Make sure those hamburgers aren't pretty in pink

May 26, 2004|DONNA CLORE

It is the season for grilled hamburgers and other grilled meats.

While tasty and nutritious, ground beef must be properly handled because it may contain bacteria that can make people sick. These bacteria can multiply rapidly when ground beef is improperly handled or not fully-cooked. Stay safe by following these suggestions on handling and cooking ground beef.

Put ground beef in the refrigerator immediately after you return from the store, and use or freeze it within one to two days. Refrigerate cooked meat and use it within four days. Uncooked, frozen meat needs to be used within four months.

Ground beef is safe when the center reaches a temperature of 160 degrees. Cook hamburgers until the center is a grayish-brown, not pink. Use a thermometer to ensure that the meat has reached a sufficient internal temperature. Juices dripping from the meat should be clear.


Remember to trim visible fat that could make the fire flare up and char food.

Some studies have revealed a possible cancer risk from eating foods cooked by high-heat methods such as grilling, frying or broiling. However, research shows no health risk from eating moderate amounts of grilled meat, fish and poultry cooked to a medium temperature without charring.

Have the grill grate hot before putting on hamburgers or steaks to sear them to retain juices; then cover to finish cooking on a lower heat. You may want to raise the grill cooking level to be sure the food is thoroughly cooked, but not charred.

Pink center is okay with a steak

Cooking ground beef is different from cooking steak. The center of a steak has not been exposed to contaminants so a pink center is OK. Of course, both sides of a steak should be thoroughly cooked.

Keep grilled meat hot until ready to serve by putting it to the side of the grill, but not directly over the coals or in an oven at 200 degrees. You also can use a chafing dish, or warming tray.

When you've finished eating cooked ground beef, immediately refrigerate leftovers.

Always wash all utensils, cutting boards, counters and plates or platter that came in contact with the raw meat during preparation and cooking. Never put cooked meat on a plate that previously held raw meat.

It's equally important to thoroughly cook poultry, pork and other meats on the grill.

Whole poultry should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees and breasts, 170 degrees. Poultry flesh should not be pink and juices need to be clear. All pork cuts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops should reach 145 degrees.

Donna Clore is Boyle County extension agent for family and consumer sciences.

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