FOOD HANDLING: Plan your meals ahead and stick to defrosting in the fridge.
FOOD HANDLING: Plan your meals ahead and stick to defrosting in the fridge. Contributed

5 best food handling tips for Christmas

IT'S almost Christmas and with that comes food, food and more food, to cook, serve and store, but what about the leftovers?

CSIRO senior food microbiologist Cathy Moir gives us tips we need for making sure we stay happy and healthy during the annual Christmas food binge.

1. Best way to defrost meat

  • Plan your meals ahead and stick to defrosting in the fridge Mrs Moir recommends. "It's because we have microbes on our foods, and especially on raw foods such as raw meats, which perhaps have more micro-organisms on them than some other foods such as cooked foods," Mrs Moir added.
  • Keep your food cold while it's defrosting to help slow the growth of microbes.
  • Avoid defrosting on the bench, particularly in warmer temperatures, as the microbes on the outside the meat will proably be growing while the inside of the meat could still be frozen.

2. No need to wash

There is no need to wash raw meat before it is prepared and cooked because you are going to cook it. "The reason is you are going to cook the meat, so that will kill any micro-organisms on the surface of the meat," Mrs Moir said.

3. Can I refreeze?

  • You can refreeze food if it has been defrosted in the fridge, and hasn't spent too long sitting in the fridge. So, if for example you have steak which was defrosted in the fridge last night and then you get a better offer for dinner tonight, the steak can go back from the fridge to the freezer to be defrosted again on another day.
  • It's the same rule for leftovers.
  • You will lose the quality of the food by freezing, defrosting and then freezing again.
FOOD HANDLING: Put leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible after the steam has run off the food.
FOOD HANDLING: Put leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible after the steam has run off the food.

4. Keeping leftovers

  • Put them in the fridge as soon as possible after the steam has run off the food. "Within 20 to 30 minutes, that is enough time for the heat to have come out of the food and its stopped steaming," Mrs Moir said. "Put it in a container, cover it and put it in the fridge," Mrs Moir said.
  • You can put food in the fridge while it is still steaming, but you may get condensation on the lid which will then drip onto the food.

Mrs Moir warns; "The longer you leave food on the bench at room temperature, the longer you are allowing any microbes in that food to grow."

  • The food can be put in an uncovered container in the fridge straight away and then later covered up once it has cooled down.

5. Storage

  • Whether the food is in the freezer or fridge, the rule of thumb is keep raw meat products separate from food that is ready to eat. This is done to keep microbes from the raw meat cross-contaminating other food.
  • The type of storage isn't an issue, but keeping food covered ensures it is protected from the fridge environment and avoids cross-contamination.
  • If you have a meat compartment in your fridge, then you should be using it for your defrosted or fresh raw meat.
  • When defrosting, use the meat compartment or put it on a covered plate to capture any juice from the meat.

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