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Many different types of bacteria can grow on animal products. It’s important to safely handle and store all types of meat. However, many people find it confusing that different types of meat have different handling rules. It may be perfectly safe to eat one type of meat a week after it was prepared or freeze it to eat later. However, other types should be thrown away after only a few days or kept unfrozen.
There are safety issues associated with whatever you may eat. A healthy kitchen depends on your knowledge of how to safely cook and store your food.
Make sure to wash your hands frequently when preparing any type of meat, fish, or poultry.
Prepare the meat on a separate surface from other cooking materials. Germs spread easily. It’s particularly important to keep vegetables and other ingredients away from meat, especially if you are not cooking them together in the same dish.
Use separate cutting boards. You should also clean all cooking utensils after they come into contact with raw meat. Different utensils should be used to serve food than prepare it.
As a general rule, uncured raw meat lasts safely for around three days in the refrigerator. If you are planning to keep uncooked meat longer, then freezing is your best bet. Meat should be sealed in an airtight package before freezing. Then it can usually be frozen for at least several months.
Safe freezing and refrigeration time also depends on the storage temperature. Freezers should be kept as close to 0 degrees Fahrenheit as possible. This helps keep food fresh and retain nutrients. Refrigerators should be kept at around 34 F to effectively prolong the shelf life of foods. This temperature is just above freezing.
Below is a general guide to how long basic meats can be kept safely if they are stored properly.
Cooking temperature affects both the taste and safety of food.
From a safety perspective, hotter temperatures at the center of the meat are safer. However, safe cooking temperatures vary for different types of meat. According to FoodSafety.gov, safe cooking temperatures for meats are:
The resting time for cooking whole meats is important. Resting the food gives the heat more time to kill any bacteria.
The spectrum of rare to well-done depends on the temperature at the center of the meat. This temperature is best checked using a meat thermometer. These can be found at kitchen supply stores and in most grocery stores. Typical cooking temperatures are:
Rare and medium meats may not be cooked thoroughly enough to kill all bacteria. However, risk varies for different types of meats.
Fish has a wide spectrum of safe cooking methods. They change depending on the type and quality of fish you are cooking. The method used to cook the fish is also extremely important.
Check cooking instructions for different types of fish. In general, fish should be cooked all the way through. However, medium-rare may be acceptable for certain types of fish. Raw fish, like sushi, should only be eaten with caution. It must be prepared carefully to reduce the risk of contamination.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team and Tim Jewell
Published on: Sep 08, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Nov 07, 2016: Natalie Butler, RD, LD
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