The U.S. Department of Agriculture stresses that color - or whether the meat is pink inside - isn’t a good indicator that it’s safe to eat.

Studies have shown that one out of every four hamburgers turns brown before it has reached a safe temperature, the USDA says.

The “danger zone” for meat and poultry is an internal temperature between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. In that range, bacteria grow rapidly, and they can release dangerous toxins that can make us sick.

Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of Americans aren’t using a food thermometer regularly to ensure food is cooked to a safe temperature, the USDA reports.

If the risk of catching a stomach bug isn’t incentive enough, experts say using a food thermometer also ensures that you don’t overcook those gorgeous Iowa chops and burgers, so the meat stays juicy and tender when serving.

The CDC recommends the following safe food temperatures for meat and poultry:


  • Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal:145°F, with a 3-minute rest time before serving.
  • Fish:145°F.
  • Hamburgers and other ground beef:160°F.
  • Ground turkey burgers and all poultry:165°F.
  • Pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs:165°F.


And whenever you host a backyard cookout or picnic, remember the four basics of food safety: Clean. Separate. Cook. Keep Cool.


  • Always use clean plates and utensils when handling cooked meats and poultry, and make sure there is fresh water available for cleaning.
  • Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or fruits. Don’t use the same tongs and plates on cooked meats that you used on raw meats.
  • Cook to a recommended safe internal temperature, as measured by a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat or poultry cut. 

For more tips, check out the USDA’s grilling and food safety guide.

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