Bon Appetit and simplistic food safety

Bon Appetit is a food porn magazine meant to titillate (it’s even in it’s name) and stimulate rather than inform, like most of what passes for food journalism.

This month, the so-called Conscious Cook has a brief piece, 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Hate On Microwaves.

Hate is a strong word. I like my microwave, especially for reheating, not cooking.

The author maintains that microwave defrosting reduces the risk of foodborne illness and that “defrosting frozen food by using hot water or leaving it in the sink can increase bad bacteria. To defrost fast, microwave food on low heat, then cook immediately. Stir contents halfway through heating for even warming.”

I cook a whole chicken about once a week. It’s inexpensive, and provides leftovers and stock for subsequent meals. If I’m defrosting a whole chicken in a microwave, I’m not going to stir it “halfway through heating for even warming.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health Canada recommend thawing poultry by sealing in a waterproof bag and immersing in cold water. These same groups also used to recommend washing chicken bits, but decided the microbiological splash fest created by running water over raw poultry was a bad idea. To me, immersing in cold water and changing that water every 30 minutes is an additional route to microbial cross-contamination. The Aussies and the Brits agree, and do not recommend water immersion.

Depending on my planning, I use a combination of the counter and the refrigerator for thawing the bird. American and Canadian science-types say this is awful, and I’ll make everyone barf. The Aussies and Brits say counter-top thawing is fine, as long as it’s monitored – a week may be too long.

We have previously reviewed various thawing techniques and government recommendations. Whatever technique is used, be the bug, thinking in terms of cross contamination and growth, and use a damn thermometer to ensure the food has reached a safe internal temperature. Color is a lousy indicator and piping hot is just weird (so is Canada’s Mrs. Cookwell).