A med & grad student who used to work the line in LA, NYC, SF and Napa talking about the science of cooking and cooking with science. Harold McGee's On Food And Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen never satisfied my kitchen curiosity and more than one Chef grew exasperated with my asking "Why?" I'll try to stay on topic, but you may see a kvetch or two about the school & hospital.
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Earlier today, the USDA published a press release that revised recommended cooking temperatures. The new temperatures are 145°F for whole meats, 160°F for ground meats and 165 °F for poultry, measured with a food thermometer at the thickest part. To this I say, "It's about damned time!"
I know. I know. There are those food safety people who will balk at these lower temperatures, because bacteria are killed off at 154°F(68°C). And there are two major problems with this. For one, the majority of bacteria present will be on the cut surfaces of the meat. Which is why the rules still require a higher temperature for ground meats, blades touch every part of that meat, distributing all the fun stuff everywhere. On the obverse, higher temperatures are only needed to kill bacteria quickly. If you're willing to wait, and preserve flavor, you can use a lower temperature for a longer time. Such as using an immersion circulator or water bath, or a bain marie a low temperature oven. Sear the meat on all sides. Then seal in a plastic bag that can withstand the temperatures in the water bath, or place in a proofed dish in the low temperature oven. The oven method is a little harder to pull off. And as I mentioned before, water is the enemy of Maillard. Sous vide in the plastic bag will achieve the same effect without the addition of anymore water. You just have to either salvage a bath from a closing lab or shell out $1000 for a unit at Williams Sonoma (or some other home kitchen supplier).
Another problem that people overlook is the temperature at which common proteins in meat denature and become tender. Typically the major proteins in skeletal meats, actin, myosin and collagen, denature around 131-149°F. Below this temperature, those proteins are still wound up. Above this range, and you start forcing out what moisture is left inside the meat. This is why a rare steak is still chewy, and why a well done steak is so much tougher, than a perfectly medium rare steak.
Food is supposed to sustain and nurture us, but shouldn't it also taste good too? With these revised changes, I hope to see more people actually enjoy a steak or roast lamb shanks. None of these overdone, dry, briquettes which could be used to start another summer bbq.
Now, if only they'd let me legally purchase and bring in raw milk cheeses instead of getting creative with my smuggling...
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Ha! That'd be an interesting conversation with a customs officer asking you about raw milk... What's the primary objection?
... I know when friend of a friend was trying to import some seeds they just microwaved them and said 'You can still have them, if you want'.
There's a fear that raw milk cheeses are unsafe. They're confiscated and binned if found. Which is just wrong, if you ask me. Raw milk, washed rind cheeses are far superior to their pasteurized counterparts. Roquefort, would be a good example of a cheese that is drastically changed when you pasteurize the milk. The imitations available in the US have nowhere near the depth of flavor that raw milk has. In fact, you cannot legally label a cheese as "Roquefort," in Europe, unless it is made from raw sheep's milk and it is made in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. It's a protected designation.
I can understand health concerns, but from my observations, and from the data available, raw milk cheeses, made in non-industrial cheesemaking settings are incredibly safe. The attention to detail in smaller operations is just that much higher than in large scale operations.
I would never advocate drinking raw milk, though. That's just insane.
It's sad when people order steaks cooked anything more than medium rare->medium.
How would you get raw milk cheeses through customs?? :P
I can buy raw milk cheeses at the cheese shop down the street. Didn't know it was illegal. However, maybe they're produced domestically.
There are some domestic raw milk cheeses produced. And some cheeses can be imported, so long as they're aged 60 days. Rules vary by state. But, the really good stuff like Vacherin and Reblochon remain elusive to the regular consumer.