Cooking Louisiana  -  Cooking Meat
Meat is 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 section.

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 contamination.

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 the proper temperature throughout will do that.

U.S.D.A. 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 flavor 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 when they are cooking with raw (uncooked) marinade. Put the marinade 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 hammer the meat evenly and you will break the tissues that hold the meat together.

Sausage Discussion here.