in your reusable grocery bags.
- If you use reusable grocery bags, make sure to use a specific bag or bin just for raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Label the bag with the type of food it carries.
- Keep your raw meat, poultry and seafood cold. Refrigerate or freeze them as soon as you get home from the grocery store.
- Use pre-packaged deli meats within 4 days, preferably 2-3 days, after opening; even if this date is different than the best-before date. Best-before dates apply to unopened packages only. Deli meats sliced at the grocer should also be eaten within 4 days, preferably 2-3 days.
What to look for when shopping for protein
Lots of people ask what to look for when they are buying protein. Beef, pork, lamb, veal or chicken, no matter what you buy for your family, meat is usually the most expensive part of grocery shopping.
High quality beef, pork and poultry meat can be found in all local grocery stores. All retail meat has been inspected for safety before being cut into the retail products. But, bacterial infestation, bad storage procedures or improper packaging can cause good meat to lose quality. These are some of the things to look for when buying protein for your families.
The visual identification of quality meat is based on color, marbling and water holding capacity. The meat should have a normal red color that is uniform throughout the entire cut. Beef, lamb, and pork should also have marbling throughout the meat. Marbling is small streaks of fat that are found within the muscle and can be seen in the meat cut. The marbling will increase the juiciness, tenderness and flavor the product.
Water holding capacity can be witnessed by looking at the package, if excess water is found in the bottom of the retail package, it may lead to a dry cooked product. The cut should hold water within the meat to add to juiciness.
Another quality identification is smell. The product should have a normal smell. This will be different for each of the species (i.e. beef, pork, chicken), but should vary only slightly within the species. Any rancid or strange smelling meat should be avoided.
Meat should appear firm rather than soft. When handling the retail package, it should be firm, but not tough. It should give under pressure, but not actually be soft.
An unsliced roast usually costs less than one that is sliced and tied. Whole chicken is usually a better buy than chicken parts. A whole turkey usually provides more meat than boned, rolled turkey roast.
Buying Cubed Meat
When you buy stewing meat or meat that’s already cubed, try to choose a package with uniformly sized pieces because this will help your meat cook evenly.
Find out what to look for when shopping for your next meal.