Cook It Safely
Cook It Safely:
"My burger is still pink in the middle, does that mean it's not cooked enough?"
"How long do I cook my Thanksgiving Turkey?"
"I like my roast beef cooked rare, but is it still safe?"

These are important questions. We all want safe food to eat, but cooking food safely does not have to be a mystery. Use the following information to help you "Cook It Safely".
Why Is It Important to Cook Food Thoroughly?

Bacteria are ubiquitous. That means bacteria are everywhere, in the air, on our hands, on our pets, and yes, even on our food. Most bacteria will not hurt you. Some bacteria, however, can cause you to get sick. The best way to reduce the chance of getting sick from eating food is to keep your hands and food preparation area clean, and to cook food to the proper temperature. Cooking food to the proper temperature will kill the harmful bacteria that cause food borne illness.

How Can I Tell If Food Has Been Cooked To The Proper Temperature?

The only accurate way to tell if food is cooked to the proper temperature is to use a food thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of food. There are some foods, such as poultry, that will give visual signs of "doneness," but other foods, such as ground beef, will not. 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. 

What Are The Proper Cooking Temperatures For Foods?
  • POULTRY 165 ºF: Poultry will generally need to reach 165 ºF before it is "done." At 165 ºF, bacteria have been destroyed, but poultry will still be pink and raw looking near the bone, and the juices will be pink and/or cloudy. By 170 ºF for white meat and 180 ºF for dark meat, the flesh of poultry will no longer be pink and the juices will be clear. With whole chickens and turkeys, the leg and wing joints will move easily when it is done.
  • STUFFED MEATS 165 ºF: Your Thanksgivings turkey may be done, but is the stuffing, inside, done? There is no way that you can tell by the juices, the tenderness or color of the flesh, or even by wiggling a drumstick if the stuffing is cooked to the right temperature. Use a food thermometer to verify that both the bird, and the stuffing has reached a minimum of 165 ºF.
  • BEEF ROAST 145ºF: A beef roast cooked to 145 ºF in the center can be considered safe since the exterior of the roast would have reached a temperature high enough to destroy bacteria. The center of the beef roast would be pink, and considered rare. Beef roasts cooked to 160 ºF will generally have very little pinkness to the meat, and the juices will not be pink or red. If it is a rolled roast or one that has been mechanically tenderized make sure the internal temperature reaches at least 160 ºF.
  • PORK ROAST 145ºF: Pork roasts are safe when cooked to 145 ºF even though the center of the roast may be somewhat pink. Pork chops may have just a trace of pink color at this temperature.
  • GROUND MEAT (BEEF, PORK, OSTRICH) 158ºF: The color of the meat and the color of the juices are not accurate indicators of doneness. Ground beef may turn brown before it has reached a temperature at which bacteria are destroyed. If you prepare hamburger patties and depend on visual signs to determine safety by using the brown color as an indicator, you may be taking a chance that pathogenic microorganisms may survive. A hamburger cooked to 158ºF, measured with a food thermometer throughout the patty, is safe - regardless of color. Ground poultry, such as turkey burgers should be cooked to 165 ºF.
  • FISH AND SEAFOOD 145 ºF: Fish and other seafood should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 ºF.
  • COMBINATION DISHES 165 ºF: Casseroles, stuffed pastas and other combination dishes, such as lasagna, must be cooked to 165 ºF as measured with a food thermometer. These dishes are traditionally composed of cooked foods and then heated to combine flavors. Pathogenic bacteria could survive, however, if the meat or poultry component of a casserole was merely "browned" and the casserole was not subsequently heated thoroughly, especially if the dish was assembled in advance and refrigerated. These dishes display no visible signs of doneness. Only by using a food thermometer can you be sure it has been heated to a safe temperature.
Your food safety responsibilities do not end after the cooking process. Remember, bacteria are ubiquitous, that means they are everywhere, and some bacteria are not killed by cooking. So take care to refrigerate leftovers promptly and in small enough portions to allow the food to cool down quickly. Never leave food out at room temperature.
For More Information
For more information on keeping it clean call the toll-free nationwide Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555. The Hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern Time. Also, an extensive selection of timely food safety recordings are available 24 hours a day, every day, by using a touch-tone phone and the "user-friendly" menu which prompts callers.

Helpful food safety information is now available on the Internet. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Home Page address is

For more information about food protection in Solano County, please contact the Resource Management Environmental Health Division at (707) 784-6765 during normal business hours.