Observe Food Safety when Smoking Beef Jerky
Picture of  smoked beef jerky


Food Safety

The Quick answer to What is Food Safety?

To put it simply, to keep food safe you must kill living bacteria where you can and slow the growth of living bacteria to prevent toxins.

What is food safety?

 Unfortunately some people confuse food safety with cleanliness, or meat doneness. While both play a part in food safety neither play a major roll.

 What causes food born illness?

 Primarily, food born illness is caused by bacteria and other microorganisms.  Be aware that live bacteria can make us sick and the toxins that they leave behind can make us sick.  So killing live bacteria may not be enough to protect us from food born illness. While cooking food does kill the bacteria we can also get sick from the toxins the bacteria created while they were alive and cooking doesn’t help.

How do we control bacteria?

 Unless and antibacterial cleaning agent is used, wiping surface areas frequently may do more spreading of the bacteria than killing them.  Clean and dry surfaces are the safest.

 We also need to know is that bacteria does not die in the refrigerator. Refrigeration only slows its growth and must be below 40 degrees F to do so properly.  Heat, above 140 degrees F, does kill bacteria but does not destroy the toxins. So, as a general rule you should toss any meat if its surface temperature may have remained in the danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F) for more than two hours unless you have done something the kill the bacteria like curing the meat in advance.

 Some other things that kill bacteria are drying, chlorine or other disinfectant, salt, sunlight, sugar, and smoke. It is important to understand these things because we would never be able to make ham, smoke bacon or make beef jerky if we didn’t. It is also important to understand that bacteria are generally a surface thing so while the outside surface of the food may not be safe the inside may be. More importantly is the fact that grinding meat such as hamburger or sausage will take a few bacteria on the surface and spread them through the entire meat and give them more surface area to grown. That is why ground meat should be handled very carefully.

 Things to remember.

 The things to remember are that the danger zone for food between 40°F and 140°F. Below 40°F bacteria grows slowly and food must get above 140°F to kill it. Heat however does not remove the toxins which bacteria leave behind if allowed to grow. Curing food with salt, sugar, smoke or drying will also kill bacteria and brining is helpful in this regard. Wiping counters with a damp cloth will help spread bacteria and provide moisture for it to stay alive. If you don’t use a disinfectant it is better to let the sun and drying kill it. Think in terms of killing as many bacteria as soon as possible and not doing things that will help spread it. We are all going to eat bacteria and enjoy it but too much can make us sick.