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Cooking food

Food poisoning isn’t just something you get outside your home – the meals you prepare can be a source of food poisoning too.

Germs such as salmonella and E. coli can strike at any time, but the good news is you can kill them through cooking. Follow these tips to ensure food is cooked properly:

  • Always follow the instructions on the label.
  • Some foods change colour when they are cooked so you can check this too
  • Always check your food is steaming hot in the middle – there should be steam coming out when you cut open the food.
  • If you cook frozen vegetables, including sweetcorn, it will need to be cooked before you can eat them. If you intend to use frozen sweetcorn or other vegetables as part of a cold salad, check the instructions on the packaging first. If the advice is that the sweetcorn or other frozen vegetables should be cooked, you must ensure that this is done before they are eaten cold.  After cooking, the food should be cooled down as quickly as possible (ideally within two hours), and stored in a fridge or eaten within two days.
  • If you are cooking a large dish you may have to check in more than one place that it is cooked properly.
  • Don't reheat food more than once.
  • When reheating, take extra care your food is cooked all the way through.

It's especially important to make sure poultry, pork, burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through. This is because these types of meat can have bacteria all the way through them, not just on the outside.  If there's any pink meat or the juices have any pink or red in them, germs could be lurking.

If you’re checking a burger, sausage, or a portion of chicken or pork, cut into the middle and check there is no pink meat left. The meat should also be steaming hot in the middle and reach a core temperature of 75°C.

If you're checking a whole chicken or other bird, pierce the thickest part of the leg (between the drumstick and the thigh) with a clean knife or skewer or food thermometer until the juices run out. The juices shouldn't have any pink or red in them and reach a core temperature of 75°C.

Kidneys, liver and other types of offal should be cooked thoroughly until they’re steaming hot all the way through.

Rare meat

Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare as long as the outside has been properly cooked or ‘sealed’.

It's important to seal meat to kill any bacteria that might be on the outside. You can tell that a piece of meat has been properly sealed because all the outside will have changed colour.

It's ok to serve beef and lamb joints rare too, as long as the joint is a single piece of meat, not a rolled joint (made from different pieces of meat rolled together). But pork joints and rolled joints shouldn't be served rare. To check these types of joint are properly cooked, put a skewer into the centre of the joint. The juices shouldn't have any pink or red in them and should reach a core temperature of 75°C.

Food Standards Scotland strongly advises that burgers made at home are cooked properly, by checking there is no pink in the middle and the juices run clear, or preferably by using a food thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature reaches 75 degrees C. Harmful bacteria including E. coli O157, can contaminate the surface of beef cuts and are mixed throughout the meat after mincing and forming into burgers. The only way these bacteria can be eliminated is by thorough cooking, and it is therefore really important to ensure the burger is cooked all the way through. Following this advice will you to provide a tasty, juicy burger which is also safe to eat.


  • If you have cooked food that you aren't going to eat straight away, cool it as quickly as possible (ideally within one to two hours) and then store it in the fridge. Make sure your fridge is between 0°C and 5°C.
  • Don't keep leftovers for longer than two days.
  • Rice should not be kept for longer than 24 hours and should only be reheated once.
  • When you reheat food, make sure that it's steaming hot all the way through. If the food is only warm it might not be safe to eat. Don't reheat food more than once.

Some of the food we buy ends up being thrown away and most of this could have been eaten. One of the main reasons for throwing food away is because people cook and prepare too much. Try to cook only as much as you need. But if you do cook too much, using leftovers is a good way to reduce the amount of food you waste and save money too, as long as you do it safely.

More on this topic

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Cross Contamination

It’s easy for germs to spread around the kitchen – stop the spread by avoiding cross-contamination.

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Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria is a severe foodborne illness, with a high mortality rate.

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Keep yourself and your kitchen clean by washing and drying your hands thoroughly.

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Stop germs growing by keeping them cold. Look out for a 'use by' date or 'keep refrigerated' on the label.

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