Three Meats and a Thermometer

Using a food thermometer and knowing safe temperature ranges will keep your family healthy and may improve your culinary skills.  Good everyday kitchen habits will also serve you well during disasters and emergencies.

Any store with a kitchen department will likely carry a variety food thermometers.  Know what you're cooking and how you plan to cook it.  Pick a thermometer (or two) that suits your needs.

Understand the food danger zone.  Bacteria is all around us, in the air, in the soil and on surfaces.  When bacteria grow in food before we consume it, we can become quite ill.  Not only will some bacteria make us ill, but some bacteria produce toxins that remain even after cooking!  Bacteria grow quickly between 40° and 140° F.  So safe food preparation strives to keep internal food temperatures out of this danger zone as much as possible.  During preparation and serving, the temperature of a food item should only remain in the danger zone for an hour or less.  That means quickly heating or cooling foods for serving or storage.  Keep foods below 40° F with refrigeration or placed in an ice bath.  Keep foods above 140° F with stove top and oven heating, chafing dishes, and other heating devices.  Remember that food must travel through the danger zone quickly.  Heat food quickly and cool food quickly, and check the temperature regularly to ensure safety.  Food that remains within danger zone temperature range for two hours (total time) during preparation or serving (one hour in 90° F weather) should be thrown away.

Adhere to minimum cooking temperatures.
  • Whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F.  This ensures that any bacteria on the surface and within the meat are killed.  Whole cuts include steaks, roasts, and chops. 
  • Seafood and fish must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F, too.
  • Cook ground beef, pork, veal or lamb to a minimum internal temperature of 160° F.  This includes raw and precooked sausages.  Ground meats have greater exposure to a variety of bacteria through processing, so they require a higher temperature to ensure that harmful bacteria are killed.  This includes whole cuts that are rolled or stuffed, as well.
  • Wild game meats (except fowl) should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F.
  • Chicken, turkey, game hens, wild fowl and other poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F.
  • Leftovers should also be reheated to an internal temperature of 165° F. 
If you use the necessary equipment, respect the temperature danger zone, and follow cooking temperature recommendations everyday, you'll also be ready to face food preparation during emergencies.  Your skills, knowledge and experience will allow you to make smart choices to feed your family during utility outages and other emergencies when you cannot risk a food-borne illness.

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