Test Kitchen on Fresh Air

Last week I listened to an episode of Terry Gross' Fresh Air which guested Test Kitchen's executive food editor Bridget Lancaster and editorial director Jack Bishop. They talked about meat - how to get the safest and how to make the juiciest. So naturally I've listened to it twice and took some notes. I've become really interested in US government regulations and public opinion on food safety during my semester at SDSU. Early on I was fooled by lying packaging and false statements. The cheese I bought from Ralph's never tasted authentic and felt artificial (seriously, why would anyone want to eat cheese analogues?). Once I read the description and ingredient list on the back, I was absolutely stunned. The packaging declares cheese but the "cheese" consists only of 2% milk? Something's wrong here. And now, with politics talking about TTIP, my interest for US food regulations keeps on growing. Here are some bullet points on the episode Test Kitchen: How to buy the Safest Meat and Make the Juiciest Steak:

Free Range does not mean that the hens and chickens are roaming free and having a party outside
Both Free Range or pasture raised can mean that the chickens have been raised indoors. The only way to find out is by visiting the chicken farm.

You really want to look for is the USDA organic seal. A lot of other terms may be on the label, including the term "natural," but those aren't regulated by the government
So always look for the organic seal which indicates you're getting a product with no hormones, no antibiotics, no pesticides. Natural just means no additives. It does not say anything about the way the animal was raised.

Look for an air-chilled bird instead of water-chilled 
After the chicken has been plucked, in the processing they need to chill the bird. They can ether do it by putting it in very cold water, or putting it in a very cold refrigerated room. If they do it in the water, the bird picks up a lot of water weight (5-10%) which not only means that you're paying for water but also the additional water washes out the flavor of the meat.

On keeping the juiciness of meat:

Defrost in refrigerator - otherwise you'll allow creation of bacteria on the outside layer as the inner layers or still defrosting.

Defrosting in a hurry - put meat in zipper-lock bag in hot tap water for 30 minutes. The bacteria won't have enough time to start growing (as oppose to just throwing it out on the counter and sitting for 8 hours or microwaving the meat)

Let meat rest after cooking - this will allow for the meat fibers to relax and for the meat juices to be absorbed in the steak. Just tent the steaks with a piece of foil to keep them nice and warm as the final step in your cooking.

Don't pack burgers too tight - the meat fibers get damaged each time you grind the beef. The more you damage it or touch it, the more that sticky protein is going to be formed. You don't want that for a burger patty. Handle beef like you're cradling a newborn baby.


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