A constant debate among cooks and hunters is which meats spoil fastest.
In reality the real issue is not which spoils fastest but what temperatures are safe to not only cook meat but also transport or store it.
This is data directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that gives safe guidelines for storing, transporting and cooking all kinds of meats.
Raw meat and poultry should always be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. When roasting meat and poultry, use an oven temperature no lower than 325 °F. Use a food thermometer to assure that meat and poultry have reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
- Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
- Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
- Cook all poultry to a safe minumum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.If raw meat and poultry have been handled safely, using the above preparation recommendations will make them safe to eat. If raw meats have been mishandled (left in the “Danger Zone” too long), bacteria may grow and produce toxins which can cause foodborne illness. Those toxins that are heat resistant are not destroyed by cooking. Therefore, even though cooked, meat and poultry mishandled in the raw state may not be safe to eat even after proper preparation.
Bacteria exist everywhere in nature. They are in the soil, air, water and the foods we eat. When bacteria have nutrients (food), moisture, time and favorable temperatures, they grow rapidly increasing in numbers to the point where some can cause illness. Understanding the important role temperature plays in keeping food safe is critical. If we know the temperature at which food has been handled, we can then answer the question, “Is it safe?”
The “Danger Zone” (40 °F-140 °F)
Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 ° and 140 °F, doubling in number in as
little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the “Danger Zone.” That’s why the Meat and Poultry Hotline advises consumers to never leave food out of refrigeration over 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 °F, food should not be left out more than 1 hour.
If you are traveling with cold food, bring a cooler packed with plenty of ice, frozen gel packs or anothera cold source. If you are cooking, use a hot camp re or portable stove. It is difficult to keep foods hot withouta heat source when traveling, so it’s best to cook foods before leaving home, cool them, and transport them cold.