When shopping for beef, make sure it is among the last items selected so that the length of time it is without refrigeration is as short as possible. This will help reduce the growth of harmful bacteria on the meat between the time when the meat is purchased and when it is placed in the refrigerator at home. If the meat is without refrigeration for more than an hour, because of the travel time from the market, a cooler with ice should be used to transport the meat, and any other perishable items, for the duration of the travel time.
It is important to follow the basic rules of cleanliness when preparing beef. Work surfaces, dishes, and utensils should be washed thoroughly with soap and hot water after using them. Bleach can be used as a disinfectant for cutting boards and other work surfaces or an antibacterial spray may be used. When taste testing food, do not use the same utensil that was used for preparation and be sure that a clean spoon or fork is used for each taste to eliminate the spread of germs. Beware of kitchen washcloths and towels that have been used on multiple surfaces because they can spread germs. Use paper towels or other disposable cloths whenever possible.
Various types of foods should be kept separate from each other during storage and preparation. Never store ready to eat foods next to raw meats. Bacteria that may be present on the raw beef may contaminate the ready to eat foods.
It is very important to wash your hands often during food preparation to avoid transferring harmful bacteria from one food item to the next. If you were handling raw meat, for example, you would want to wash your hands thoroughly before chopping vegetables to reduce the risk of transferring bacteria from the meat to the vegetables.
If cutting boards are used in your kitchen, it is a good idea to use one for meats and a different one for fruits and vegetables. Cutting surfaces made from tempered glass are safer to use because you don't have to worry about cracks and pores harboring bacteria as you do with wood or plastic surfaces. Tempered glass surfaces are also the easiest to clean. Regardless of the material they are made from, cutting boards should be cleaned thoroughly after each use.
The knife that was used to cut raw beef should not be used to chop vegetables unless the knife has been washed thoroughly first. When serving cooked meat, do not place it on the plate that contained the raw meat.
Bacteria such as E. Coli may be present on any cut of beef, but it is most common on ground beef because the grinding process may distribute the bacteria throughout the meat. Whole beef cuts usually have bacteria on the surface, so cooking them to an internal temperature of 145°F is sufficient to kill the bacteria. (The surface of the meat will be at a much higher temperature; usually 160°F or higher). Ground beef must be cooked until the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 160°F to ensure that dangerous bacteria are destroyed.
Traditional guidelines state that beef cooked very rare, rare, or medium rare should have an internal temperature ranging between 115ºF to 140°F. With increased concern over bacteria that may be present in the internal portions of meat, it is now recommended that whole beef cuts be cooked to an internal temperature of not less than 145°F, even though bacteria is usually only on the surface of the meat. Searing beef on the stovetop before roasting is also a good method of killing surface bacteria as well as browning the surface and adding flavor.
Refrigerator / Freezer
Most cuts of beef can be safely stored in the refrigerator at temperatures between 33°F and 40°F for 3 or 4 days. They can be stored in a freezer with a temperature of 0°F or less for 6 to 12 months. Refrigerated ground beef should be used within 1 or 2 days and can be stored in the freezer for up to 4 months. Leftover cooked beef that is refrigerated should be used within 3 or 4 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Beef should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator until it is ready to use. If the beef will not be used within a few days, it should be stored in the freezer. It may be stored in its original packaging if it will be frozen for only 1 or 2 weeks. If the beef requires long-term freezer storage, it should be rewrapped with heavy-duty protection to prevent freezer burn.
Freezer burn causes the beef to become discolored and dehydrated. This is because exposure to the cold, dry air of the freezer compartment can cause moisture loss, especially if the beef is packaged incorrectly and/or stored in the freezer for an excessive length of time. A layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil works well as protection against freezer burn. Heavy white freezer paper is another alternative for protecting the meat. It is important to note that freezing beef may affect the flavor, texture, and appearance of the meat when it is cooked at a later date, and in some cases, there may be a noticeable difference between fresh and frozen.
A storage method that works well for fresh or frozen beef is vacuum packaging. It helps to keep beef fresh for longer periods if properly refrigerated or frozen. The vacuum packaged is usually made from plastic bags. The cut of beef is placed inside the bag, the air is removed creating a vacuum in the bag, and then the bag is sealed to maintain the vacuum. Beef that is frozen for long-term storage in vacuum packages (or other types of packaging) can be dated so that it can be used within the proper time limit: up to 1 year for raw beef cuts, 4 months for ground beef, and 3 months for any type of cooked leftovers.
Whole Beef Cuts Safety and Handling Tips
Ground Beef Safety and Handling Tips