Why cooking is the best way to kill bacteria in food

The best way to prevent food-borne illness is to cook food correctly. That means cooking at the correct temperature for long enough to kill any bacteria that it may hold. Different food types require different cooking temperatures, cooking times, and, of course, methods of cooking. It’s important to always check the recommendation on all food packaging and follow the cooking instructions correctly and thoroughly.

What happens when food is cooked?

When cooking, the energy from the heat source breaks down the proteins in the food – creating a physical change before your eyes. Meat, for example, changes colour, and texture when cooking. Cooking also makes the proteins in bacteria break up thus killing the bacteria. This is why cooking is the best way to kill bacteria in food. However, while cooking food will kill most bacteria, but it won’t necessarily kill all of it.

Temperature is crucial when it comes to bacteria growth – when storing before cooking, and when cooking. Bacteria tend to grow between 8°C and 60°C which is known as the Danger Zone. Below 8°C, growth is stopped or slowed down. Anything above 60°C and the bacteria start to die. As mentioned, time and temperature are both important because the high heat must fully penetrate the food for a sufficient amount of time. The standard advice to follow is to cook food until the most central part of the food has reached 70°C and stayed at that temperature for a minimum of 2 minutes.

Alternative time and temperature combination recommendations are:

  • 60°C for 45 minutes
  • 65°C for 10 minutes
  • 70°C for 2 minutes
  • 75°C for 30 seconds
  • 80°C for 6 seconds

Further your food hygiene and safety knowledge

We have a variety of different courses to help further your food hygiene knowledge. Most courses can be done online within 1- 2 hours. Priced at just £10, these affordable courses have been created inline with UK’s official regulations and guidelines. All courses are fully accredited by The CPD Group, and you will get a certificate upon completion of your final online exam.

The specific course that must be completed by all professional kitchen staff is the Level 2 Food Hygiene & Safely course.

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