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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Why you should use a cooking thermometer

This advice from the FDA is good for at home or on the road.

One of the critical factors in fighting foodborne illness is temperature. Bacteria grow slowly at low temperatures and multiply rapidly at mid-range temperatures. And to be safe, a product must be cooked to an internal temperature high enough to destroy harmful bacteria.

Using a meat thermometer is a reliable way to ensure that food has reached the proper temperature. However, to be effective, thermometers must be used properly and calibrated correctly. If the thermometer is inserted incorrectly, or placed in the wrong area, the reading may not accurately reflect the internal temperature of the product. In general, the thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat or gristle. Read the manufacturer's instructions on how to check the accuracy of the thermometer.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, measuring temperature is the only way to gauge whether food is sufficiently cooked. USDA research reveals that the "color test" is a misleading way to gauge the safety of foods being prepared, since the color of cooked foods varies considerably. For example, freezing and thawing may influence a meat's tendency to brown prematurely.

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