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Food Safety: Knowing When Food is Done Cooking

Food safety is an important consideration to keep in mind when cooking for yourself, your family, and friends. Food that has not been cooked properly can lead to severe illness or even death. This article discusses how to properly check whether or not your food has been thoroughly cooked.

Use a Food Thermometer

While there is a variety of ways of testing food to determine whether or not it has been fully cooked and therefore is ready to eat, the safest ways hands down is to use a food thermometers. Food thermometers give you an accurate reading of the internal temperature of the food item that is cooking, which you can then compare to recommendations for that product. For best results with your food thermometer, it is essential that it is in proper working order.

You can test the food thermometer by setting out a small container of yogurt, cottage cheese, butter or another food product that is semi-solid at room temperature. Allow a small amount of the food to sit in a bowl for a few hours until you are confident that it has reached room temperature, and then place the thermometer into the food. Make sure that it is not touching the bottom of sides of the bowl. Read the temperature, and compare to the current temperature in your home. Ideally, these two reading should not be more than a few degrees away form each other.

When testing food that is cooking, keep a few basic guidelines in mind--first, as described above, make sure that the thermometer does not touch the bottom of sides of the tray that the food is cooking in. Second, make sure you are aware of what temperature the food should ideally reach. Meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while vegetables can be eaten at a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cooking Vegetables

While using a food thermometer will give you the most accurate account of whether or not your food is done cooking, skilled chefs should be able to determine this simply through experience. When evaluating whether or not your vegetables have finished cooking, start by looking at them--ideally, they should look soft, with a glossy finish. When stabbed with a knife or fork, the vegetable should be soft and give to the utensil. Finally, cut off a small piece of one of the vegetables. It should have a soft, uniform texture.

Cooking Meats

As discussed above, while it is ideal to use a food thermometer to test meats for doneness, it is not essential. To evaluate whether or not your meat has finished cooking, use a sharp knife to carefully cut into the center of one of the pieces. When cooking fish and chicken, the center of the piece of meat should be firm, with no juices or translucent coloring. Beef, however, can still be eaten while pink in the center; it simply depends on how well done the diner likes her meat.

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