Cooking Tips

BBQing, grilling and frying

Pat meat dry before frying, including marinated meats. Wet meat doesn’t brown well.

Before you put the meat on, make sure the surface of the pan or grill is hot. When you’re ready to turn the meat (which the purists say you should only do once), use tongs to help keep the juices in.

Give ‘em some room – use a big enough pan so meat’s not crowded while cooking, as this can slow down the process.


Is it ready?

When chicken is ready, the juices will run clear.

Always cover and rest red meat after cooking, to retain the juices. Resting time varies depending on the size of meat, and remember, meat will keep cooking once you’ve taken it off the heat, so be careful not to over-cook!


Before you cook

Don’t cook cold meat straight from the fridge – take it out about 30 minutes before you get sizzling.

Slow-cooking & stewing

Stewing or slow simmering can tenderise certain types of cuts and bring out their best flavours (use flank, brisket or chuck – avoid lean cuts as they’ll get tough when cooked this way).

Over-cooking can make the meat dry and stringy. If the sauce hasn’t reduced but the meat is tender, remove the meat (and keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out) and heat the sauce at a higher temperature to reduce. Then return the meat to the hot sauce. You can also use cornflour to thicken the sauce.


Carving your meat

When cutting or carving meat, always cut across the grain.

Food Safety – Storing Food

 Storing leftover food in the fridge

  • Leftover food needs to be handled and stored safely so that it does not pose a food safety risk
  • When you have cooked food and you are not going to eat it straight away or if there are leftovers after serving, place on a clean plate, cover and refrigerate within two hours
  • Throw away any high risk food that has been standing at room temperature for more than two hours and throw away all food scraps
  • Remember to use clean dishes and utensils for cooked food to prevent cross-contamination
  • Dividing food into smaller portions and putting it in a shallow dish can help to make it cool more quickly
  • When you are cooling a turkey or other large bird, removing the legs will help it cool more quickly
  • It is important that leftover cooked rice is quickly cooled and then refrigerated
  • Remember do not put food in the fridge when it is still hot, because it could raise the temperature of the fridge and allow other foods to get too warm
  • Leftovers stored in the fridge should be eaten within three days


Your fridge should always be kept below 5° Celsius.


Power cuts

If the power is out for less than two hours, then the food in your fridge will be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the fridge door closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.

If the power is off for more than two hours, then check to see whether the food is still cold and remember, if in doubt, throw it out.

If you are still not sure what to do in this situation, contact your local Environmental Health Officer. Or you can call the safefood Helpline on 0800 085 1683 (NI) or 1850 40 4567 (ROI).

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Heard a lot of fact and fiction about cross contamination, how it happens and how it to tackle it? Well we’re here to help you understand and blow those myths out of the water, so to speak!


Myth: Once I rinse my dishcloth I know that it’s clean.

Fact: This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our research showed that rinsing dishcloths under the tap did not remove germs. Remember, just because it looks clean doesn’t mean it is! Dishcloths that are used for more than two days tend to have high levels of bacteria present. Food poisoning bacteria can survive and grow on dishcloths, particularly where food residues remain and when the cloth is damp. Dishcloths are usually stored crumpled up, so they stay wet and often contain larger numbers of bacteria. Of the dishcloths tested in the safefood survey, E. coli was present on 27.5% and Listeria was present on 13.5% of them.

What should I do? It’s best to change your dishcloth at least every other day. If you use your dishcloth to wipe off ‘High Risk’ food debris such as raw eggs, raw meat, raw poultry, raw fish or raw vegetables make sure to change your cloth straight away. Boiling your dishcloth for 15 minutes or washing it the washing machine on a standard cycle are effective ways to clean dishcloths and kill any germs that might be present. Don’t use a dishcloth that smells or if it looks dirty as it is very likely that a high number of bacteria are present on the cloth.


Myth: My work surface and cutting boards look clean so there is no bacteria on them.

Fact: In actual fact germs like Campylobacter can last on kitchen surfaces for up to 1 hour and E. coli can last for up to 24 hours. A recent study conducted by safefood found that 96% of kitchen surfaces were not thoroughly washed after food preparation and 43% were contaminated with raw meat bacteria after food preparation.

A further 67% of people didn’t wash the chopping board after using it to prepare raw chicken and of the chopping boards tested, 50% were contaminated with raw meat bacteria after preparation.

What should I do? It’s always good practice to wash worktops and cutting boards with hot soapy water after preparing foods, especially after preparing raw meat, poultry, seafood or raw vegetables. Always clean as you go between preparing these foods and especially when handling raw foods and then handling ready to eat foods!


Myth: I don’t need to wash my utensils while I’m preparing my food.

Fact: The study done by safefood found that 72% of people failed to thoroughly wash a knife that was used in preparing raw chicken before reusing it to cut salad vegetables and 67% of people failed to thoroughly wash a knife that had been used to prepare raw beef  before cutting salad vegetables. Of the knives that were tested, 18% were contaminated with E. coli and 5% were contaminated with Campylobacter. The side salads that were tested, a whopping 37% were contaminated with raw meat bacteria.

What should I do? All kitchen utensils should be thoroughly scrubbed in plenty of clean hot soapy water or in a dishwasher, particularly after using them to prepare raw meat or poultry.

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Myth: It’s only the meat itself that needs to be handled carefully, the packaging goes straight into the bin to be thrown out.

Fact: Harmful bacteria such as E. coli can last on your food packaging for up to 24 hours, so you should be careful when handling packaging. These bacteria can be transferred quite easily from contaminated packaging to other kitchen surfaces and also lead to cross-contamination of hands and other kitchen surfaces such as worktops and press handles. In a report published in 2010 (FSAI), a reported 13.2% of chicken packaging was contaminated with Campylobacter.

What should I do? When you do your shopping pack your raw meat and poultry separately from your ready-to-eat foods. If you use reusable bags you should keep one bag for raw meats only. Store your raw meat and poultry on the bottom shelf of your fridge below ready to eat foods.

Remove your raw meat and poultry from their packaging and directly place on to your cutting board or baking tray, and throw the packaging straight in to the bin. By doing this you will help avoid contaminating any of your work surfaces. After you have finished preparing your raw meat or poultry, wash down all surfaces with hot soapy water.


Myth: I always wash my hands when I’m preparing food so I’m not at risk.

Fact: This isn’t always the case. The recent research done by safefood has turned up some startling evidence with regard to handwashing, 80% of people didn’t wash their hands thoroughly after handling raw mince, 84% didn’t thoroughly wash their hands after handling raw chicken while preparing a warm chicken salad and 26% of people had raw meat bacteria on their hands after preparing food. Just think about where your hands have been and where and what they will touch.

What should I do? You should always wash your hands thoroughly after handling any raw meat or poultry. Wet your hands thoroughly under warm running water and apply soap to them. Rub your hands together to make a lather and spread it over all areas of your hands and wrists, making sure it covers palms, the backs of your hands, wrists, fingers and fingernails and rub between each finger and round your thumbs. It’s this action which helps the soap dislodge and remove dirt and germs  Dry your hands thoroughly, using a clean hand towel or hand dryer. Never your tea towel or your cloths.



Cooking Meat Safely

As all raw meats can carry harmful bacteria on the outside, it is important to cook all meat properly to kill the bacteria that can cause food poisoning. This section advises you on how to handle and cook meat, and how to check that your meat is fully cooked and safe to eat.


Which meats must be cooked all the way through?

Poultry, pork, rolled joints, burgers, sausages, chicken nuggets, kebabs, kidneys, liver and other types of offal, and any meat or fish that has been minced or skewered. The reason is that with whole cuts of meat, any harmful bacteria will live on the outside only. But if meat has been minced or chopped up, the bacteria get moved around.


How should I cook these meats?

  • Select a temperature that is hot enough to cook the meat, but not so hot that the outside will burn before the inside has had a chance to cook
  • If you are cooking a number of small pieces of meat such as sausages, move them around and turn them regularly so that each piece cooks evenly
  • Temperature and cooking times will vary depending on the type of cut of meat and the method of cooking. All meat should be checked visually to see if it is cooked thoroughly.


Which meats can be eaten rare?

Beef steaks, whole joints of beef, lamb chops, whole joints of lamb.

These can be eaten rare in the middle because harmful bacteria can only be on the outside. Vulnerable people, including elderly people, babies and toddlers, pregnant women and people who are unwell, should avoid eating lamb or beef that is rare or pink.


How do I check these meats are properly cooked?

  • When you pierce the thickest part of the meat with a fork or skewer, the juices should run clear. For a whole chicken or other bird, the thickest part is the leg between the drumstick and the breast
  • Cut the meat open with a clean knife to check it is piping hot all the way through – it should be steaming
  • Meat changes colour when it is cooked. Make sure there is no pink meat left
  • If you’re cooking a very large dish, such as a lasagne, check it in a few places, because some parts of the dish may be less hot than others

An alternative to the above checks would be to use a meat thermometer (see below)

How to use a meat thermometer?

A meat thermometer measures the internal temperature of your cooked meat and poultry, or any casseroles, to assure that a safe temperature has been reached and that harmful bacteria have been destroyed.

Poultry and pork products; minced meat or any type of product made from minced meat (e.g. sausages, burgers); and meats which have been rolled or de-boned or composed of reformed meat pieces, must be cooked to a core temperature of at least 70°C for 2 minutes or equivalent (75°C instantaneously i.e. the immediate temperature reading obtained on inserting a temperature probe into the centre of the food).

Whole fish may be cooked to preference, but products made of minced fish (e.g. fish cakes) should always be cooked to a core temperature of at least 70°C for 2 minutes or equivalent (75°C instantaneously).

Where to insert the meat thermometer:

  • Poultry: Into the inner thigh area near the breast of the chicken or turkey but not touching the bone. If stuffed, stuffing temperature must reach 75°C. Do this near and at the end of the stand time.
  • Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal, Ham, Roasts, Steaks or Chops: Into the center of the thickest part, away from bone, fat and gristle.
  • Minced Meat and Poultry: In the thickest area of ground meat or poultry dishes like meatloaf. The thermometer may be inserted sideways in thin items such as burgers.
  • Casseroles: Into the thickest portion.

After each use, always wash the stem section of the meat thermometer thoroughly in hot, soapy water.

How should I cook these meats?

When you are cooking steaks, or whole joints of beef or lamb, pink or rare, use a high temperature to seal the meat and kill any bacteria that might be on the outside

You can tell a piece of meat has been properly sealed because all the outside will have changed colour.


Is there anything else I should do when handling meat?

Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat. This prevents the spread of bacteria.

Use separate utensils for raw or partially cooked meat and cooked meat.

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Information Provided by © Safefood