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My friends and I went camping this weekend and I bought a package of Johnsonville brats to cook over the fire. Many a person said that one should 'never bring raw brats to cook over a campfire', their rationale being that raw brats are dangerous to eat because of the possibility of bacteria and/or undercooked meat, but moreso than other types of raw meat.

Specifically, if the brats are fully cooked (I checked, they were!), is there inherently more danger in brats vs other raw meats? Is it a 'pork thing'?

But more generally: assume that no external factors would make the food in question unsafe to eat (such as hot dogs being left out of a cooler - becoming a haven for bacteria, or woods that put off toxic smoke) - are there any foods that are simply not a good idea to cook over an open fire?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Cooking raw brats over a fire is only dodgy because cooking brats well requires fairly precise (for a campfire) temperature control. Even with hot dogs, it can be a bit challenging to get the whole thing consistently cooked through without burning the outside. With a bratwurst, its larger size makes that especially difficult without some skill or tools.

If you are skilled and patient, you can however cook them over a fire, just like with anything else. However, because of the extra challenge, fully cooked brats and sausages are better. If your fully cooked brats you bought could be eaten right out of the cold package, then you should be fine.

As to pork vs other meats, pork was a bit more dangerous than beef because of Trichinosis, however to my knowledge in the developed world it is quite uncommon. This is probably why people in your group had that position. However, other common meats have plenty of other nasty critters in them, so it's debatable whether pork is actually any worse.

Much of the danger of a particular meat today is not so much the animal it comes from, but from its preparation. Even chicken meat can be consumed raw if the animal was well cared for and kept free of disease. However, unless you've sourced your meat from a world-class shop, assume it is crawling with dangerous microbes that must be eradicated via cooking, because it almost surely is.

Ultimately, all cooking involves the application of heat, so there is nothing that should not be cooked over a campfire, from a safety perspective. You'll just have to learn the techniques of campfire cooking and you'll be able to cook virtually anything.

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+1 Good answer, overcooked is generally better than anything in my opinion when bbqing or cooking over a flame but your safest bet will always be beef due to how raw you can eat it (blue steaks). Tinned hot dogs are also super easy as you can boil them rather than cooking them over a flame. The only thing I would personally avoid is chicken but because it's just a hassle to get right, nothing more. Learning techniques is the way forward. –  Aravona Aug 18 at 7:44
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I held them over the edge of the fire, near the cinders, for approximately 30 minutes. They ended up cooked all the way through - slightly burnt on one side because I wasn't paying close attention. I'm definitely patient, so it wasn't a problem! –  Chris Cirefice Aug 18 at 15:08

Pork should be cooked to a minmimum of 63C or 145F. This is regardless of what type of pork it is. Providing you heat all (including the center) the pork to this temperature or above you will be fine and will not get ill.

Ideally you should also let the food rest once cooked. This allows time for the heat to destroy all bacteria in the meat (with the added advantage of making it taste better!).

You could carry a thermometer if you're paranoid. As a rule of thumb though, if all the meat is steaming hot and too hot to touch your pretty safe.


Be aware that anything that touches the raw meat will need thoughly cleaning, or if it's food, heating to the same temperature. Cross contamination is likely your biggest danger.

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A sufficiently clueless cook can prepare meat steaming hot and too hot to touch....on the outside, with it still ice cold in the middle. I've seen it before. –  whatsisname Aug 19 at 15:53
    
@whatsisname Yep, which is why I said "all the meat is steaming". I sufficiently clueless cook can also cook his own hand or inexplicably get abducted by aliens while cooking... :) –  Liam Aug 19 at 16:16

It might be more dangerous simply due to the fact that it is raw - but this danger is real only in the case you travel with the meat for 2-3 days without proper cooling. If you cook it the first evening of your hike then it should be fine - and again, whatsisname's answer applies.

For longer trips, I would recommend to take smoked sausages, something properly dried, or maybe try pickled ones. Also, the smoked bacon can be a good choice if you plan to carry it around for several days.

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not particularly, there are however meats which are safer than others.

For example: solid chunks of beef only needs to be seared.(still a good idea to cook through but less important)

To avoid confusion: this does not mean you can eat rotting beef but if it's not rotten, beef doesn't contain parasites all the way through and normally it's only the surface you need to worry about. minced meats have had any bacteria that were on the surface mixed into the center so always need to be cooked through.

http://www.food.gov.uk/northern-ireland/nutritionni/niyoungpeople/survivorform/dontgetsick/cooking

It's fine to eat steaks and other whole cuts of beef and lamb rare, as long as they have been properly cooked and sealed on the outside. Steaks are usually sealed in a frying pan over a high heat.

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

Minced meats such as burgers should also not be eaten rare. Pork joints and rolled joints shouldn't be served rare. To check these types of joints are properly cooked, skewer the centre of the joint. The juices shouldn't have any pink or red in them.

Remember, you shouldn't eat these types of meat rare:

poultry pork burgers, sausages, chicken nuggets rolled joints kebabs

minced meat of any kind, like in brats, you need to be much more careful to cook all the way through. Though pork and chicken need to be cooked all the way through no matter what.

Also: Some of the other comments talk about cooking in half opened tin can. DO NOT DO THIS.

many cans have a plastic coating on the inside which isn't supposed to be heated over a fire and can contaminate the food.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talk-can-dont/

"In order to prevent any such leaching—which is bad for the food and eater but also for the can (as it can cause corrosion)—the insides of most cans on grocery shelves today are coated with food-grade epoxy. But these liners have been shown to contain Bisphenol-A (BPA) and other potentially harmful chemicals. BPA is a synthetic plastic hardener that has been linked to human reproductive problems and an increased risk of cancer and diabetes. "

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I agree that some meats at least seem to be less dangerous than others, such as steaks (which you can pretty much eat bloody raw in a restaurant). I'm not a chef, so I don't know the details, but do you have any sources for your claim about the different meats and their necessity to be cooked through? Also, I did make sure that when I bought the can of beans that it was solid tin. I hate that plastic lining inside and specifically avoid it unless I absolutely have to have it. I didn't know about the BPA though - I knew there was something weird about it! –  Chris Cirefice Aug 19 at 14:31
    
Solid chunks of beef only need to be seared if they came from a reputable butcher. If they came from the local discount grocer, then spent many hours in the Danger Zone (40-140F), it can be just as dangerous as pork sausages. Even if you kill all the bacteria, they can still leave behind toxins that will survive cooking. It's important to understand all aspects of food safety. –  whatsisname Aug 19 at 15:56

Tinned beans, or any tinned food that is sealed. Nothing to do with food poisoning, it's because the tins can explode as the pressure builds up.

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This is only if you use the tin itself to heat the food, no? –  Aravona Aug 18 at 11:13
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Simply open the tin can before cooking? –  Bjarke Freund-Hansen Aug 18 at 12:11
    
Cooking in a tin leaves an inconsistent cooking temperature anyway as the average tin does not allow a decent circulation of food, causing the food to burn - and like @BjarkeFreund-Hansen said who wouldn't open the tin first? Not really an issue more of a possible comment. –  Aravona Aug 18 at 12:13
    
I open the can halfway, and stir occasionally - I've never had a problem eating baked beans in a can in the event that I didn't have something else to cook them in :) –  Chris Cirefice Aug 18 at 15:01
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Cans also are made with a plastic lining/epoxy coating (sometimes containing Bisphenol A). I would avoid heating the can directly over open fire as to avoid the plastic melting. –  Ben Schwehn Aug 19 at 11:10

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