We make many .. And I’m a man, so please, men, don’t feel I’m singling you out. I mean .. I am. But that’s sort of the point of the blog. Right? So if you feel slighted in reading this, please go to http://www.jimdissesmeninhiscookingblog.com and rant there. I read it. Really …
The biggest mistake we make in our cooking is pretty simple. We overcook almost everything. We do it for two reasons. We don’t pay close enough attention to what’s on the heat. We are afraid of poisoning the people we’re feeding.
Let’s talk about that second one first. It’s a very real concern. When you’re cooking, and food poisoning is not, as some seem to think, limited to chicken and shell fish, in fact, one of the most common sources of food poisoning is unwashed, uncooked produce. (Especially now that we’re all ‘organic’ and everything). So, let’s talk about not making people sick. Or how to not make people sick – or however you want to say that.
I own and operate a restaurant. As such, I had to take a food safety course and pass a test. In it, I learned the federal guidelines for safe cooking temperatures for all sorts of things. Here’s a great resource… Food Safety Minimum Temperature Guidelines.
Now, here’s the problem. With most of the proteins you will cook if you cook the food all the way to the federal guideline – (and, ahem, you often cook it to internal temperatures that are even higher than these) – whatever flavor might originally have been in whatever you are cooking is long gone.
So, the best way to avoid poisoning your guests may surprise you.
- Know your source. (Where does the chicken you’re going to cook come from and is the source reputable, hopefully organic, and does your purveyor trust and speak highly of them?)
- Know your protein is fresh. (I’m not a person who is afraid of previously frozen products. Frankly, if something is coming from New Zealand I’d prefer it is frozen there and thawed – correctly – here). But the trick to fresh is when was it harvested and when did it go in the case?
- Wash your proteins, carefully, before preparing them. (And then dry them off, equally carefully, before cooking them).
- Wash your hands after handling anything raw – including produce – with actual soap (it doesn’t actually need to be labeled anti-bacterial – but it helps). Wash them for a minimum of 20 seconds and actually wash between your fingers.
- Be mindful of utensils used to handle raw proteins. (including tongs, cutting boards, service items, etc) and wash them before you use them to touch food you will serve.
Cook your foods to a temperature that comes within site of the federal food safety guidelines, but know that if you’ve followed the above steps, and especially step one and step two, you can actually cook most proteins to a much more flavorful medium rare, medium rare – plus, and you (and your guests) will enjoy your food much more.
And also remember that cooking your foods to a perfect internal temperature means you need to pay attention. (And yes, I understand, that’s something that is hard for almost any man).