How many times have you heard “Is it done yet?” when you are fixing a meal? It doesn’t matter if it is the Thanksgiving turkey or a grilled burger or pork chops – they can’t seem to wait until it is done to eat. It is true that when cooking meats you need to use a food thermometer to know that “It’s done!”
While studies show that the use of food thermometers is increasing, research has found that most of us aren’t using it consistently. Several studies found that less than 10% of us use our thermometers to check for doneness in all poultry. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that 66% of study participants never used their thermometer when cooking hamburgers. You may say “I can tell when grilled meats are done, they aren’t pink anymore.” Unfortunately studies have found that cooked chicken breasts can turn white, but still not be 165 degrees. From personal experience, my family did a food thermometer experiment recently with ground beef for a 4-H project. Trust me, the hamburgers where not 160 degrees when I thought they were done (using just visual cues).
To be food safe use a thermometer every time you cook meats, grill, and even in casseroles. Here are a few thermometer use tips:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling meats.
- An instant-read food thermometer should be used to check the internal temperature of foods, when approaching the end of the cooking time.
- Place food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, avoid touching bone, fat or gristle. On large cuts of meat, check several places to ensure even doneness.
- Clean thermometer with hot, soapy water between uses.
- Always use a clean plate for meats done cooking to avoid cross contamination.
- Use the chart below for food thermometer temperatures.
- Don’t forget to refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours, sooner if possible.
Always using that food thermometer is one of the best ways to prevent foodborne illness. So, set a good example and the next time they say “Is it done yet?” ask them to grab the food thermometer and help you check to see if it is. High risk groups for foodborne illness include: pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses. We never want to unnecessarily risk their health by serving undercooked meats.
*”Is it done yet?” is a USDA campaign for food safety.
Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.
Reviewer: Liz Smith, SNAP Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, North East Region.