Q: At a KU watch party on Sunday, I observed the hostess thawing hamburgers on the counter before she cooked them. Is that OK?
A: No, that's a huge NO-NO! Freezing food does not kill microorganisms. If frozen food is exposed to the temperature danger zone (41 to 135 degrees) during thawing, any food-borne microorganisms present will begin to grow. For this reason, food should never be thawed at room temperature.
To prevent this growth, there are only four acceptable methods for thawing:
¢ Thaw food in a refrigerator at a product temperature of 41 degrees or lower.
¢ Submerge the food under running potable water at a temperature of 70 degrees or lower. Water flow must be strong enough to wash loose food particles down the drain. Make sure the thawed product does not drip water onto other products or food-contact surfaces. Clean and sanitize (1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per 1 gallon water) the sink and work area before and after thawing food this way.
¢ Thaw food in a microwave oven if it will be cooked immediately afterward. Microwave thawing can actually start cooking the product, so do not use this method unless you intend to continue cooking the food immediately. Large items such as roasts or turkeys do not thaw well in the microwave.
¢ Thaw food as part of the cooking process as long as the product reached the required minimum internal cooking temperature. Frozen hamburger patties, for example, can go straight from the freezer onto a grill without being thawed first. Check the internal temperature of the patties with a calibrated thermometer. It should read 160 degrees.
Q: Can brewed iced tea be stored at room temperature?
A: Dry tea leaves contain low levels of bacteria, yeast and mold (like most plant- derived food). Never hold brewed tea at room temperature for more than 12 hours. Brew tea in a clean and sanitized urn. Iced tea should be brewed at 195 degrees or higher for three to five minutes. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Sun tea is not recommended. The practice of making "sun tea" by steeping the bags in a container of water in the sun may be a higher risk than brewing tea at high temperatures because it provides an environment where bacteria are more likely to survive and multiply.
Also, store tea bags or loose tea in a dark, cool and dry place away from strong odors and moisture. Do not store tea bags in the refrigerator. Do not store tea in containers above the stove, because it is too humid and warm. You can store tea bags in a freezer container, within the freezer.
An easy way to brew iced tea is in the refrigerator. Place four or five tea bags in 1 quart of cold water in a clean, sanitized container.
Refrigerate for two hours or overnight (the longer the tea steeps, the better the taste). Remove the tea bags by squeezing them gently between two large spoons. Keep tea refrigerated. Enjoy!