Use The Right Tool For Grilling Success

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Grilling expert says using a meat thermometer is the key to flavor and safety

Now that prime summer grilling season is here, grillmasters across the country are getting ready for the biggest event of the year. According to a national survey from the Beef Checkoff, 63 percent of grillers say July 4th is their favorite holiday of the year for grilling out.

While home chefs are busy thinking of the recipes and ingredients that will make their 4th of July cookouts a success, they may not be thinking about the most important tool for ensuring safe and delicious results: an instant-read meat thermometer. For example, according to Beef Checkoff research, only 15 percent of consumers say they use an instant-read meat thermometer when cooking burgers.

"I recommend skipping the guesswork of doneness by using an instant-read meat thermometer to get a great tasting burger or steak every time. Just remember these two internal temperatures for a safe and savory grilling experience: 160 degrees for burgers, and 145 degrees for steaks," says professional grill master Dave Zino, executive director of the Beef and Veal Culinary Center at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Why are the temperatures for steaks and burgers different? Zino says it's all about food safety.

"When we cook meat, we're using heat to develop its flavor while destroying bacteria that might be present in the raw product. With a steak, bacteria can only be present on the surface, which experiences the highest temperatures. But with ground beef, the grinding process mixes the interior of the meat with the exterior, so we need to make sure the whole burger reaches the right temperature, not just the outside."

As you head outdoors and fire up your grill, keep food safety top of mind. Remember:

  •     Keep meat refrigerated. Even when thawing, don't leave meat out at room temperature.
  •     Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after handling raw meat or preparing any other foods.
  •     Avoid cross-contamination. Always keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate. Think ahead when at the grill or stove and have a clean plate ready for cooked meat.
  •     Always cook ground beef to 160 F, and steaks to 145 F. This ensures your beef isn't under- or over-cooked, and any harmful bacteria is destroyed.
  •     Use your instant-read meat thermometer properly. When cooking steaks and burgers, insert the meat thermometer sideways into the thickest portion of the meat.

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The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The Checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national Checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

Consumer-focused and producer-directed, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and its state beef council partners are the marketing organization for the largest segment of the food and fiber industry.

Meghan Pusey
National Cattlemen's Beef Association

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