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FAQ on Cooking Beef

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Cooking beef

How long does it take for beef to thaw?
Published 03/26/2009 05:46 AM   |    Updated 06/28/2011 09:25 AM
How long does it take for beef to thaw?

There are three safe ways to defrost beef: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Never defrost on the counter or in other locations.

Refrigerator: It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Ground beef, stew meat, and steaks may defrost within a day. Bone-in parts and whole roasts may take 2 days or longer. Once the raw ground beef defrosts, it will be safe in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days, all other cuts of beef can be refrigerated safely for 3 to 5 days before cooking. During this time, if you decide not to use the beef, you can safely refreeze it without cooking.

Cold Water: To defrost beef in cold water, do not remove packaging. Be sure the package is airtight or put it into a leakproof bag. Submerge the beef in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes so that it continues to thaw. Small packages of beef may defrost in an hour or less; a 3- to 4-pound roast may take 2 to 3 hours. Cook immediately.

Microwave: When microwave defrosting beef, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially-cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn't have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing because they may have been held at temperatures above 40 °F. It is safe to cook frozen beef in the oven, on the stove, or grill without defrosting it first; the cooking time may be about 50% longer. Do not cook frozen beef in a slow cooker.

How soon after thawing beef should it be cooked?
Published 03/26/2009 05:46 AM   |    Updated 03/05/2010 01:55 PM
How soon after thawing beef should it be cooked?
After thawing meat, poultry or fish in the refrigerator, you don't have to cook it right away. Ground meats, poultry and fish can be stored an additional 1 to 2 days before cooking; beef, lamb, pork, veal and other red meats may be stored 3 to 5 days before cooking. After cooking, leftovers may be refrigerated 3 to 4 additional days or frozen for longer storage.

How do you tell when corned beef is safely cooked?
Published 03/26/2009 05:47 AM   |    Updated 05/12/2011 08:35 AM
How do you tell when corned beef is safely cooked?
Cook until the internal temperature has reached at least 160 °F. Fork-tender is a good indication of doneness, but use a meat thermometer to be sure. Corned beef may still be pink in color after cooking. This does not mean it is not done. Nitrite is used in the curing process. This fixes pigment in the meat and affects the color.

Should I wash beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking it?
Published 03/26/2009 05:46 AM   |    Updated 03/05/2010 01:55 PM
Should I wash beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking it?
There is no need to wash or rinse beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking, therefore it is not recommended. Some consumers think they are removing bacteria from the meat and making it safer, however, any bacteria present on the surface is destroyed by cooking it. In fact, washing creates the danger of cross-contamination. Washing allows most bacteria that are present on the surface of meat to spread to ready-to-eat foods, kitchen utensils, and counter surfaces.

Is water added to fresh beef?
Published 03/26/2009 05:46 AM   |    Updated 03/05/2010 02:11 PM
Is water added to fresh beef?
There is no added water in any fresh, unprocessed beef. Beef is washed during slaughter, but the small amount of water would be absorbed on the surface of the meat, not bound to the protein or inside the tissue and would quickly evaporate or drip out. Beef is often ground while partially frozen. Because ice crystals are in the frozen beef there may appear to be more liquid in it.

Why do beef roasts lose water with cooking?
Published 03/26/2009 05:46 AM   |    Updated 03/05/2010 02:11 PM
Why do beef roasts lose water with cooking?
In general, the higher the cooking temperature, the more moisture will be lost in cooking. It is not unusual for a beef roast to lose 1/3 of its original size and weight when cooked at a high temperature or cooked too long.

Can cooked ground beef still be pink inside?
Published 03/26/2009 05:46 AM   |    Updated 03/05/2010 01:59 PM
Can cooked ground beef still be pink inside?
Because doneness and safety cannot be judged by color, it is very important to use a food thermometer when cooking ground beef. To be sure all harmful bacteria are destroyed, cook all ground beef products to an internal temperature of 160 °F throughout. Ground beef can be pink inside after it is safely cooked. The pink color can be due to a reaction between the oven heat and myoglobin, which causes a red or pink color. It can also occur when vegetables containing nitrites are cooked along with the meat. 

How do you cook corned beef?
Published 03/26/2009 05:47 AM   |    Updated 04/23/2010 01:54 PM
How do you cook corned beef?
Corned beef is made from one of several less-tender cuts of beef like the brisket, rump or round. Therefore, it requires long, moist cooking. Keep food safety in mind when preparing the corned beef. It can be cooked on top of the stove or in the oven, microwave or slow cooker. To learn about these cooking methods, go to Focus on Corned Beef.

What temperature do I cook ground meat?
Published 10/05/2009 10:36 AM   |    Updated 03/05/2010 02:11 PM
What temperature do I cook ground meat?
Ground meat should always be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature.  Cook ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb to 160 °F. Use a food thermometer to ensure that all ground meat have reached a safe minimum internal temperature.

What is a safe internal temperature for cooking mechanically tenderized beef, veal or lamb steaks, chops and roasts?
Published 03/26/2009 05:46 AM   |    Updated 05/24/2011 07:39 AM
What is a safe internal temperature for cooking mechanically tenderized beef, veal or lamb steaks, chops and roasts?
All meat that has been mechanically tenderized, boned, rolled or scored should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.

from Ask Karen - answers from the U.S. government
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