Food Safety - How to Buy, Handle, & Store Your Beef
Whether you buy steaks or ground beef online or at the grocery store, it's important to properly handle, store, and keep your beef clean.
Below are some tips that will give you a better understanding of how and when to get your beef, selecting the right package, properly storing it for longevity and safe eating, as well as handling it with cleanliness for safer and better cooking results.
TIPS FOR BUYING BEEF
- Get it at the end: If you buy your beef at the grocery store, always try to select your cuts at the end of your shopping session. This will ensure that your beef stays as cold as possible during the time it takes to get loaded/unloaded and back home. If you live out in the country, consider bringing a small cooler with you to the market.
- Look for holes: Always check your beef package for holes or tears. If you find any, choose a different package or cut. Vacuum sealed packages are the best for long-term freezer storage. Plastic wrap will be effective as long as you plan on cooking the product right away.
- Excess liquid: Always try to choose beef that doesn't have an excessive amount of liquid in the package.
- Check the date: Always purchase beef before the "sell by" date. If you plan to freeze right away or cook it that day, then buying on the actual "sell by" date is usually fine.
- Marbling: Look for steaks that have some marbling to them. They typically have better flavor after they're cooked. Marbling appears as small white flakes embedded within the beef fibers. However, more is not better. Stay away from excessively fattier cuts of steak, sometimes that indicates a lower quality cut. For ground beef, the leaner the better. Look for nice purple or deep red color with more beef and less fat.
HOW TO PROPERLY STORE BEEF
- To refrigerate or to freeze?: That is the question. If you plan to cook your beef that day or the next day, go ahead and refrigerate. If you plan to wait two or more days, always freeze your beef right away.
- Ground will go quicker: Ground beef is more perishable than steaks or other larger cuts. Keep this in mind when keeping it in the refrigerator.
- Think ahead: It helps to know which days you and your family will be eating beef, so you know when to begin the thawing process.
- Prevent the dreaded "fridge leak:" Beef has a tendency to leak its tasty juices all over your refrigerator. Place all thawed beef down low to prevent juices from making their way into unwanted places. Also, it may be a good idea to place a few paper towels under the product to catch any leaks.
- You have about two weeks: Beef can be kept frozen inside its original packaging for roughly two weeks, before you should transfer it to a sealed and airtight package. Using a vacuum sealer is a great method, but you can also place your beef inside a plastic freezer bag and squeeze as much air out as possible.
- Label and use FIFO: Before transferring your ground beef or steaks to sealed freezer bags, always label the cut of beef and the date that your meat is entering the freezer. Use the FIFO (First in, first out method of inventory) method, simply means taking out and cooking the beef in order of the date that you put it in the freezer. This will ensure you and your family don't ever accidentally cook meat that's freezer burned or been in for too long. It will also help you keep your freezer organized and reduce waste.
Buy it already sealed: You can save time, energy, and money by buying your steaks or ground beef in a sealed bag from the beef seller. This option is less common in standard grocery stores, but is becoming more and more accessible for consumers. We ship all our beef out in sealed ready-to-freeze bags.
HOW TO HANDLE BEEF & KEEP IT CLEAN
- Wash up: Always wash your hands, utensils, cutting surfaces, and counter tops with soap and warm water, before and after handling raw meat.
- Keep it away: Do your best to keep all raw beef juices away from other food items, utensils, and surfaces that won't be used to handle the meat.
- Use a pan: When placing a roast in an oven or broiler, always use a roasting or broiler pan to collect any juices and fat drip while cooking.
VALUABLE BEEF COOKING TIPS
- Gentle there, Tiger: Try not to mash down on ground beef patties or puncture steaks. I know it's human nature to want to take your spatula and just put the hurtin' on that patty and hear that cool-sounding noise from the juices hitting the hot surface...tsssssssssssssst!! But, doing that, along with puncturing your steaks, will cause all those flavorful juices to escape your beautiful culinary creation. Instead, use tongs to flip your steaks and slide that spatula under to turn your hamburger patties. Resist the mash down!
- Simmer down: Too hot of a surface can char or scorch your steaks, leaving the outside cooked far more than the inside. Every stove and grill is different, so experiment to find that perfect temperature for cooking steaks or hamburgers and remember it. Write it down by creating a beef cooking cheat sheet!
- Check internal temperature: Weather you want rare or well-done, checking the internal temperature is the best way to measure when your steak or burger is ready to be served.
- Don't over handle: Be gentle with ground beef and be sure not to over mix it. This can result in patties or other ground beef dishes to be over compacted and firm. If possible, work hard not to put your hands on the beef. Your hands have oils, skin, etc. that can reduce the quality of your final dish.
Final Beef Thoughts
Handling beef safely is not a complicated process. Use good judgement and be conscious of what all the meat comes into contact with. Wash your hands throughout the different stages of cooking and plan ahead. Enjoy!
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