Cook hamburger to 160 Degrees

Thoroughly cooking hamburger to 160°F can prevent foodborne illness.

Do you have a meat thermometer in your kitchen? If not, about $15 could put one in your kitchen and be one of the best investments you ever make for your family. Color is acceptable to determine doneness for intact meat cuts like steaks or chops that have not been blade tenderized. For non-intact raw meat, such as hamburger, color is deceiving and should not be used to assess doneness; a meat thermometer is the only way to be sure. Ground beef needs to reach 160°F for at least one second before consumed.

Myoglobin is the protein that gives meat color. Depending on the starting form that myoglobin is in results in different interior color of cooked ground beef patties. A typical package of raw ground beef will be bright red on the outside, have a thin layer of reddish-brown, and be purplish-red in the center.

Ground beef can prematurely turn tan or brown and appear to have a ‘cooked’ color at temperatures as low as 131°F, making foodborne illness a potential. Premature browning is more likely in a patty that is formed from meat that has been exposed to air and starts out as red or reddish-brown in color.

Persistent pinking is ground beef that has a pink interior color at safe temperatures, greater than 160°F, and does not want to turn brown. Most of this problem occurs from meat that comes from dark-cutters. Persistent pinking is a quality problem where premature browning is a safety issue. Cooking meat patties to at least 160°F and not basing it on cooked color is the guideline from USDA and something to remember.

All cattle, and ruminant animals for that matter, regardless of the production system they are raised on, have the potential to harbor and shed Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli) and Shiga toxin producing forms (STEC), such as O157:H7, cause foodborne illness. Other animals like swine and poultry could spread STECs if picked up from the environment. Bacteria and pathogens like E. coli are killed when properly cooked. These bacteria and pathogens originate on the surface of carcasses and different meat cuts. The process of grinding meat mixes any contamination from the surface throughout the product, which makes it important to thoroughly cook ground meat and measure the temperature in the center of the patty.

Meat thermometers can be purchased at many stores, including the grocery. For hamburger or steaks, it is recommended to purchase a thermometer with a fine tip that measures temperature at the end of the tip and has a fast reaction time. Digital thermometers are ideal for this purpose. Depending on the thermometer, it may be best to hold the patty on edge and insert the thermometer through the side of the patty to the geometric center to read the temperature.

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