In this brief guide we will address the question, “to destroy bacteria, at what temperature and for how long should you cook food?” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand like can you reheat food. Moreover, we will also discuss the core cooking and reheating temperature and the food safety tips for proper handling of food.
To destroy bacteria, at what temperature and for how long should you cook food?
To destroy bacteria, you should maintain a steady temperature of above 75-degree Celsius for 2 or more minutes. This will kill most bacteria present in your food. This temperature should be the core temperature of the food product that is being handled, and not just the surface temperature of it.
The reason I consider a temperature of above 75 to be appropriate is because some food items require less than this, but you can never be too sure. However, if you are interested in knowing the exact values of temperatures for different food products, here is a list issued by the CDC (Centre for Disease Control)
- poultry, whole or ground: 165°F (74°C)
- whole cuts of meat (beef, pork, lamb, or veal): 145°F (64°C)
- ground meats: 160°F (71°C)
- fresh ham: 145°F (64°C)
- fish: 145°F (64°C) or until meat is opaque
- leftovers or casseroles: 165°F (74°C)
What is the danger zone temperature for food?
Bacteria grow the most between 4°C to 60°C. This is the temperature range that should be avoided at all costs. That is why the refrigerators operate at 4°C or even lower.
Considering this range, is it safe if the core temperature of my food is 60 or above? Not quite.
There are some bacteria that can survive above this temperature as well. This is exactly why you need to go higher than this temperature.
60°C is not the temperature at which you would want to cook your food. This temperature range indicates the presence of the most microorganisms in your food.
How to check the cooking temperature?
It is best to check the core cooking temperature with a food thermometer. The core temperature should be maintained for a minimum of 2 minutes before you can take it out of the pan or the oven.
Just putting the food in the oven and setting the temperature at 75°C is not a good practice. Always try using a method that will allow you to check the core temperature with a thermometer every 30 seconds. This is possible when you use open containers like pans.
If you want to use the oven, what you can do is actually set the temperature even higher than the 75°C mark, because the oven will take time to reach that temperature and so will the core of your food item. Consider stake, for example. If you place it in a pan on high heat, it will just burn the outside and the inside can still be raw.
That is why you need a temperature thermometer in your kitchen.
Food safety tips
The reason people ask these questions is because they are worried about food poisoning and other gut related problems. Heating the food at a steady temperature will definitely ensure that the bacteria inside the food have been killed. However, it does not, in any way mean that the food is perfectly safe to eat if you have unhygienic conditions in your kitchen. Here are some tips that will help you prevent all such problems.
- Rinse raw ingredients: Whenever you decide to cook something new, always make sure that you wash/rinse them with running tap water. Fruits and vegetables may contain residual pesticide spray on them. Similarly, poultry and meat items need to be thoroughly rinsed as well. This will get rid of any contaminants on the surface.
- Wash hands frequently: Always wash your hands before and after cooking. Frequently washing your hands will prevent excess germs and bacteria from entering your food. I usually keep a hand wash in my kitchen so I can wash my hands before I move on to another recipe or a new ingredient.
- Avoid cross contamination: Cross contamination is perhaps the most common mistake that people make while preparing food in the kitchen. Cross contamination occurs from one food product to another when we use the same utensils for cutting and preparing different food items.
Not only does cross contamination cause a change in flavour, but it also causes severe food poisoning. Cross contamination can be avoided by using different knives for cutting different products. For example, cutting a fruit and meat with the same knife without washing, or using the same board for cutting both fruits and meat products.
- Store properly: It is important to note that not all products have the same storage tips and methods. One should be careful as to properly refrigerate those items that need it. Moreover, using air tight containers and plastic bags is also a good way to go. This prolongs the shelf life and quality of your food product.
- Clean your utensils: This is closely related to cross contamination. Cleaning the utensils is a must before and after you put it to use. There can be exchange of bacteria from one food product to another. Cleaning seems like a tough job, until you make it a routine part of the process. Many people clean at the end, which should not be the case. You need to clean immediately.
- Proper thawing: Leaving the items on the kitchen shelf sounds like a good idea, but it does not have a steady temperature that is required for the proper thawing of food. You should always thaw food items in the oven or in the refrigerator to ensure a contamination free environment.
In this brief guide we have addressed the question, “to destroy bacteria, at what temperature and for how long should you cook food?” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand like can you reheat food. Moreover, we also discussed the core cooking and reheating temperature and the food safety tips for proper handling of food.