Cooking

Cooking food properly will help make sure that any harmful germs are killed. Eating food that isn't properly cooked could make you ill.

Making sure food is hot enough

To test if food has been properly cooked, check that it is 'piping hot' all the way through. This means that it is hot enough for steam to come out.

Some foods change colour when they are cooked. Looking at colour is especially useful for checking meat.

Checking if meat has been properly cooked

It's very important to make sure poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are properly cooked all the way through.

If you are checking a burger, sausage, or a portion of chicken or pork, cut into the middle and check there is no pink meat left. The meat should also be piping hot in the middle.

If you're checking a whole chicken or other bird, pierce the thickest part of the leg (between drumstick and thigh) with a clean knife or skewer until the juices run out. The juices shouldn't have any pink or red in them.

Rare meat

It's fine to eat steaks and other whole cuts of beef and lamb rare, as long as they have been properly cooked and sealed on the outside. Steaks are usually sealed in a frying pan over a high heat.

It's important to seal meat to kill any germs that might be on the outside. You can tell that a piece of meat has been properly sealed because all of the outside will have changed colour.

Minced meats such as burgers should also not be eaten rare.

Pork joints and rolled joints shouldn't be served rare. To check these types of joints are properly cooked, skewer the centre of the joint. The juices shouldn't have any pink or red in them.

Remember, you shouldn't eat these types of meat rare:

  • poultry
  • pork
  • burgers, sausages, chicken nuggets
  • rolled joints
  • kebabs

This is because these types of meat can have germs all the way through them. So if they aren't properly cooked then any bacteria in the meat might not be killed.

Reheating

Only reheat food once.

It's very important to reheat food properly, whether it’s a ready meal or leftovers. Always make sure the food is piping hot all the way through.

Q. I've heard that reheating rice can cause food poisoning. Is this true?
A. It's true that you could get food poisoning from eating reheated rice. But it's not actually the reheating that's the problem – it's the way the rice has been stored before reheating.

Uncooked rice can contain spores of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive. Then, if the rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores will multiply and may produce poisons that cause vomiting or diarrhoea. Reheating the rice won't get rid of these poisons.

So, the longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that poisons produced could stop the rice being safe to eat.

It's best to serve rice when it has just been cooked. If that isn't possible, cool the rice as quickly as possible (ideally within one hour) and keep it in the fridge for no more than one day until reheating.

Leftovers

Don't keep leftovers for longer than two to three days.

If you have cooked food that you aren't going to eat straight away, cool it as quickly as possible (ideally within one to two hours) and then store it in the fridge.