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Festival Foods

The Danger Zone

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What is the “Danger Zone”? Do you have one in your kitchen?

The Danger Zone I’m referring to is not a hip new restaurant, but rather a food safety term. It’s the range of food temperatures between serving and refrigeration when microorganisms grow and multiply rapidly: between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit (F).

So, when you leave that cooked roast on the counter to cool or the frozen chicken on the counter to thaw, they soon enter the Danger Zone. The outside of the chicken thaws first and microorganisms – that are already on the chicken and survived freezing – can begin to multiply. Yes many microorganisms survive freezing. This same thing can happen with the roast. As the outside cools conditions become right for growth of microorganisms.

There are a few rules the will help you prevent foods from becoming “infective” while in the Danger Zone.

·       To be safe, keep your food at 135F or higher or 41F or lower.

·       Thaw foods in the refrigerator. This takes longer, but is effective provided your refrigerator temperature is below 41F.

·       A faster method: thaw food under running water. The water temperature must be less than 70F. Then cook food as soon as possible.

·       Cool foods from serving temperature to 70F within two hours and get them down to 41F with in 4 more hours. Why so long? This is the internal/middle temperature and a hot roast or casserole can take a long time to cool in refrigeration.

·       Going to the game? Ensure that your cooler holds the food at or below 41F.

·       If you thaw in a microwave, either cook or cool the food item immediately and stay out of the Danger Zone.

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