Properly cooked meat is juicy and tasty, while overcooked meat can be dry and tasteless. On the other hand, undercooked animal foods can pose serious health risks. Sometimes it can be hard to know whether food is properly cooked. Research has shown that color is not reliable indicator to determine the “doneness” of meat and most other foods. To eliminate guesswork in your kitchen, you should use quality food thermometer. A food thermometer is an essential kitchen tool for making sure that meat and poultry are properly cooked, and for monitoring the internal temperature of other foods.
Some foods may already contain harmful bacteria when they are purchased. Numerous studies estimate that nearly half of the meat and poultry sold in U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores are contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria. Raw foods including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, unpasteurized milk and dairy products often contain bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Most bacteria grow very slowly at refrigeration temperatures but multiply rapidly if food is left at room temperature for hours.
One of the bacteria that often cause food poisoning is Salmonella. Salmonella is often found in raw poultry, meat, eggs, and in unpasteurized milk. Undercooked meat and other animal food can easily lead to salmonella infections. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million people get sick each year from foodborne illnesses.
Importance of Safe Cooking
The bacteria found in contaminated food can only survive until the temperature reaches a certain point. It is important to cook foods at a high enough temperature to kill these bacteria and prevent food borne illness.
For safety, the USDA recommends cooking hamburgers and ground beef mixtures such as meat loaf to 160 °F, as measured with a food thermometer. Cook all organ and variety meats (such as heart, kidney, liver and tongue) to 160 °F. Consumers should not eat ground beef patties that are pink or red in the middle unless a food thermometer has been used to verify the cooked temperature. The USDA food safety officials also recommend cooking all raw beef steaks and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source.
It is especially important to use a thermometer when cooking meat and poultry, which carry the highest risks of food poisoning. Using accurate thermometer is the only way to be sure that all bacteria in your food have been killed. An added bonus is that food you’re serving is tasty and not overcooked.