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Wilburn: Keep proper temperatures in mind when cooking meats
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These days, food thermometers aren't just for your holiday roasts - they're for all cuts and sizes of meat and poultry, including hamburgers, chicken breasts and pork chops.

Using a food thermometer when cooking meat, poultry and even egg dishes is the only reliable way to make sure you are preparing a safe and delicious meal for your family.

Why use a food thermometer?

Everyone is at risk for food-borne illness. One effective way to prevent illness is to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry and egg dishes. Using a food thermometer not only keeps your family safe from harmful food bacteria, but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, giving you a safe and flavorful meal.

Some people may be at high risk for developing food-borne illness. These include pregnant women and their unborn babies and newborns, young children, older adults, people with weakened immune systems and individuals with certain chronic illnesses. These people should pay extra attention to handle food safely.

What are the signs of food-borne illness?

The signs and symptoms of food-borne illness range from upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps and dehydration to more severe illness - even death. Consumers can take simple measures to reduce their risk of food-borne illness, especially in the home.

Seeing isn't believing

Many people assume that if a hamburger is brown in the middle, it is done. However, looking at the color and texture of food is not enough - you have to use a food thermometer to be sure! According to USDA research, one out of every four hamburgers turns brown before it reaches a safe internal temperature. The only safe way to know if meat, poultry and egg dishes are "done" is to use a food thermometer. When a hamburger is cooked to 160 F, it is both safe and delicious!

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.