Is your burger done yet?

It can be hard to tell when meat cooked on a grill is done, especially going by the outside color. Use a food thermometer to be certain.

With the beautiful spring weather teasing us that summer is around the corner, the grilling season is starting early. When grilling at home or away, take your thermometer along. Meat cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, so use a thermometer to make certain your meat is done on the inside too. A thermometer also helps you to avoid overcooking. You will pass the taste test if you use a thermometer when cooking your burgers.

Cook ground meat, where bacteria can be spread easily during grinding, to at least 160ºF. To make sure the burgers you cook are safe, use a food thermometer. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness.

There are two kinds of thermometers you can use when cooking burgers, a dial instant-read thermometer and a digital thermometer. A dial instant-read thermometer is used to spot test food and, as its name indicates, has a dial to read the temperature. Digital thermometers also spot test food but they are battery powered and need to be turned on and off.

When checking the temperature of your burgers, insert the stem of your thermometer into the thickest part, usually the center. The stem of a dial instant-read thermometer should be inserted into the meat two inches for an accurate reading. You will need to insert it into the burger at an angle or into the side of your burger. The stem of a digital thermometer should be inserted about a ½-inch straight into the center of the food or at an angle. The temperature will take about five seconds to register. Digital thermometers work well for thin hamburgers.

How do you know if your thermometer is accurate? You can test the accuracy of your food thermometer by following these three easy steps.

  1. Fill a large container with crushed ice. Add tap water until the container is full. Stir.
  2. Put the thermometer stem into the ice water. Make sure it is inserted about 2 inches for a dial instant-read and a ½-inch for a digital read thermometer. Wait 30 seconds or until the indicator stops moving on the dial instant-read and about 5 seconds for the digital thermometer. Do not let the stem touch the container.
  3. If you have an instant read thermometer, adjust the dial on the thermometer head so it reads 32ºF. You can do this by holding the nut under the head with a wrench or other tool. If you have a digital thermometer and it does not read 32ºF, it must be thrown away or sent in for adjustment.

Just like outside activities increase with the warmer weather, so do foodborne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year, roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. One effective way to prevent illness is to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your meat. Don’t let any of your summer be ruined by a food borne illness.

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