Is it safe versus is it done?

Using a food thermometer can help consumers reach correct food temperatures when cooking.

Food safety experts, researchers and educators advise consumers to cook food until it has reached correct temperatures. Using a food thermometer can help consumers achieve this. 

Michigan State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) tell us that foods are safely cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.

Temperatures posted by USDA and FSIS have been researched to provide a food product that is moist and has reached a temperature that kills harmful bacteria. Reaching these temperatures is called the “kill” step because once reached, it “kills” the microorganisms to safe levels. Remember the temperature at which pathogens are destroyed will vary. The amount of heat, length of cooking time as well as the thickness of the food will affect this.

If you have never used a food thermometer there are guidelines to assist you.

  • Buy a food thermometer that meets your needs, in other words, what foods will you primarily – poultry, meat, egg dishes? You may need more than one thermometer to check the foods you typically make.
  • Test your food thermometer. It’s very important to make sure that your thermometer is calibrated. Using an ice water bath in a container, follow these directions for calibration. If you use a thermometer that has not been calibrated then you risk eating food that has not been cooked or reheated correctly raising the potential for foodborne illness.
  • Food thermometer placement is very important to get an accurate reading. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, making sure not to touch bone, fat or gristle. Make sure to check the temperature two different areas of the food.
  • Know the safe internal temperature for different types of food.
  • Once you have cooked the food to the correct minimum internal temperature, for safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
  • Clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water after each use. This prevents cross-contamination and the growth of bacteria.Then store it is a safe place for next time.

Following these steps will help ensure that safe cooking temperatures have been reached and will guard family and friends from potential foodborne illnesses.

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