There could be recalled beef in your fridge (or freezer)

If you purchased beef on or after March 23 in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas or Wisconsin, it could be subject to a beef recall. The reason, according to the USDA: failure to inspect prior to sale in accordance with federal law. So before you start cooking up tonight’s dinner, be sure to check your fridge and freezer to make sure your beef is OK to eat.

Upon becoming aware of the inspection failure, Texas Meat Packers (also known as PFP Enterprises, LLC) recalled 7,146 pounds of beef products. The specific products are below, though you can do a quick check by comparing your stock to these labels. All recalled products bear the number 34715 inside the circular USDA inspection mark.

Related: Secrets from a steakhouse 

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14 Unsavory Secrets of Steakhouses
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14 Unsavory Secrets of Steakhouses

If you're paying top dollar dining at a steakhouse, make sure you're getting your money's worth. Read on to discover 14 unsavory steakhouse secrets.

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In a recent Eatocracy post, food writer Josh Ozersky denounces the practice of laying beef kidney suet (a raw beef fat), butter and marrow on cooked steak to enhance the steak’s flavor, calling it “undeniably effective, but a swindle”. While traditionalists might feel cheated, some find no harm in using suet and other fats to improve taste.

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If both USDA Prime grade meat and Choice grade meat are on the menu, it's almost always better to go Prime. USDA Prime grade meat, sourced from young, well-fed beef cattle, has lots of marbling (fat interspersed with lean meat) that makes it an excellent choice for grilling. Choice grade meat is also of high quality but has less marbling than Prime. If you’re splurging on steak at a restaurant, the Prime grade shield makes sure you’re getting what you came for.

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Still, steakhouses don't always serve USDA Prime steak. Unless you are in New York City or the military, odds are you will have a hard time finding it.

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It's worth ordering dry-aged beef, but make sure you're getting the real thing. Dry-aging is a time-consuming and expensive process that brings out tons of flavor. By exposing beef to the air in a controlled, refrigerated environment for days or weeks, the beef dehydrates, loses weight and concentrates its flavor. If your steakhouse ages its own beef, make sure proper standards for temperature, humidity and ventilation are in place. If the dry-aged beef is sourced from elsewhere, make sure it comes from a reputable butcher like DeBragga.

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When you’re spending top dollar at a steakhouse, you come to expect a certain level of service and a knowledgeable wait staff – which is why it can be disappointing when you find such to be lacking. If the waiter doesn’t know the menu or can’t properly advise you, search for your next steakhouse dinner elsewhere.

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Perfectly cooked steak should have a golden seared crust; the browning is what makes meat so flavorful. If you're getting burnt meat, your steak will taste chalky (and come with a side of increased cancer risk).

On the subject of doneness, everyone has a preference for how they like their steak, but the longer it is cooked the tougher and drier its texture becomes.

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Besides beef kidney suet, what other kinds of flavor enhancers have steakhouses been known to use? A Time opinion piece accuses restaurants of unsavory practices like using MSG and other tenderizers.

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Since the USDA eased up on restrictions on Kobe beef, it seems like the expensive cut is everywhere. Kobe is from a small place in Japan and is only produced in small quantities. The U.S. legally purchased 72 tons of Kobe last year, but Americans consumed 13.5 million tons of the beef.

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A steakhouse employee told Slashfood.com that sometimes the meat isn't always the freshest. Apparently steakhouses will sometimes keep meat until it's past its prime and then use it when a customer orders his steak well done or medium-well. The more a steak is cooked, the more the flavor can be hidden.

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To make less than high quality beef taste good, steakhouses will cook with lots of butter.

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Sometimes the meat served in steakhouses has been softened with the jabs of thousands of needles.

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"Dry-aged" can mean that the steak has been left in the refrigerator for three days rather than a month in an aging room.

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Grass-fed beef has been on the rise since it's shown to be healthier for both the consumer and the cattle, but coming in at 26 dollars per pound, it's unlikely that every steak-serving restaurant will opt for the healthier option.

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Patricia Whisnant, president of the American Grassfed Association, believes that by 2016 grass-fed beef should account for 10 percent of overall beef consumption in America. Even though this is a promising proclamation, it's still not a very high percentage and won't necessarily persuade your favorite steakhouse to switch to the healthier beef.

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If you're a steak lover, have no fear! There are numerous ways to prepare delicious steaks in the comfort of your own home. Keep reading to see a few!

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Steak Au Poivre

This classic steak with a creamy brandy-spiked pepper sauce is a great one-skillet dish.

Get the recipe: Steak Au Poivre

All American Steak Burger

This all-American steak burger recipe is delicious year round!

Get the recipe: All American Steak Burger

Cola-Marinated Flank Steak With Frito Chilaquiles

Flank steak takes this chilaquiles (fried tortilla chips lightly cooked in salsa) dish to the next level.

Get the recipe: Cola-Marinated Flank Steak with Frito Chilaquiles

Grilled Balsamic-And-Garlic Flank Steak

The balsamic and garlic flavors make this steak super tasty.

Get the recipe: Grilled Balsamic-and-Garlic Flank Steak

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  • Beef skirt diced for tacos: Five-pound vacuum-packed frozen packages with the number 1470 in the upper left-hand corner of the label. Packaging date is 03/24/18.
  • Preseasoned beef for fajitas: Five-pound vacuum-packed frozen packages with the number 36989 in the upper left-hand corner of the label. Packaging date is 03/24/18. Use-by date is 03/23/19.
  • USDA choice angus beef, fajita seasoned steak, beef flank steak for fajitas: Various weights of fresh vacuum-sealed packages with the number 567248261 in the upper left-hand corner of the case label. Packaging dates of 03/23/18 and 03/24/18. Use-by/freeze-by date of 04/18/18.
  • USDA choice angus, fajita seasoned strips, beef flank strips for fajitas: Various weights of fresh vacuum-sealed packages with the number 567248253 in the upper left-hand corner of the case label. Packaging date 03/24/18. Use-by/freeze-by date of 04/18/18

So far no one has become sick from any of these products, but consumers are still urged not to use them. If you have any of these cuts in your possession, throw them away or return them to the store where they were purchased. Questions about the recall can be directed to Shane Fresh, Vice President of Quality Assurance for Patterson Foods at (817) 546-3561. If you have any health concerns, contact your healthcare provider.

In the case of food safety, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. You can stay safe by checking out our guide to safe cooking temperatures.

RELATED: Food safety tips answered 

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Embarrassing food safety questions answered
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Embarrassing food safety questions answered

Should you wash your turkey before cooking it?

Whether it’s a Thanksgiving turkey or a weeknight piece of pork, rinsing poultry, meat or eggs before cooking them is likely to do more harm than good. Besides the fact that any bacteria you think you’re washing away should be killed off when cooked, “you’re increasing your chances for cross-contamination,” since the meat’s juices can land in your sink or on your countertop and mingle with other foods, Steinberg says.

Should you wash pre-washed produce?

Giving your spinach or snap peas another scrub-down isn’t being safe, it’s being sorry for potentially exposing the greens to harmful bacteria in the sink or on your countertop – and for wasting your time. "If bacteria managed to survive the chlorinated wash in the processing plant, it will likely survive the additional rinsing at home," says Steinberg, who recommends buying non-bagged produce if you’re going to wash it anyway. Just be sure to rinse it under running water – not soap, detergent, bleach or commercial washes, suggests Foodsafety.gov, which is run by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Can you wash potatoes in the dishwasher?

Speaking of detergent, Steinberg has been surprised by how many people think washing potatoes in the dishwasher is a cute hack rather than a bad idea. “The dishwasher wasn’t designed to wash food; it was designed to wash dishes,” she says. “And whether or not there’s soap in there that cycle, you have residual chemicals that have gone through that machine.” And don’t even try arguing that eating dishwasher-cleaned potatoes is the same as eating off a dishwasher-cleaned plate: Your potatoes, unlike your dishes, are sponges for risky agents, Steinberg says.

Do you need to wash watermelon?

Among the foods you actually do need to wash – but may assume get a pass – are fruits with rinds like watermelon, cantaloupe and oranges. “Wash all produce because whatever’s on the outside will be transferred to the inside” when you slice into it, Steinberg says. Even food with peels like bananas should ideally be washed since your hands can transfer bacteria on the peel to your mouth. To wash sturdy fruits and vegetables thoroughly (cucumbers count, too!), use a clean produce brush, Foodsafety.gov suggests.

How often do you need to wash your hands when cooking?

In the case of hand-washing while cooking, more is better. Foodsafety.gov recommends doing so for 20 seconds with plain soap and warm water before, during and after preparing food, and especially after handling uncooked eggs, raw meat, seafood or poultry. And don’t forget to remove your jewelry before cooking, adds Monica Amsterdam, director of nutrition at the Medical and Wellness Center of New Jersey. “Jewelry can hold and harbor microorganisms contaminating the food that we’re eating,” she says, as can touch-screen devices. “If you have to use your electronic device while cooking, make sure to disinfect it first,” Amsterdam says.

What's a recipe's 'rest time'?

Recipes that have rest times – or how long the dish should rest off the heat before digging in – have them for a reason: “to allow the product to cook thoroughly,” says Janell Goodwin, a technical information specialist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Take that goal a step further, she suggests, by using a food thermometer to see if your meal has reached what the USDA considers safe. “The most underutilized utensil that is really the secret of cooking is the food thermometer,” Steinberg says, since you're also likely to overcook foods if you rely solely on, say, the juices' color.

Is the 5-second rule legit?

If you drop that steamy, buttery croissant on the ground, resist the temptation to grab it and pretend like nothing happened, Goodwin says. New research supports her: In a recent study, researchers found that all kinds of foods can become contaminated with harmful bacteria after less than one second on the floor, although the longer they’re grounded and the wetter the food, the riskier it seems. If your dog or cat licks your food, consider it untouchable, too, Goodwin adds. “Our pets, although we love them dearly, can carry harmful bacteria in their mouths that aren't necessarily harmful to them, but can be harmful to us,” she says.

Can you cool food in the refrigerator?

Your guests are hungry and you’ve got a hot pot of chili to appease them – key word being “hot.” How can you serve it quickly without burning their tongues? While you can put hot food in the fridge, Steinberg says, it’s important to do it in smaller portions so that the food cools uniformly and as quickly as possible. “Improper cooling,” she adds, “is a big way that people get foodborne illness.” If you want to store, not serve, hot food, follow the same protocol or put it in shallow containers or an ice bath, while stirring every 10 minutes or so, Steinberg suggests.

How long is food safe on the counter?

Good food, drink and conversation can make it easy to forget just how long ago you abandoned that casserole on the counter. But if it’s been close to or over two hours, don’t try to salvage it, experts say. “Throw it out; it should never be reheated” at that point, Steinberg says, since a couple of hours at room temperature is plenty of time to accumulate bacteria that won’t be killed off. Hot or cold foods shouldn’t be transported at room temperature for more than two hours either, she adds. “Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.”

How long can I keep leftovers?

Nothing beats a thick sandwich stuffed with leftovers from yesterday’s Thanksgiving feast. A lot beats a thick sandwich stuffed with leftovers from last week’s Thanksgiving feast. “Never [eat leftovers] beyond seven days,” says Steinberg, who recommends an even more conservative three or four day limit for meats and poultry. Remaining food, however, doesn’t have to go to waste: Almost all food can be frozen indefinitely, Goodwin says. “Freezing … prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness,” she says. Check out the USDA’s app to look up the recommended storage times for thousands of foods.

How many times can you reheat something?

Every time you reheat, say, mashed potatoes, you’re sending them into what Steinberg calls “the temperature danger zone” – that range between 40 and 140 degrees F that’s prime for harmful bacteria growth. While one zap through the microwave is safe so long as your food's cooked to 165 degrees F, thoroughly stirred and reheated in an explicitly “microwave-safe” container, reheating and re-refrigerating the same batch day in and out just multiplies the food’s visits through the danger zone, Steinberg says. Instead, only reheat what you know you can eat. “You get one try,” she says.

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