Kids in the kitchen: Part three

Using a food themometer to help cook food safely.

Kids in the kitchen can be a great experience for the adult in charge and for the youth involved. In previous articles, we have discussed where food comes from and how to safely prepare food. This article will focus on cooking food, using a food thermometer and cooking food to proper temperatures. There are many things that can contribute to unsafe food and cooking food properly is an important step in keeping food safe. Michigan State University Extension encourages using a thermometer when cooking all foods.

Let’s start out by learning what safe temperatures are. Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Hot foods should be 140 degrees F or higher. Temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F are called the temperature danger zone. This is where bacteria can grow and multiply in a very short period of time. To check the temperatures of food, insert a food thermometer into the thickest part of the item. For soups, casseroles or vegetable dishes make sure to take the temperature in more than one place. Checking the temperature of food is a task older children can help with, keeping their arms and hands away from any hot pans or ovens.

What is the proper temperature food should be cooked to? These temperatures vary according to the food item. Here are a few of the most common food temperature recommendations:

  • Ground meats like hamburger: 165 degrees F
  • Fresh beef, veal, lamb: 145 degrees F for 3 minutes
  • Poultry: 165 degrees F
  • Pork and ham: 145 degrees F for 3 minutes
  • Eggs and egg dishes: 160 degrees F or until yolks are firm
  • Leftovers and casseroles: 165 degrees F
  • Seafood: 145 degrees F or until flesh is opaque

To access the correct temperature requirement for a variety of dishes, go to

Caring for thermometers is also important. They need to be washed, rinsed, sanitized and air dried before they are placed in their case for storage. Thermometers also need to be calibrated often to make sure they are reading temperatures correctly. To calibrate a thermometer you can create ice slurry by placing ice and cold water in a container and holding the thermometer in the slurry for 30 seconds. If the thermometer reads 32 degrees F it is good.  If not, adjust it by turning the calibration nut under the head of the thermometer. Let the youth watch while you care for the thermometer so they become familiar with the process.

Allowing children to participate in all aspects of the kitchen creates a confident, food safe youth and learning in the kitchen is something you can share as a family.

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