Food thermometers could be a lifesaving tool

With the recent recall of a large quantity of ground beef due to E. coli 0157:H7, it is important to remind consumers to get into the habit of checking the internal temperatures of foods to prevent foodborne illness.

With the recent recall of a large quantity of ground beef due to E. coli 0157:H7, it is important to remind consumers that cooking ground beef to a minimum internal temperature 160 degrees Fahrenheit and using a simple kitchen tool can help prevent people from getting sick from this sometimes deadly strain of bacteria. To check the internal temperature of your food items, use a food thermometer. Thermometers come in all shapes and sizes: Digital probes for ovens and microwaves, dialoven safe and even disposable!

The most useful style of temping cooked foods in your home is to use an Instant Read Bimetallic Thermometer. This food thermometer quickly measures the temperature of a food item in about 15 to 20 seconds. It is not designed to remain in the food while it is cooking in the oven or on the grill, but should be used near the end of the estimated cooking time to check for final cooking temperatures. These thermometers can be purchased at grocery stores, specialty food stores and online. They range in cost between $4 to $10. 

It is critical to use a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers. Ground beef may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7, a particularly dangerous strain of bacteria. Illnesses have occurred even when the ground beef patties were cooked until there was no visible pink. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research, one out of every four hamburgers turns brown in the middle before it has reached a safe internal temperature. The only way to insure that ground beef patties are safely cooked is to use a food thermometer and cook the patty until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The USDA recommends these tips when using a food thermometer:

  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature toward the end of the cooking time, but before the food is expected to be done.
  • Insert the food thermometer into the thickest part of the food, making sure it doesn’t touch bone, fat or gristle.
  • Compare your thermometer reading to the Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures chart to determine if your food has reached a safe temperature.
  • Make sure to clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after each use. Do not immerse your thermometer into water unless manufacturing directions indicate otherwise.

Using a food thermometer will also help you keep your burger juicy and flavorful and avoid overcooking it. Michigan State University Extension recommends using a food thermometer to reduce the risk of foodborne illness; it is a habit you will need to get used to doing. Just like washing your hands before you prepare a meal, get into the habit of checking the internal temperature of food, especially meat, poultry and egg dishes. Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.

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