Meats are the basis for many meals as
we all know. Your basic meats are beef, pork and chicken. Then from there
Louisiana folks have the wild game such as venison, duck, goose, frog
legs, turtle, alligator, raccoon and squirrel. If you're not from here I'm
sure a few of these wouldn't be on your list of main courses, but us South
La. Cooks most certainly will. Frog legs, turtle and alligator are in the seafood
Bar-B-Qs, pot roasting, smothering, casseroles, sauce piqaunts,
sausages and dressings are some of the favorite cooking methods.
Below is a short discussion on cooking, handling and seasoning of
meats. For the most part this is a short meat safety course!
Cooking meats properly is of great importance. Uncooked and
undercooked meats can cause many health problems so follow the guidelines.
The most important guideline to stamp on your forehead is; Cook all meats
to the proper internal temperature. For Beef and Pork, an internal (center of the thickest part) temperature of no less than 145°F (medium rare), 160°F (medium), 170°F (well done).
All ground meats should be cooked to 160°F. (71.1 C) for 15 continuous
seconds. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 180°F.
Use a meat thermometer...
Handling meats properly is very important. All meats should be
kept at 40° F or less. Of great concern is ground meats so take
special care to keep these at the proper temperature. Freezing ground beef
properly can be done by taking it out of it's container (unless purchased in a
chub) and re-wrap
it tightly in plastic wrap. The idea is to remove all air spaces as
they will allow for freezer burn. This also holds true for other meats,
wrap them tightly and they'll last longer
How cold is your refrigerator and freezer?
Refrigerators should be kept at 36 to 38°F and Freezers at 0°F
or below. Not
keeping the temperatures at these levels invites contamination and
possible illnesses. Check out your stuff with thermometers, you can buy
these just about anywhere!
Keep all utensils clean and never mix foods to be eaten fresh (salads
for instance) with raw
or partially cooked meats, or, use the same utensils preparing both. Working
with each in different areas is a good way to prevent cross
Wash cutting boards thoroughly with hot (170° F) soapy water and rinse
with hot water at least 30 seconds. Same goes for utensils and your hands. Use paper towels to
wipe your hands and preparation surfaces and discard them immediately when
done. Never use dish cloths or sponges to wipe any surface that has come in contact
with raw meats or their juices.
Washing meats will remove free dirt particles but will not remove bacteria.
Only cooking to 160°F to 180°F throughout will do that.
Food Safety Web Site - Index of Consumer Publications
Seasoning meats can become an art in itself. Start with some of
the dishes you cook most. Look up some recipes paying attention to the
spices common between them. Use lots of celery when cooking wild game,
it'll help take the "wild flavor" out. Keep the number of
different types of seasonings to 3 or 4.
Marinating meats is a big deal here in Louisiana because we want
to get as much of a tongue beating as we can! Usually 24 hours is the norm
but remember that the longer you marinate the spicier the meat. I like to
use a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, minced or powdered garlic, onion powder and black
pepper for starters (that's my base). Adding a little lemon juice is also
good. This base not only adds flavor but promotes tenderization as it
breaks down the tissues that hold the meat together. I then add whatever other seasonings
to get the tastes I'm looking for.
*** Do not baste meats with raw marinade. Put the marinate in a
pot and boil it for 5 minutes, then you can use it as a baste.
Tenderizing meats can be done with a marinade (see above) and
using a hammer also known as a meat tenderizer. Just beat the devil out of
it (just kidding) and you will break the tissues that hold the meat
You'll notice that I sometimes repeat things from one section to
another. I do it for a reason, because it's important information!