Cook It Safe

  • Keep hot food hot. Cook and hold cooked foods at temperatures higher than 140° F. High temperatures (160° F to 212° F) kill most bacteria. Temperatures between 140° F and 159° F prevent their growth but may let bacteria survive.
  • Get the right tools for the job: a meat or "instant-read" thermometer to see when foods are thoroughly cooked; an oven thermometer to check your oven heat; and a timer to time the cooking accurately. Regularly check nondigital food thermometers; calibrate according to the manufacturer's directions.
  • Check the internal temperature of food, especially roasts, thick steaks (more than 2 inches thick), large cuts of meat, whole chickens or turkeys, and large casseroles. Put the thermometer or oven temperature probe into the center of the thickest part of the food, but not near the bone or fat. After each use, wash the thermometer stem well in hot, soapy water. See "Safe Internal Temperatures " and "Using a Meat Thermometer" in this chapter.
  • Cook ground meat and poultry thoroughly—until no longer pink inside, juices run clear, and the internal temperature reaches 160° F. Thorough cooking is especially important with ground meat; bacteria on the

Have You Ever Wondered

Have You Ever Wondered

... how you store live mollusks? For the very short time you may keep them (within two days), refrigerate them in a container with a damp cloth over the top. Be sure other foods don't drip on them. Do not store them in an airtight container or in water. They're saltwater fish that need air to stay alive. Scrub them with a stiff brush just prior to shucking or cooking them.

Safe Internal Temperatures

For food safety—and the best flavor-cook meat and

poultry to the right internal temperature. To check, use

a meat or "instant-read" thermometer.

Internal, Cooked

Food Item

Temperature (° f)

Beef, Veal, and Lamb

Ground products such as

hamburger (as patties,

meat loaf, meatballs, etc.)

160

Nonground products such as

roasts and steaks

Medium rare

145

Medium

160

Well done

170

Fresh Pork

All cuts, including ground products

Medium

160

Well done

170

Ham

Fresh, raw ham

160

Fully cooked ham, to reheat

140

Fish

145

Poultry

Ground chicken, turkey

165

Whole chicken, turkey

180

Boneless turkey roasts

170

Poultry breasts and roasts

(white meat)

170

Poultry thighs, wings and

drumsticks (dark meat)

180

Duck, goose

180

Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird)

165

Eggs

Yolks and whites

are firm.

Egg dishes, casseroles, and

cheesecakes

160

Leftovers, reheated

165

Sauces, soups, gravy

160

Source: Adapted from and consistent with guidelines from the

U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration, and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

outside get mixed inside as meat and poultry are ground and mixed.

  • Instead of "rare," cook beef until "medium rare" (to an internal temperature of 145° F) for safety.
  • When in doubt, cook ham. If the label says "cooked ham," it's okay to eat without cooking or heating. If not, don't take chances; cook it before eating it. Words such as "smoked," "aged," or "dried" are no guarantee of safety without cooking. The smoked flavor may come from added flavoring, not curing.
  • Follow the "ten-minute" rule for cooking finfish— whole fish, steaks, and fillets. For every inch of thickness, cook fish for ten minutes at 425° F to 450° F. If the fish is cooking in a sauce or foil wrap, cook for five minutes longer. The internal temperature should reach 145° F. If one end is thinner than another, fold it underneath so the thickness is uniform. This rule applies to broiling, grilling, steaming, baking, and poaching. Cooking times for frying and microwaving are generally faster ways to cook. If fish is cooked from a frozen state, double the cooking time. Cooked fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
  • Cook shellfish properly. Scallops and shrimp take three to five minutes, depending on size. Scallops turn white and firm; shrimp turn pink. Boiling lobsters takes five to six minutes per pound after the water comes back to a boil; when fully cooked, they turn bright red.
  • Be sure that mollusks are still alive before you cook them. If the shells don't close tightly when you tap them, toss them! Cook them in a pot that's big enough to cook all the shellfish thoroughly—even the shells in the middle. Discard any that don't open during cooking. For live clams, mussels, and oysters: boil water for three to five minutes after the shells open, or steam them for four to nine minutes. If they 're shucked:
  • Bake them for about ten minutes at 450° F.
  • Boil for at least three minutes or until the edges curl.
  • Fry for at least ten minutes at 375° F.
  • Broil them for at least three minutes.
  • Know the visual signs of doneness: egg yolks and whites that are firm; fish that is opaque and flakes easily; juices from meat and poultry that aren't pink; and poultry joints that move easily.
  • If you've been basting or brushing sauces on food as you cook, switch to a clean brush and fresh sauce for cooked foods. In that way you won't transfer bacteria from raw to cooked foods. Discard the marinade used for raw meat, poultry, or fish, or boil it for at least one minute before using on cooked food.
  • Avoid very low oven temperatures (below 325° F) for roasting meat, or long or overnight cooking for meat. With oven cooking, these low temperatures encourage bacterial growth before the meat is cooked.
  • Know how to use a slow cooker safely. Even though the food is cooked at a lower temperature, food prepared in a slow cooker is safe because the moist heat used to cook foods in this way is more lethal to bacteria than dry heat, such as oven cooking. Set the cooker on high until the food begins to bubble, then turn to a simmer or "low" setting to continue cooking. Cover and check the internal temperature, which should be at least 160° F. Always choose a recipe that contains a liquid. When adding meat, use small pieces of thawed meat. Avoid filling the cooker to more than two-thirds of its capacity. A slow cooker is not for reheating.
  • Cook food through at one time. Don't cook it partially, then finish later. Partially cooked food may not get hot enough inside to destroy bacteria; these conditions may encourage bacteria to grow.
  • Heat leftovers to 165° F or until steaming hot. That includes precooked foods such as stuffed chicken breasts and preroasted chickens from takeout; eat them the same day you purchase them. Reheat sauces and gravies to a rolling boil for at least one minute.

Play It Microwave-Safe

Today, a microwave oven is as common as a television set in our homes, workplaces, schools, and even recreational vehicles! For most people, the main reason is

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