Will It Cook Off? How to Cook Food to Kill Bacteria

Whether in your everyday life or a survival situation, you don’t want to risk catching a foodborne illness. Taking care when preparing, handling, and storing perishable goods can go a long way to lessen your risk. In this guide, we’ll break down common food safety myths and essential tips to help you stay safe and prepared today and in the event of an emergency. 

Food Safety 101

You don’t want to go hungry in a crisis — but you also need to make sure that you’re staying safe. Brush up on these food safety basics. 

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination can allow bacteria that would otherwise cook off to contaminate other foods. Cross-contamination is when harmful bacteria are passed from the carrying source to a “clean” object — in this case, that could be food, cooking utensils, or your food preparation surface. However, you can do some simple things to avoid cross-contamination.

1. Keep Raw Meats Separate from Other Foods 

Raw meats can carry harmful bacteria, like e.coli or staphylococcus (Staph). To avoid cross-contamination, keep raw meats separate from other foods. That means bagging raw meats separately at the grocery store, using separate cookware and utensils, and promptly disinfecting your hands and surrounding surfaces.

2. Designate Preparation Items 

Like raw meat, vegetables and fruits can carry bacteria, too. Use clean, separate utensils and cutting boards when preparing raw meats, fruits, and vegetables. Exchange your preparation items for clean, uncontaminated cooking tools and utensils once properly cleaned or cooked. 

3. Cleaning Produce

Produce should be thoroughly rinsed and cleaned before preparation and consumption — unless packaged and labeled as “pre-washed” or “triple washed”.  There’s no need to use soap or produce wash. Don’t soak produce. Simply run your produce under a constant stream of running water until clean. Tougher vegetables and fruits — like cantaloupe, carrots, or potatoes — can be scrubbed thoroughly with a clean vegetable brush.

Common Food Safety Myths 

False: Cooking With High Heat is a Sure Way to Kill Off All Bacteria 

Yes, it’s important to ensure you properly cook through and reheat certain foods, including meats and grains. How hot does food have to be to kill bacteria? The answer varies depending on what you’re cooking. Across the board, the general rule of thumb is 165 degrees. However, some bacteria are resistant to even the hottest of cooking temperatures. 

Some illness-causing bacteria can’t be destroyed by high cooking temperatures. Therefore, you’ll need to take care to toss old leftovers, expired perishables, and anything that’s been left sitting out without refrigeration or freezing for more than 2 hours.

False: If It Smells Ok, It’s Good to Eat 

It’s not wise to rely on the sniff test alone when determining if your food is safe to eat. Some types of bacteria that may cause you to become ill won’t change the way your food or drink looks, smells, or tastes. For that reason, it’s important to be mindful of expiration dates — and to toss any leftovers after 72 hours. 

False: Color is a Good Indicator of Meat Temperature

Appearances can be deceiving: just because that cut of pork looks cooked through doesn’t mean it is safe to eat. From chicken breast to top sirloin, you shouldn’t use internal or runoff color alone to indicate when to pull meat from the grill or oven. You’ll need to use a meat thermometer to take an internal temperature to ensure your meats are safe to eat. 

Whether you’re cooking on a bug-out-ready stovetop, a traditional stove, or a campfire, you’ll need to use a meat thermometer and place it in the center of the thickest part of each meat cut. This way, you can check to confirm that the center of the meat is cooked through to the following minimum temperatures:

  • 145 degrees F.: fish, whole cuts of pork, veal, beef, and lamb. After removing from heat, allow internal temperatures to continue to rise for 180 seconds before cutting and serving.  
  • 160 degrees F.: eggs, ground beef, pork
  • 165 degrees F.: sausages, hot dogs, chicken, turkey, and all other poultry 

False: Bacteria Can’t Survive Freezing Temperatures

Bacteria can persevere in even the most adverse conditions — like you, they’re committed to survival! That includes freezing temperatures. Once thawed, bacteria present in frozen foods can begin to multiply. Therefore, even with frozen foods, you’ll need to take care with thawing,  handling, and cooking each item to 165 degrees — the recommended temperature to kill bacteria in food. For meats, reheat to the recommended internal temperature.

False: Fruits and Vegetables Don’t Carry Foodborne Illness 

Fruits and vegetables can carry bacteria that can potentially make you sick. It’s important to thoroughly wash any produce, whether from the store or your home garden, before consumption. The only exception is bagged or packaged produce labeled as “triple-washed” or “pre-washed”. 

False: It’s Ok to Eat Cooked Leftovers That Have Been Left Out Overnight

Think it’s okay to store your leftover pizza on the countertop? Heading back for seconds on stir fry hours after the stove has been turned off? Digging into cooked food hours later in a survival situation? Think again. Bacteria can multiply fast — and you should toss cooked foods and leftovers if left sitting out for more than 2 hours. 

Stay Prepared in a Crisis With Survival Foods 

When an emergency strikes, the last thing you want to be worried about is whether or not your food is safe to eat. Stay in peak condition — and give yourself peace of mind — with emergency food kits from 4Patriots. We offer tasty, nutritious survival food options like mac and cheese, alfredo, vanilla pudding, and vegetable rice that you can prepare in a snap with our Sun Kettle solar cooker or Starfire Camp Stove

Leave a comment

*Required Fields