• ground beef patties are the most popular beef item for United States consumers; nearly 12 billion hamburgers were consumed by Americans in 2007. ground beef patties are the most frequently grilled meat. ground beef is also popular in other forms such as meat loaf, meat balls, sloppy joes, and tacos. shopping list
  • HOW TO HANDLE AND cook ground beef shopping list
  • As explained below (see Why is Raw ground beef Singled Out by Food Safety Experts?), the unique character of ground beef warrants careful handling. shopping list
  • * Thaw raw ground beef on a plate on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator, to avoid drip onto other foods. shopping list
  • * Keep raw and ready-to-eat meats separate. Make it a household rule to use the refrigerator meat drawer for ready-to-eat foods, like cheese and deli meats, and do not store raw foods here. (Or, if you use the meat drawer for raw meats, store ready-to-eat foods in another location in the refrigerator.) shopping list
  • * Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw ground beef. Wash cutting boards, bowls, and utensils used to prepare raw ground beef with hot soapy water and rinse well. As an extra precaution, a solution made from one teaspoon of unscented chlorine bleach in one quart of water can be used to sanitize the clean kitchen tools. shopping list
  • * Use separate plates to carry raw ground beef patties to the cooking area and cooked patties to the serving area. shopping list
  • Use a Thermometer to Insure ground beef Reaches the Safely Cooked Internal Temperature of 160°F shopping list
  • Destruction of the pathogens that may be present in raw ground beef, particularly E. coli, requires a cooking procedure that heats the beef to an internal temperature of 160°F. shopping list
  • Use of a food thermometer is the only way to determine that the internal temperature of ground beef patties has reached 160°F. (Unfortunately, only 13% of consumers always or often use a thermometer when cooking or grilling hamburgers.) shopping list
  • Learn how to use a food thermometers when cooking ground beef: shopping list
  • The University of Idaho Extension website, "All About Food Thermometers" provides information about cooking with food thermometers, including information about how to choose a food thermometer and how to use one. shopping list
  • The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Thermometers and Food Safety page also provides information about thermometers and how to use them. shopping list
  • ground beef patties should be tested for the safely cooked temperature of 160°F in several locations because the entire patty does not reach one temperature at the same time. Additionally, the lowest temperature is not always in the center of the patty. shopping list
  • WHY IS RAW ground beef SINGLED OUT BY FOOD SAFETY EXPERTS? shopping list
  • Although other meats have caused foodborne illness, there are several attributes of ground beef which suggest that more careful handling--particularly use of a thermometer to cook to 160°F-- is required. shopping list
  • ground beef MAY CONTAIN PATHOGENS THROUGHOUT shopping list
  • Retail ground beef may contain pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms), most notably Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica. These pathogens are frequently associated with food animals, and E. coli O157:H7 is particularly associated with ruminant animals. shopping list
  • * ground beef is made from 'beef trimmings' (10) which often include trim from the exterior of carcasses and may more frequently carry pathogens. shopping list
  • * Although the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef was declared an adulterant in 1994 (21), 0.46% of ground beef samples tested in 2008 by the Food Safety and Inspection Service were positive for this pathogen. In the same period, 2% of ground beef samples were positive for Salmonella. shopping list
  • * The process of grinding distributes any pathogens present throughout the meat. In contrast, whole muscle cuts of meat that have not been tenderized or injected with an enhancement fluid, are considered 'pathogen free' in the interior portion of the meat. shopping list
  • ILLNESSES HAVE BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH ground beef shopping list
  • Consumers have developed E. coli O157:H7 infections from consumption of undercooked ground beef. shopping list
  • * The most well known case is that in which over 500 consumers became ill and four died in 1993 as a result of consuming undercooked ground beef patties at a fast food chain. In another case in 2002, home preparation of E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground beef sickened 28 consumers and caused a nationwide recall of 18.6 million lbs of fresh and frozen ground beef and beef trimmings. shopping list
  • * In 2007, there were 19 recalls of ground beef totaling over 30 million pounds, of which less than 3 million pounds was recovered. Outbreaks from E. coli O157:H7 are most commonly linked to beef; during the period 1990 to 2005 56% of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks were attributed to beef. shopping list
  • * Cases of consumer illness from ground beef consumption continue to be reported. See the FSIS Recall Announcements Website. shopping list
  • * E. coli O157:H7 causes about 62,000 human infections from food sources annually. Contracting an E. coli O157:H7 infection causes hospitalization in about 17% of cases, usually due to extreme diarrhea or kidney failure and results in death in an estimated 0.5% of cases. E. coli O157:H7 infections are the leading cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome in children. shopping list

How to make it

  • Prior to 1997, consumers were encouraged to cook ground beef until "brown" in the middle to assure a safe temperature had been reached. However, research conducted in the 1990s determined that cooked ground beef color does not correlate to safe endpoint temperature.
  • Ground beef can turn brown before it reaches 160°F or it may retain a pink color at temperatures above 160°F--cooked color change in ground beef depends on a number of factors, including pH, meat source, packaging, freezing history and added ingredients.
  • The only way to determine that ground beef patties, or other products formed from ground beef, such as meat loaf or large meat balls, are safely cooked is to use a thermometer to determine the safe temperature of 160°F has been reached. (Normal cooking practice for small ground beef products such as crumbles means they are generally cooked to well above 160°F.)
  • A recent survey of labels on packages of frozen ground beef patties (4 oz. size) revealed some packages suggest cooking times of 1.5 to 2 min/side. Research on consumer cooking procedures indicates that cooking times of less than 3 min/side could not produce a safely cooked product, thus some packages provided unsafe instructions. Frozen ground beef patties generally required 7 to 9 min total hamburger-cooing-instructions. Cooking time and starting with a room temperature pan (not preheated) extends the cooking time by about 4 min. Furthermore, cook times on a propane grill are more variable in than a fry pan on the electric stove. Bottom line: The variability of cooking times for patties makes it. Packaging also gave conflicting information about the use of cooked color to predict doneness and about avoiding both overcooking and undercooking, provided an array of confusing instructions hamburger-cooking-instructions for consumers.
  • Since 1994, federal regulations require a Safe Handling Label, which includes information about storing, cooking, and avoiding cross contamination, on all consumer packages of ground beef (and other raw meat).
  • Until ground beef is assured to be a pathogen-free product, consumers can best protect themselves and their loved ones by using a food thermometer to make sure cooked ground beef reaches a safe temperature of 160°F.
Safely cooked on the left and not safely cooked on the right.   Close

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