Why proper cooking temperatures are important
Have you ever forgotten about meat you purchased from the grocery store? When you discover it later, it’s most likely because of the smell, which isn’t too pleasant.
Like all TCS foods, if meat isn’t cooked to the proper temperature, not all foodborne pathogens may be killed. Some may enjoy bragging that they like their burger to be “still mooing” when it arrives — and it’s OK to serve undercooked meat as long as you display a consumer advisory. Otherwise, cooking meat to the proper temperature is an absolute food safety necessity.
What recommended safe cooking temperatures should I follow?
Our Cooking Times and Temperatures poster displays the proper cooking temperatures for different types of food. In general, foods fall into four cooking temperature categories:
- Stuffing that includes meat
- Stuffed meats and pastas
- Dishes containing previously cooked food
- Ground meat
- Ostrich meat
- Injected, marinated, or tenderized meats
- Eggs to be hot held
- Whole seafood
- Beef, pork, veal, lamb (steaks and chops)
- Eggs to be served immediately
- Ready-to-eat hot-held food
- Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes to be hot-held
Even after cooking, food shouldn’t remain in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours. The temperature danger zone falls between 41°F and 135°F and is where bacterial growth thrives.
How to determine an accurate temperature
Imagine the indignance of serving undercooked food because the thermometer wasn’t calibrated. “My thermometer made me” isn’t a viable excuse for food safety violation. Before using a thermometer, you should test the accuracy of its readout.
Fill a cup with ice water and allow the water to sit for a couple minutes. Then, place the thermometer in the middle of the ice water so that it doesn’t touch the side of the cup. The thermometer should read 32°F. If it doesn’t, consult the owner’s manual to determine how to calibrate it. Calibrating the thermometer may seem like a pain, but it will go a long way to keeping your customers safe.
Helping food handlers learn cooking temperatures
All food handlers should receive proper training on cooking temperatures. Doing so ensures they will serve up safe food to customers. Remind your employees of temperature guidelines using the above cooking temperature chart. You should also teach employees about keeping a cooking temperature log.
The goal of everything is keeping customers safe. The careful efforts of your employees enable customers to enjoy their food without fear of foodborne illness.
Everyone wins with food safety! Check out other tips in our Food Manager Training.
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— Calvin Clark