Safely Cook and Store Food

Can you guess the appropriate cooking or storage temperature only by looking at a food item, and assuming it is at a safe temperature for eating? 

The answer is absolutely not.  

You should know the appropriate temperatures for hot and cold foods to help you avoid illness caused by unsafe food temperatures. This happens all too often during the cooking stage and the storing stage of preparing food. Having a basic knowledge about the appropriate temperatures that foods should be at will help prevent sickness and contamination. 

Safe cooking temperatures: 

  • 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, and other similar meats
  • 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork
  • 165°F for all poultry (chicken), including ground chicken and turkey
  • 165°F for leftovers and casseroles**
  • 145°F for fresh ham (raw)
  • 145°F for fish 

Leftovers from meals are great, but you always need to make sure they reach the appropriate temperature before eating them. One thing to keep in mind is that microwaves do not evenly cook foods. You should check the temperature of your leftovers in multiple places before enjoying them. 

Cold storage temperatures:

  • Keep your refrigerator below 40°F 
  • Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. If the outdoor temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.
  • Never thaw out food on the counter because bacteria can spread much more easily. When thawing out foods, use the refrigerator, cold water, or a microwave.   

Bacteria can spread quickly if food is left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone,” which is between 40°F and 140°F. When cooking, preparing, or handling food, it is important to remember the “Danger Zone” to help keep you and your family from getting sick by spoiled food. 

Checking the temperatures of foods may seem like a hassle or an extra step in preparing foods, but trust us, you will be happy that you did! It’s one of the best ways to ensure you and your family is safe from harmful bacteria and food borne illnesses.

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