Typically, we think of washing as a good thing to do.

We wash our clothes, cars, dishes, etc. It makes sense that many people believe food can be made cleaner and safer by washing it. Is this true? Well, it depends on the type of food.

Should I wash my meat and poultry? Washing raw meat or poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Many people think they are removing bacteria from the meat and making it safe. Cooking is the best way of killing bacteria and washing only promote the spread of bacteria in your kitchen and sink. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.

Beef, pork, and lamb steaks, roast sand chops should be cooked to at least 145 degrees F. All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Do eggs need to be washed? Do not wash eggs from the grocery store before storing or using them. Washing is a routine part of commercial egg processing and the eggs do not need to be washed again. “Bloom,” the natural coating on just-laid eggs that helps prevent bacteria from entering the shell, is removed by the washing process and is replaced by a light coating of edible mineral oil which restores protection.

How about fruits and vegetables? Before eating or preparing, wash fresh produce under running tap water. This reduces dirt and bacteria that may be present.

Scrub firm fruits and vegetables such as cantaloupe or potatoes with a brush. Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent, bleach or soap. These products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use on foods. You could ingest residues that are absorbed into the produce.

When preparing fruits and vegetables, cut away any damaged or bruised areas because bacteria that cause illness can thrive in those places. However, there is no need to wash prepackaged fruits or vegetables that are labeled “pre-washed.”

Ranchero Beef and Rice Skillet

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, washed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or less)
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 3/4 cup prepared salsa

Wash hands with soap and water.

In a large nonstick skillet, brown ground beef, bell pepper and garlic over medium heat eight to 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink and reaches 160 degrees F when measured with a food thermometer. Pour off drippings.

Season with chili powder and salt. Add rice to skillet; mix well.

Continue cooking 2 minutes or until rice is hot; stir occasionally. Stir in peas and salsa; heat through.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 340 calories, 45 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 3 g fiber and 550 milligrams sodium.

Recipe from: North Dakota State Extension

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or at cwells2@unl.edu. Visit the Hall County website at www.hall.unl.edu

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