Is It Done Yet?

Is It Done Yet?

When the meat turns brown’; ‘When the juices run clear’; ‘When it looks done.’ Have you ever used these measures of “doneness” when cooking meats or poultry? In truth, none of them accurately tells us if the food is safely cooked. Studies have shown that using a food thermometer is the only way to tell if harmful bacteria have been destroyed. Even if hamburgers look fully cooked, one in four hamburgers may not be safely cooked. Yet only 6 percent of home cooks use a food thermometer for hamburgers and only 10 percent use a food thermometer for chicken breasts, according to the latest data from the Food Safety Survey, which was conducted by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

USDA food safety experts encourage people to get and use a food thermometer—dial or digital—and become a role model in their neighborhoods. By using a food thermometer to check if meat, poultry, or egg dishes are done, you also prevent overcooking and guesswork. Food cooked to a safe internal temperature is juicy and flavorful. If you use a food thermometer, then you’ll know the answer to “Is it done yet?” You can buy a food thermometer in many grocery, hardware, or kitchen stores. Here are some tips for using it:

  • Insert the food thermometer into the thickest part of the food, making sure it doesn’t touch bone, fat, or gristle.
  • Cook food until the thermometer shows an internal temperature of 160°F for hamburger, pork, and egg dishes; 145°F for beef, veal, and lamb steaks and roasts; and 165°F for all poultry.
  • Clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after each use.

Using an accurate food thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking. No more cutting into your turkey or beef roast to see if it looks done. Simply place the food thermometer into the food and it will indicate the temperature the food has reached. You’ll know if it needs to cook a few minutes more or if it is finished. This is especially helpful with combination dishes such as lasagna or egg casseroles that may brown on the top before they heat through.

By using a food thermometer on a regular basis, you can be assured that the food you cook is "done" as well as safe.

This information is provided by USDA. For more information about food safety in the home, call the Fairfax County Health Department’s Food Safety Section at 703-246-2444, TTY 771.


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