Cooking meat as an amateur can be overwhelming.
We gathered a few tips for cooking steak, bacon, and more.
From more hygienic practices, to hacks that will make cooking easier, here is the best advice we could find.
1. Using the same cutting board for meat and vegetables.
Uncooked meat will leave bacteria on everything it touches, including your cutting boards, utensils and your own hands.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends using separate boards for meat and vegetables.
But “if you can only have one board, cut all your vegetables first then go to your meat or fish, and wash in between,” Makiko Itoh, who runs the blog JustHungry.com, advised in a recent thread on Quora. “You should also keep all cooktops and work surfaces clean. Not to be overly paranoid but better safe than sorry later. Remember as a home cook you’re the last line of defence food-health-wise for you and your family.”
To properly wash everything that has touched uncooked meat, use hot water and soap. The USDA also advises sanitizing cutting boards with bleach.
2. Thawing uncooked meat at room temperature.
The “danger zone” for bacterial growth in food is between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So don’t listen to anyone that tells you thawing meat on the counter is a good idea.
The USDA advises using a cold-water bath or the refrigerator to thaw meat. The latter method is the easiest: You just take the meat out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. The meat should be thawed in 8 to 24 hours, depending on the weight.
For a quicker option, use a cold-water bath.
For this method, tightly seal your meat and place it in a bowl or pot of cool water. Change the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw. The process should take an hour or less for a one-pound package. A three-to-four pound package may take two or three hours.
3. Cutting meat too soon after cooking.
It’s important to let your meat cool for a couple minutes after cooking. “That cooling-off time helps the juices, which migrate to the center of the meat, to be distributed more evenly throughout,” according to Cooking Light magazine. “With small cuts like a steak or boneless, skinless chicken breast, five minutes is adequate. A whole bird or standing rib roast requires 20 to 30 minutes. Tent the meat loosely with foil to keep it warm.”
4. Keeping raw meat in the refrigerator for too long.
For raw ground meats, poultry and most seafood, the USDA recommends refrigerating for no more than two days. Raw roasts, steaks and chops (beef, veal, lamb, and pork) can stay in the refrigerator for up to five days. So if you aren’t going to cook it right away, it’s best to freeze it.
5. Not properly freezing your meat.
If you are getting meat from the butcher, don’t just throw the wrapped package into the freezer and forget about it. The quality of the meat will be preserved better (and you won’t get freezer burn) if you wrap it properly in wax paper or aluminium foil (or both, as described here) and then seal it in an air-tight freezer bag.
6. Crowding your pan.
“Food releases moisture as it’s cooked, so leave room for the steam to escape,” Cooking Light advises. By overcrowding the pan, you won’t get the brown, caramelized crust that is critical for flavour.
7. Frying bacon in a pan.
To avoid the splattering, smoky mess of frying bacon on a stove top, consider cooking it in the oven. It’s a surefire way to get the perfect, crispy strips you want without all the work and mess that the traditional method demands.
Simply place the bacon strips on a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil and stick them in the cold, unpreheated oven. Turn the heat to 400 degrees and set the timer for 18 minutes. Your bacon will be golden and crispy every time. For another oven-baked bacon recipe, click here.
8. Slicing meat at room temperature.
If you are slicing meat into small chunks for a stir fry or a stew, partially freezing it will make cutting a lot easier. Popping thawed meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes should do the trick.
9. Using worn wooden cutting boards with raw meat.
Some cooks warn against using wooden cutting boards with uncooked meat, poultry and seafood, saying bacteria can get stuck in the grooves of the wood. However, the USDA says nonporous surfaces, such as wood, are fine for raw meat as long as the boards aren’t worn and cracked and they are properly cleaned and sanitised.
“Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, they should be discarded,” the USDA advises.
10. Using warm water to thaw your meat.
Beginner cooks can become impatient with the cold-water thawing method, and might think that using warm water will quicken the process. But using warm water is no safer than letting it sit out on the counter, because it subjects your meat to the “danger zone.”
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