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Beef, barbecue and burgers: Cooking safely

May is a big month: It’s Hamburger Month, Beef Month and Barbecue Month (and not to mention Chocolate Custard Month, Salsa Month and Egg Month).

With so many foods to celebrate this month, especially burgers and barbecue, we figure it’s a good time to recap some grilling safety facts:

  • Meat needs to be cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill foodborne pathogens. Beef needs to be cooked to 145°F — unless it’s ground beef, including hamburgers, in which case you need to hit 160°F.
  • Grilling chicken? That needs to reach at least 165°F, and hot dogs should be cooked until they are steaming. Pork chops and steaks should reach 145°F, with a three-minute rest before eating.
  • A food thermometer can help you make sure your food is hot enough. It should be washed between uses to get rid of any bacteria. Don’t rely on the color of your meat to judge if it’s cooked enough — burgers that are brown in the middle might still be unsafe.
  • Don’t let any utensils or surfaces with raw meat juices contaminate other food. If you’ve carried raw burgers on a plate, don’t use the same plate for, say, asparagus (it’s Asparagus Month too, you know) without washing it first.
  • Bacteria grow rapidly between 40°F and 140°F, so you don’t want to leave food sitting out for long. Once your food is ready, the barbecue party crew should eat it right away, and not come back hours later unless the food has been refrigerated and reheated (to at least 165°F). Don’t let perishable food sit out for more than two hours — just one if it’s over 90°F out.

By the way, in case you were wondering what else to do until June, it’s also Mediterranean Diet Month, Chamber Music Month, Strawberry Month and Dental Care Awareness Month. Have fun celebrating!

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