Gratuitous food porn shot of the day: lamb rack roast Frenched

I don’t buy gifts for holidays but I will cook and, in the case of Easter, share in the emergence of Spring.

We did some late shopping at the bigger Dillions in Manhattan (Kansas) because they have a better lamb selection and they often discount it as the holiday in question approaches.

Despite being told they only had lamb leg roasts, I was able to find a four rib rack of lamb, Frenched, the ideal amount of meat for the three of us.

I marinated the lamb in a mustard-rosemary-oil-garlic-lime sorta mixture for about an hour, and then roasted along with potatoes in a 450F oven. Once the internal temperature reached about 125F I removed the lamb and it rose to the preferred 140F after 10 minutes of resting.

Also on the menu was new asparagus from some southern state and green beans with scallions, garlic and almonds.

Dessert was an aged goat milk (pasteurized) cheese on slices of whole grain baguette.

Temperature is critical, not only for safety but as an objective measure of cooking. Take that digital, tip-sensitive thermometer, and stick it in.

Sorenne enjoys her lamb pops almost as much as the nose of the chocolate bunny.


Our medium rare burgers are safe, hubris edition

During my graduate studies Doug introduced me to the term hubris: overconfident pride and arrogance resulting in some sort of hardship.

I think hubris first came up when I scored a goal in a weekly pick-up hockey game, discussed how great I was, and then on the very next play gave up the puck resulting in a goal against.

As a response to Sunday’s New York Times article by Michael Moss profiling a 2007 ground beef linked outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, the Washington City Paper asked a few restaurateurs what they thought about the story. 

As part of the series of interviews, Mark Bucher, founder and co-owner of BGR: The Burger Joint offered up his hubris-y take on why his business was sure that their sub-160F burgers are safe.

Bucher: We source only Prime Beef, which is the top 2% of all beef produced in the U.S. Our beef comes from corn-fed Midwestern farms. The beef is transported to Baltimore for processing at a very small 3rd generation family-owned facility (that actually processes Kosher beef), so their standards are much higher than the USDA’s. Our processor only produces burgers for us and for no one else. It’s an artisinal process, from start to finish. We test our beef very frequently for bacteria strains.  As recently as last week, we tested our product as part of our normal quality control, and it came back completely 100% perfect.

Our beef is safe to eat, and our burgers are “gorgeous” at medium-rare. I have no issues or questions about the safety of our ground beef. I am 1000% confident of the source, the muscles used, and the processing techniques.

Can’t infrequently test your way to safe food Mark; no matter how many thousands or millions of percent you are confident in the source. Sure, testing is one step you can take to know more about your products but sampling is a bit of a lottery.  The only way to ensure safety is to stick it in.

Yahoo Food sucks at food safety advice

Among the six most common ways to ruin a burger, which Yahoo Food is promoting ahead of Labor Day, is this nose-stretcher:

Overcooking: This should be a crime recognized by the federal government. For the popular medium-rare, grill the meat exactly three minutes on one side (keeping the grill lid closed) and two minutes on the other. If you’re going to add cheese, let it melt on top for another minute (and keep that cover closed!).  We like our burgers medium rare, so much we’ve even sent them back at restaurants when they go beyond medium.

Nonsense. Using time make no allowances for variation in grill temperature, thickness of the hamburger patty and composition of the hamburger. A tip-sensitive digital thermometer is the only way to get a burger to the correct temperature of 160F, without overcooking.

Thanks to the barfblog reader who sent along the tip.

Looks good on the outside, not so much inside

And no I am not talking about Johnny Depp. Time and time again food safety communicators promote the use of digital tip sensitive thermometers to determine doneness of food. But how often is this practice being done in restaurants? If so, is it being done correctly? From my experience, it seems that restaurant operators depend on color far too often and the operators that use thermometers do not use them correctly. This simply boils down to a need of properly train staff. It is imperative that front line food service staff are physically shown how to correctly use thermometers rather than just explaining the concept and theory behind it. Health inspectors, in particular, must take the time during routine inspections to demonstrate the proper usage of thermometers and compel restaurant managers to train their staff accordingly.

There have been too many cases of raw chicken burgers being served to the public and ultimately making people barf.  At times, food service staff are stressed and end up getting food orders wrong and are therefore rushed to correct the problem. In doing so, corners are cut resulting in burgers not being cooked long enough. Take the time to properly cook chicken burgers and remember stick it in.



Stick a thermometer in cheap, stinky meat

The quest for discounted groceries has hit the news again with South Carolina news reporter Larry Collins asking,

“Stores slash prices about 50% – 60% on meat when it is nearing the date on the packaging. But, is that food safe to eat?”

According to registered dietitian Charlotte Caperton-Kilburn, such meat is typically safe to consume as long as you cook or freeze it as soon as you bring it home… and it smells okay.

“If the meat smells even remotely strange it should be returned to the store or thrown away,” Caperton-Kilburn told the news station.

In Ireland, Darina Allen wrote in an opinion piece for the Irish Examiner that, just the other night, she found a vac-packed duck in the back of her fridge that smelled “good and high.” Rather than throw it out, she “gave it a good wash inside and out and rubbed a bit of salt into the skin and roasted it.”

Her guests said it was delicious.

Allen reminisced about life before modern conveniences like electric refrigeration and explained, “We learned from our mothers how to judge with our senses whether food was safe.” She asserted that, “in just a few years, many people have lost the ability to judge for themselves when food is safe to eat.”

While most groceries sold in the US have a date consumers can read and use, the USDA only requires manufacturers of infant formula and baby food to determine and display a “Use by” date on their products—and this is mainly for the sake of ensuring nutrient quality. The others are voluntary and only describe when the food will probably taste best. Assessing safety is still up to the consumer.

Modern technologies like stamped dates and color-changing barcodes can help consumers with that assessment, as can the senses of sight and smell. The most reliable safeguard, though, is cooking to a temperature that studies have found will effectively kill pathogens. For poultry, this is 165F.

Chefs may tell you to use your senses to figure temperature, too, but only by using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer can you know for sure.  It’s the consumer’s choice, as always, but I’d rather be sure than be positive for salmonella.

When broccoli doesn’t make you barf

My husband just sent me a link with a recipe for some amazing broccoli – The Best Broccoli of Your Life, in fact.

It was a blog post by The Amateur Gourmet, lauding the cooking style of The Barefoot Contessa.

The Barefoot Contessa loves roasting. Specifically, she loves roasting vegetables at a high temperature until they caramelize.

As the recipe for roasted broccoli is relayed, The Amateur Gourmet reveals a secret that the Contessa doesn’t share:

[D]ry them THOROUGHLY. That is, if you wash them.

I saw an episode of Julia Child cooking with Jacques Pepin once when Pepin revealed he doesn’t wash a chicken before putting it in a hot oven: "The heat kills all the germs," he said in his French accent. "If bacteria could survive that oven, it deserves to kill me."

By that logic, then, I didn’t wash my broccoli; I wanted it to get crispy and brown. If you’re nervous, though, just wash and dry it obsessively.

USDA agrees that, "It is not necessary to wash raw chicken. Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking." Though the temperature is measured in the food – not the oven.

You can be sure chicken is safe if a tip-sensitive digital thermometer reads 165 F in the thickest part of it.

Not much is said about temps for vegetables, though. I vaguely remember the test for ServSafe certification a few years ago suggesting they reach 135 F, but that’s not even out of the 40 F – 140 F “danger zone” and I have no science to back it.

I have seen the science on the internalization of pathogens in some produce and in such cases washing will not make vegetables any safer to eat.

So I might just cook it unwashed. Or I might be “obsessive.” Either way, I’ve got what I need to make an informed decision; it’ll be my choice and not my ignorance that leaves the possibility for pathogens in.

When worlds collide: engineering and food safety

After breakfast in the morning, my husband and I go our separate ways until dinner. Bret, who studied agricultural engineering in college, designs turf equipment. That’s him at right on an old prototype mower managing the turf in our backyard.

As you all know, I studied food science and industry. With the help of Doug and Phebus, I found my way to writing about food safety.

Our worlds collided this morning when I pulled his engineering magazine out of the pile of mail in the kitchen and saw the words “food safety” staring back at me.

The cover article was by another ag engineer, Nathan Anderson, who works with the FDA’s National Center for Food Safety and Technology in Illinois.

In the article, Anderson points out that,

“Increased concern over microbiological safety in terms of public health and international trade has led to a shift in how microbial risks are assessed and controlled.”

In order to have fewer sick people and more world trade, governments are adopting new risk-based approaches to food safety management and ditching the old prescriptive control measures.

Anderson’s article describes the Food Safety Objective (FSO) approach to risk management, which sets as a goal a maximum population for a certain microbe in the food being processed.

Processors must then control the levels of the microbe on/in incoming product initially, reduce levels if necessary, and prevent any increases.

This, of course, can be expressed by a mathematical equation (since it’s an engineering concept). But I won’t do that here.

Developing processes based upon known risks—as opposed to long-standing beliefs—is a smart way to do business. Engineers just say it differently than food safety writers.


burger + E. coli + food thermometer > burger + E. coli + color-based estimate

Food safety writer:

Top Chefs don’t use thermometers

Using a thermometer will make anyone a better cook – or even a better top chef. Thermometers remove the guesswork, and keep your family and friends safe.

But rarely is a thermometer found in the top chef kitchens. Last night, someone’s lamb looked raw and someone’s scallops were swimming, but the judges said they were perfectly cooked. How would they know? Sure, it’s a lot more fun to guess – and the new judge uses more pop culture references than I do – but I’d rather stick it in. And the cross-contamination was rampant in the kitchens last night.

Best line? When describing one of the chefs who always wants to prepare scallops, another said,

“For christsakes, all she does is scallops. It’s Top Chef, not Top Scallops.”


Foo Fighters fans of Top Chef

Team Sexy Pants edged out Team Cougar on Top Chef tonight as the wannabe celebs made a Thanksgiving meal for the Foo Fighters and their entourage of 60.

Dave Grohl, right, said, “Did someone offend the smores guy cause I think he spit on mine.”

And the smores guy got booted.

Drummer Taylor said of one desert, “I don’t like pumpkin foam … No more barfaits.”

Unfortunately, both teams cooked turkey in microwaves, and no one used a digital, tip sensitive thermometer, or any kind of thermometer.

Keep it safe for Thanksgiving, and stick it in.

Mallie’s big burger — did they use a thermometer?

A Detroit-area restaurant owner said he believes he has broken the world record for ”largest hamburger commercially available.”

After 12 hours of preparation and baking, the 134-pound burger emerged Saturday at Mallie’s Sports Bar and Grill.

The ”Absolutely Ridiculous Burger,” made with beef, bacon and cheese, was delivered on a 50-pound bun, sells for $350, and orders require 24 hours’ notice. Flipping the burger required three men using two steel sheets.

That’s all nice, but did they use a thermometer to acquire data for doneness? Regardless of the size, stick it in.