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The Danger Zones
by Bob Blumer
Magazine Issue: Internet Only

chicken

Poultry is particularly susceptible to contamination by salmonella bacteria, which can cause serious food poisoning (and ruin /our cachet on the dinner party circuit). To avoid any problems, follow these rules:

  • After handling raw chicken, wash your hands, utensils, and cutting surfaces with soap and hot water to keep any bacteria from spreading to other foods. It is a good habit to cut poultry on a disposable surface such as waxed paper to avoid any contact with cutting boards -- a favorite hangout for bacteria.
  • Make sure that chicken is always properly refrigerated. Cook fresh chicken within 2 days of purchasing and frozen chicken (kept frozen) within 4 months. Frozen chicken must be fully thawed, preferably in the refrigerator before cooking. Never take chances. If there is ever a hint that chicken has not been carefully stored (use the good old "smell test"), discard it.
  • Cooking and grilling times vary according to the oven or grill temperature and the portion size. Make a small incision in the middle of the chicken to make sure that it is cooked throughout. If any pink remains, continue cooking.
  • To be safe, always marinate chicken in the refrigerator.
  • After cooking, do not return chicken to the same plate that it was on prior to cooking, and avoid any contact between the cooked chicken and the raw juices.

    pork

  • To ensure against bacteria, cook all forms of pork thoroughly until the juices run clear. If you have a meat thermometer 160 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect.

    general meat-handling tips

  • Meats and poultry are most susceptible to bacteria when exposed to temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep all such foods refrigerated until ready for cooking.
  • Always store uncooked meats in your refrigerator on a level below other foods so that their raw juices do not drip onto anything.

    coddling eggs

    There is a new school of thought that claims eggs should never be consumed unless they are fully cooked throughout. Moderate thinkers believe that coddling an egg will kill most of its potentially harmful bacteria. When I am alone I don't worry about it, but when I'm cooking for groups of people, the fear of a classaction lawsuit drives me to coddle, as follows:

  • Place the eggs, in their shells, in boiling water for 40 seconds. Remove, run under cold water for 15 seconds to stop the cooking process, and use as directed.

    indoor charcoal grilling

    Burning charcoal emits carbon monoxide. Proper ventilation is required to disperse the toxic fumes. Only grill indoors under a well-ventilated chimney and never go to sleep with the coals still burning

    edible flowers

    Flowers make beautiful garnishes. However only certain varieties may be eaten To be certain that you are not eating poisonous flowers, or flowers that have been treated with pesticides, use store bought edible flowers or grow your own organic flowers, such as violas, pansies or nasturtiums.

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