Food-related illnesses affect 48 million Americans, annually. The pathogens Salmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter, Listeria, and E.coli can cause severe illness and even death. These are just a few of the nasty microbes that can easily spread from improper handling of meat. As scary as it sounds, meat can be safe to enjoy by following strict guidelines when shopping for, storing, and cooking meat. Be diligent from the moment you select and place the meat for purchase in your cart to when it’s cooked and served. Meat consumption is an important part of the Paleo Diet and it’s meant to be enjoyed.
From the grocery store to home
Always purchase meat by the sell-by date. Be sure that the package is tightly wrapped, with no holes. The meat should be cold with no excessive liquid in the package. Place raw meat in a plastic bag to keep any juices from touching other items in your cart. It’s always best to shop in the meat section last.
At home, check to make sure that your refrigerator’s temperature is set for no lower than 40 degrees. Store raw meat in the lowest part of your refrigerator, inside a plastic or glass storage container. Before storing meat in the freezer, wrap it in freezer paper labeled with the item name and date of storage. Always wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after handling.
Defrost meat properly to avoid bacteria growth
To safely defrost frozen meat, submerge the tightly packaged meat in cold water that gets changed every 30 minutes until defrosted. Also, meat can slowly thaw in a tray or plate on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator, not touching any other foods. This can take a day to a few days, depending on size and weight. Grounds meats should be thoroughly cooked as soon as they are thawed. More dense meats like steaks can be safely stored for another day or two before cooking.
Clean kitchen, clean food
Maintain a sanitized kitchen and refrigerator. Keep a clean cutting board just for meats and one for fruits and veggies: always keeping raw meats and their juices separate from everything. Be mindful of what your touching when preparing Paleo food. Always wash hands with hot soapy water before and after preparing.
Be wary of cross-contamination. Never place cooked meats on a plate or tray that previously had raw meat on it. Also, never use tongs that were used for raw meats to pick up cooked meat. Always cook meat to safe internal temperatures. A good meat thermometer will come with a guide that lists the temperatures for safe meat consumption.
Always store cooked leftovers in air-tight containers. Remember the 2 hour rule: if food has been sitting out for longer than 2 hours, it’s best to not keep. The motto, “when in doubt, throw it out” applies to leftovers left outside of the refrigerator and inside the refrigerator. Many food-borne illnesses occur due to accidentally eating spoiled meat.