Class yourself as a carnivore, but hate touching meat? A bit odd perhaps, but you’re not alone. Lots of people think raw meat is too slimy/alien-like/just generally weird and despise having to touch it with their bare hands, so much so that Sainsbury’s recently introduced a new range of ‘touch-free’ meat products.
Specifically aimed at hygiene-conscious millennials/members of the snowflake generation depending on which side of the fence you fall, touch-free meat is basically wrapped in an extra layer of plastic that allows you to unwrap it and place it directly in your pan without actually having to touch any flesh, thanks to an extra plastic protective cover.
Tempted to try this out? First, think just how much you’ll be crushing Sir David Attenborough’s soul. The world does not need more plastic. You do not need to buy extra plastic so you can cook meat. What you need is a better understanding of food hygiene, and you’ll be making Sir David proud.
Stop being grossed out by meat
If you’re not planning to stop eating meat, and you don’t want to let Sir David down, you need to get used to touching it – it’s really not that bad. Ok, maybe it does feel a bit weird. But a few seconds of touching it while you slice it is surely worth it for the tasty meal you’ll be getting later. You can do it.
We do give you permission to be grossed out by any pink chicken, pork or duck on your plate, however. Pink beef or lamb is okay, if you like your meat rare, but everything else needs to be cooked through properly, or you could wind up making yourself pretty unpleasantly ill.
Invest in a meat thermometer to help you check when your meat is cooked in the middle, or just slice into it and have a cheeky peek if you’re not sure. Does it really matter if your meal isn’t Instagram-worthy after you’ve sliced it up to check? No. Remember: there’s nothing Instagrammable about an upset stomach either.
Keep clean and carry on
Raw meat is the right kind of moist and warm for harmful bacteria like salmonella to thrive. Gross, we know, but that’s why it’s so important to cook it properly. And we apologise profusely for using the word ‘moist’. And again.
Obviously, you need to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat, but you also need to give everything else it’s touched in your kitchen a proper clean too. Yep, that means not leaving your chopping board unwashed by the sink ‘until later’, as that’ll be plenty of time for bacteria to spread throughout the room.
Make sure your knives, chopping board and worktops have been scrubbed clean, and there’s no reason you should fall ill – unless you’re eating mouldy meat, obvs: don’t do that.
How to store your raw
Raw meat hygiene can also be an issue if it’s not stored properly. Of course, putting it in the freezer as soon as you get it home from the shop to defrost at a late date keeps it fresher over the long term, but if you’re planning to cook it in the next day or two, you’ll want to be keeping it in the fridge instead.
Don’t just shove your raw chicken anywhere in the fridge though. No one wants to reach in for a yoghurt and end up having to wipe raw chicken juice (eww.) off the lid before opening. *Shudders*.
Keep raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge, then if there is any unfortunate drippage, nothing will get damaged. Clean out your fridge regularly too – once a week would be best, ideally – and that will get rid of any lingering germs, keeping everything lovely, fresh and, most importantly, safe.
Breaking the ice
As we mentioned up there, freezing meat can help to lock in its freshness for longer, but what do you need to know when it comes to defrosting it? You can technically use the defrost setting on your microwave, but just bear in mind that this takes meat from freezing to warm and moist (sorry, again) really quickly, and that could entice bacteria.
Instead, it’s better to leave it in a bowl (more effective than a plate at gathering meat juice) to thaw in the fridge, so it can make its way to a slightly warmer temperature naturally.
Remember to never refreeze defrosted meat either – that’s just asking for bacteria trouble.
Notes on rice
After chicken and pork, one of the most common food hygiene conundrums tends to concern rice, and whether you can actually reheat it after it’s gone cold, or whether this will lead to you spending three days in the bathroom, begging for the end.
With rice, you need to eat it just cooked and piping hot, or when it’s gone totally cold, like in a rice salad, for example. If you let it go cold and then reheat it, you’ll be giving bacteria that’s settled on it during the cooling process permission to multiply and make you seriously ill, so don’t even go there.
Basically, you just need to handle your food with care. And always bear the WWSDT mantra in mind. That’s What Would Sir David Think, btw.