Friday, April 27, 2012

Is it done yet? The importance of a food thermometer & food safety.

Pretty soon we'll be outdoors grilling chicken, hamburgers & steaks. It is so important to be sure these meats are cooked and handled correctly.  
(See "Resources" at the bottom of this blog.)

 So today I thought I'd take some time to stress the importance of food safety and  show you a kitchen gadget that should be in every kitchen: 
a food thermometer.
If you've every had food poisoning, you understand why cooking to temperature and food safety is imperative.

Did you know?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year about 48 million people in the United States 
become ill from harmful bacteria in food; of these, about 3,000 die. 

That is why every kitchen should have some kind of meat thermometer & a meat temperature guide. This gadget should be as common in the kitchen as a fork and knife.  
Thermometers range in price from $6 up to over $100 dollars.   Whichever one you decide to use, consider the cost an investment in your family's health.  The most expensive thermometer will still be cheaper than a trip to the emergency room! 

I have several food thermometers, but find the Thermapen by ThermoWorks to be the fastest, easiest, accurate and most convenient to use. It retails for $96, but can be found on sale for as low as $69.  ThermoWorks has "open box" pricing on their site. as well as  giveaway contests on their Facebook/Twitter sites.

More about my gadget of choice"Made by Hand in England, the Thermapen is faster and more accurate than any other cooking thermometer on the market. Competitors have tried to copy the Thermapen with mass-produced products made in China and have flooded the housewares market with slower, less-accurate knock-offs. However, when compared to true competing commercial thermocouple thermometers, the Thermapen is not only faster and more accurate, it's also less expensive!"

The Thermapen probe tucks away onto the side of the pen.
When the probe is opened, the Thermapen turns on automatically.
Is available in many colors.  I picked pink.
Testing the Thermapen on a small, thick steak.
Fast and easy to read.

Testing the Thermapen on a tiny, thick piece of chicken.
Is easy to hold, has a nice grip.

Below are several resources that will help you keep your food safe for your family.   It will also instill confidence in you when you are cooking these foods knowing that you are cooking them properly.

Meat Temperature Cooking Guide
Once on that page, you can copy and paste the chart onto a blank document and print it.
Remember:  Remove the meat at 5 degrees F. below the target temperature.  The meat will continue cooking for a few minutes after it is removed from the heat

FDA "Is it done yet" Online Brochure

Thermometers Aren't Just for Turkey Anymore
These days, food thermometers aren't just for your holiday roasts—they're for all cuts and sizes of meat and poultry, including hamburgers, chicken breasts, and pork chops. Using a food thermometer when cooking meat, poultry, and even egg dishes is the only reliable way to make sure you are preparing a safe and delicious meal for your family. 
Why Use a Food Thermometer?
Everyone is at risk for foodborne illness. One effective way to prevent illness is to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, and egg dishes. Using a food thermometer not only keeps your family safe from harmful food bacteria, but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, giving you a safe and flavorful meal. 

FDA Fact Sheet on Kitchen Thermometers
 Why Use a Food Thermometer? 
Using a food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine desired "doneness" of meat, poultry, and egg products. To be safe, these foods must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful microorganisms that may be in the food. 

"Doneness" refers to when a food is cooked to a desired state and indicates the sensory aspects of foods such as texture, appearance, and juiciness. Unlike the temperatures required for safety, these sensory aspects are subjective.

FDA: Food Safety
Dangerous Food Safety Mistakes
Sometimes a simple mistake can have grave consequences. What may seem like a small food safety mistake can cause serious illness with long-term consequences.

When it comes to some germs, such as Salmonella, all it takes is 15 to 20 cells in undercooked food to cause food poisoning. And just a tiny taste of food with botulism toxin can cause paralysis and even death.

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Do you have any gadgets you'd like to see used? Do you have any favorites of your own? Post suggestions, ideas, reviews.