Is the Meat You Serve Safe?
A Reinhart Expert Answers Six Important Questions
One thing’s for certain:
You can never learn enough about food safety, and when it comes to meat safety, it’s best to arm yourself with a refresher whenever possible. We caught up with Tyler Zimmerman, operations manager for Reinhart Foodservice, to ask him several important questions.
1. Restaurant Inc: Why is it not a good idea to store raw meat with cooked meat?
Tyler Zimmerman: Raw meat has the potential of containing different pathogens. Those pathogens are typically killed when you cook meat to 160 F for beef. Once you hit that 160 F, you have a kill step, which means in theory those pathogens no longer exist on the meat. If you store that cooked meat with raw meat, you’re re-introducing cooked meat into an environment that possibly contains those pathogens, which means you no longer have a kill step on that cooked meat. If you eat it, even though it’s fully cooked, it could have a pathogen on it. Your guests could get sick.
2. RI: Why should you not defrost meat in hot water?
TZ: Pathogens typically multiply and grow better in warmer temperatures. You don’t ever want the internal temperature of the meat to get above 44.0 F. Typically, that’s a pretty good threshold based off different studies. You don’t want water to be warm because you might thaw the meat too quickly and it could get above that threshold and you’ll have the potential for the pathogens to multiply.
3. RI: As far as storing, defrosting and freezing, do you have one method for beef, another for pork, etc.?
TZ: The guidelines will be the same, but you want to separate the pork from the beef, frozen from fresh. You keep the different proteins separate because they have different pathogens, typically a concern for those different species. For beef, it’s E. coli. Remember this also when you’re preparing them. If you’re using a cutting board for pork, you want to make sure you clean and sanitize that board before moving on to another species. Or make sure you use another cutting board. Also, if you’re cutting a steak on the board, you want to make sure it’s clean before you cut into a head of lettuce. There’s a possibility for cross contamination if you don’t.
4. RI: What are some of the best methods for storing meat to ensure freshness?
TZ: If you’re looking for shelf life, for the meats to last, you’ve got to freeze them because pork and beef have relatively short shelf lives when they are refrigerated.
I would recommend 44 F or lower while storing pork or beef in the refrigerator and 15 F or lower when storing it in the freezer. If you can, store them in vacuum-sealed packages.
5. RI: Is there a recommended time you should freeze meat? Should you throw it out after a certain amount
TZ: When food is frozen, there is not much of a safety risk. It is more of a quality risk over time. You’re going to get freezer burn, especially if you don’t vacuum seal it. Even with vacuum sealing, however, you will eventually get freezer burn. I would typically say 180 days to 365 days should be your max for keeping it.
6. RI: What’s the best method for transporting meat to outdoor events during summer?
TZ: Meat should always be kept in a cooler of some kind. If the restaurant is fortunate to own a refrigerated truck, that’s obviously a plus. If not, a cooler with ice packs will suffice. You should always keep some type of temperature recorder in that cooler (i.e. thermometer), ensuring you don’t go over that 44.0 F. It should also be fully sealed during transportation so you’re not introducing the meat to anything that was previously in that cooler.