Clueless? Insert thermometer!

Tuesday, 14th November, 2017

CLUELESS - Most of us have no idea of the correct temperatures to cook meat.

IS IT done yet? Apparently when it comes to high-risk foods such as hamburgers, sausages and poultry the majority of us don't have a clue.

A national survey has shown 70 per cent of Australians have no idea about safe cooking temperatures, and only a quarter of us own a meat thermometer. And even if we do have such a gadget, we're more likely to leave it in the utensil drawer along with the apple corer and crab claw cracker, than actually use it.

According to the Food Safety Information Council, our national preference for the "she'll be right technique" is contributing to the escalating rates of those stomach-churning bugs campylobacter and salmonella and the 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year.

This week is Australian Food Safety Week and the council encourages everyone to pick up a food thermometer from their local homewares store and learn how to use it properly.

Chairwoman Rachelle Williams said the council was amazed at how few of those surveyed said they didn't know the safe cooking temperature for high-risk foods.

"Even worse, of those that reported they did know the correct temperature, most were wrong, with 15 per cent saying below the safe temperature of 75C and 9 per cent stating it should be 100C or more, which would be a pretty burnt piece of food," she said.

"Coupled with this lack of knowledge is another of our surveys which found 75 per cent of Australians surveyed reported there wasn't a meat thermometer in their household and only 44 per cent of those with a thermometer reported using is over the previous month."

So how do you use a food thermometer?

Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food (such as the thigh on poultry), as close to the centre as possible but not touching bone, fat, or gristle. Start checking the temperature toward the end of cooking, but before you expect it to be done. Be sure to clean the stem of your food thermometer before and after each use.

Recommended temperatures for these high-risk foods:

  • Red meat or pork that is minced, stuffed, rolled or boned or is mechanically tenderised (with small holes in the surface to penetrate into the meat), or corned beef pumped with brine using needles, will be contaminated by bacteria throughout so must be cooked to 75C in the centre. This also applies to red meat livers.
  • Any poultry such as chicken, ducks or turkey (including their livers) will also be contaminated throughout, whether they are whole or minced, so must be cooked to 75C in the thickest part near the centre.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to 75C in the centre. Make sure they are stirred to ensure an even temperature.
  • Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiche, should be cooked until 72C in the centre (or until the white is firm and the yolk thickens).

These foods will only have contamination on the outside so can be cooked to your taste:

  • Red meat in whole cuts, such as steaks, chops, pieces and whole roasts. Make sure the surface is well browned and cook the centre to your taste. As a guide: well done is 77C, medium 71C and medium rare 63C (leave to rest for 3 minutes).
  • Pork in whole cuts can be cooked like red meat, but is better quality if pork steaks and pieces are cooked to 70C and roasts to between 70C and 75C.
  • Fish fillets can be cooked to around 69C or when flesh flakes easily.

These tips and more can be downloaded in poster form from the Foof Safety Information Council website. The council recommends putting the poster in the kitchen as an instant reminder.

food poster

Food poisoning results, on average, in 120 deaths, 1.2 million visits to doctors, 300,000 prescriptions for antibiotics, and 2.1 million days of lost work each year. The estimated annual cost of food poisoning in Australia is $1.25 billion.

  • Click HERE for more about Australian Food Safety Week 2017.

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