A meaty Memorial Day – stick it in for safety

Stories abound about meat.

It’s the Thursday morning before the long-weekend carnivorous orgy known as Memorial Day, so of course there are media accounts of meat: USA Today describes the problems of farmers who rely on small, family-owned slaughterhouses inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the N.Y. Times weighs in about non-O157 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (note – there are a lot of other STEC than just six).

Others will cover those details.

The run-up to Memorial Day also has another tradition – bad food safety advice, often from N.Y. Times food columnist Mark Bittman, and boring food safety advice, usually from government and all the clones that mindlessly repeat banalities.

I noticed three years ago while travelling by train through France when Bittman wrote,

"… well-done meat is dry and flavorless, which is why burgers should be rare, or at most medium rare. The only sensible solution: Grind your own. You will know the cut, you can see the fat and you have some notion of its quality."

He must have those super space-aged goggles like Scott on Imagination Movers that allow him to see the dangerous bugs.

Yesterday, Bittman penned his annual homage to the burger in all its rare and microbiologically-challenged glory. Play along at home, and see how many instances of microbiological cross-contamination you can spot in the video available here.

And the only way to determine if any food has been safely cooked is to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. Color or time are lousy indicators of doneness. Or, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture says,

“1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown in the middle before it has reached a safe internal temperature. The only way to be sure food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature.”

And the snappy USDA slogan — It’s Safe to Bite When the Temperature’s Right!

(Exclamation marks should be reserved for the truly exclamatory; let the reader decide; Strunk and White, Elements of Style)

Stick it in.