About E. coli

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About E. coli Blog

Does it look cooked? A review of factors that influence cooked meat color

The May issue of the Journal of Food Science discussed the adequate cooking of meat in order to inactivate microbial pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella, particularly in ground meat products.

Consumers are being advised on appropriate temperatures to which meat products should be cooked, and to use a meat thermometer to ensure these temperatures are reached.

However, consumers are more likely to assess cooking status by the color of the meat or juice. This can be a dangerous method to gauge internal tempurature of meats, since several factors can artificially prolong the pink “uncooked” color in meat:

  • high pH
  • modified atmosphere packaging
  • rapid thawing
  • low fat content
  • nitrite
  • irradiation

Alternatively, meat can prematurely brown, where the interior of the product looks cooked but a microbiologically safe temperature has not been reached, such as:

  • pale, soft exudative meats
  • meats packaged under oxygenated conditions
  • meats frozen in bulk
  • meats thawed over long periods
  • meats that have had salts or lean finely textured beef added

The article concludes that the color of cooked meat is not a good indicator of adequate cooking, and the use of a food thermometer is recommended.

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