The Truth about Ground Beef Temperatures

This weekend is Memorial Day, which means a time to honor the fallen that have protected this great country that we so love. It is also unofficially the start of the summer grilling season. National Hamburger Day also falls on Sunday. This provides us with a lot of different reasons to grill.

We all have our favorite things to grill, but I would argue that hamburgers are the most popular. But the proper cooking of ground beef is incredibly important to food and family safety.  All ground beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Grilling temps for steaks and ground beef

Photo courtesy of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Facebook page

Why can I have my steak medium-rare, but not my hamburger? Bacteria. Bacteria can only exist on the surface of the steak – and they get killed once it gets cooked. But Erin Beasley, who has a Master’s degree in Meat Science, explains how ground beef is produced differently.

“To make ground beef we begin with whole muscle cuts such as chuck meat and we place it into a grinder. Once we grind and mix it into ground beef, any bacteria present on the surface of that product will exist throughout the ground beef because of the grinding process.”

Beasley says that is why it is imperative to cook ground beef to 160 degrees and ground turkey or chicken to 165. Doing so will prevent food borne bacteria. Beasley is also the assistant executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and is affectionately known as the “Beef Girl.”
Another common issue that arises with grilling hamburgers is leaving them out on the counter or out in the sun for too long. Beasley’s suggestion is to practice the 40-140 rule.

Cheeseburgers on the grillThis means keep all products under 40 degrees or over 140 degrees. “Meat products that sit in the danger zone between 40-140 degrees can create an environment for bacterial growth and increase your risk of food borne illness,” explained Beasley.

If you follow the 40-140 rule and cook all ground beef to 160 degrees, then the odds of a food borne illness messing up your meal, family time or holiday weekend are much lower! And makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

If you’re at a loss for what to cook this Memorial Day weekend, then look into the “Beef Girl’s Special.” Erin pats out two thin burgers, and then places a large slice of cheese on one of the patty’s. She then places the other patty on top and forms the two to make a good size burger with cheese inside. Once it is grilled to 160 degrees she likes to top it with bacon and a fried egg. Top it with a good bun and you have a delicious and safe burger that supports a couple different animal agriculture groups!

If you are worried about hormones in your meat, then read this post. Happy grilling and remember the truth about ground beef temperatures!

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