Annrose M. Guarino | 4/30/2005 12:06:57 AM
Why should you use food and cooking thermometers? One of the most important factors in slowing down bacteria in food is controlling the temperature, according to LSU AgCenter food and nutrition professor Dr. Annrose Guarino.
Harmful organisms grow slowly at low temperatures, multiply rapidly at mid-range temperatures and die at high temperatures. Using a food thermometer allows you to keep your food at the proper cold temperature in the refrigerator or freezer. Use a cooking thermometer helps you to prevent the growth of foodborne illness from undercooking.
Color is not a reliable indictor of doneness, nor are texture and the way the food feels. A hamburger cooked to 160 F is safe, regardless of color. Guarino offers these temperature levels to ensure properly cooked foods: 145 F (medium rare) or 160 F (medium) for beef, lamb and veal steaks and roasts; 160 F for ground beef, pork, veal and lamb; 160 F for pork chops, ribs and roasts; 160 F for egg dishes; 165 F for ground turkey and chicken, stuffing, casseroles, leftovers; 170 F for chicken and turkey breasts; 180 F for chicken and turkey (whole bird, legs, thighs and wings).
The nutritionist makes additional recommendations on the different kinds of meat.
Beef. Beef is leaner these days, so cook rib, tenderloin and eye of round roasts to medium rare (145 F) to keep them tender and juicy. Although ground beef should be cooked to 160 F, beef roasts are whole-muscle meat, and any bacteria would most likely be on the surface and be killed at the lower temperature.
Lamb. Some people may consider lamb a fatty meat. Leg and loin cuts, however, have a fat content similar to lean beef and pork loin when trimmed of visible fat.
Pork. Because hogs are about 50 percent leaner than they were 25 years ago, today's pork cooks faster and can dry out when overcooked. Cook fresh pork to 160 F (medium) or to 170 F (well done). Fresh pork cooked to medium doneness as measured with a meat thermometer may still be pale pink inside, but will be safe. Heating to 160 F kills foodborne bacteria, such as Salmonella, as well as parasites that cause trichinosis and toxoplasmosis.
Wild game. To remove the "gamey" flavor, you can soak wild meat or poultry in a solution of either 1 tablespoon salt or 1 cup vinegar per quart of cold water. Use enough solution to cover the game completely and soak it overnight in the refrigerator. Discard the soaking solution before cooking. Trim any visible fat - that's where a gamey flavor can reside. Then roast tender cuts of venison and game birds (if skinned) covered and set them on a rack in a shallow pan and roast at 325 F.
Duck, goose. Domestic ducklings have a great deal of fat, which helps them float when swimming, but is undesirable in a cooked duck. Therefore, prick the skin of a whole duck before cooking to render out much of the fat while it cooks. Although domestic geese are larger than ducks, cook them the same. Oven cooking bags are helpful, because they hold the fat for easy disposal and keep the oven spatter-free.
Cornish hens, capons. These specialty birds are chickens. Cornish hens are small broiler-fryers weighing 1 to 2 pounds. Capons are male chickens that are neutered. Weighing about 4 to 7 pounds, they have generous quantities of tender, light meat. Roast them as any chicken.
For additional food safety information about meat, poultry or egg products, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); for the hearing-impaired (TTY) 1-800-256-7072.
For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.