Want to give an ‘on trend’ gift this Christmas? Get a food thermometer

22 December 2017 - 18:28 By Wendy Knowler
Meat Thermometer in a Roast Chicken.
Meat Thermometer in a Roast Chicken.
Image: 123rf.com /Lee Thompson

If you’re looking for a last-minute‚ super relevant Christmas present for the cook in your life‚ a food thermometer is it.

With South Africa's listeriosis outbreak having put the spotlight on food borne diseases - commonly referred to as food poisoning - knowing how to cook meat properly is one of the keys ways to prevent the spread of bacterial pathogens such as listeria‚ campylobacter‚ E coli and salmonella spreading by the consumption of contaminated food.

There’s an increased risk of food poisoning incidents when temperatures climb in summer‚ so those of us celebrating Christmas in the southern hemisphere need to take extra food precautions. Australia’s Food Safety Information Council has been issuing warnings and advice for months.

“You can’t tell if riskier foods like the Christmas turkey or rolled roasts are cooked to the required 75°C just by looking‚” says the council’s chairperson Rachelle Williams. “You really need a meat thermometer.”

Seafood‚ eggs‚ dairy products‚ pre-prepared salads and cut fruit and vegetables also pose a particularly high risk of food poisoning in summer.

Here’s a list of food preparation dos and don’ts:

Don’t wash any poultry before cooking because that will spread the bacteria around your kitchen.

Do wash fruit and veggies in clean water before cooking or eating.

Get into the habit of using a meat thermometer (see below).

Cook stuffing separately because it may not cook fully inside the turkey or chicken.

Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible.

Always reheat leftovers to 75°C in the centre of the item or the thickest part to kill any food poisoning bugs.

Wash your hands in warm soapy water before preparing food and after handling eggs‚ raw meat‚ particularly poultry‚ burgers and sausages.

Use separate cutting boards for meat and for fruit and veggies.

Keep cooked meat away from raw meat to avoid contamination.

“Many people take cooked meat off a braai and put it back into the tray or container they took it from when raw‚ which still contains bloody sauce‚” says Professor Gunnar Sigge‚ head of Food Science at Stellenbosch University. “That’s a very high risk habit.”


Where to place the meat thermometer:

Poultry: Insert the thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast of the chicken or turkey‚ but not touching bone

Beef‚ pork‚ lamb‚ veal‚ ham - roasts‚ steaks or chops: Insert the thermometer into the centre of the thickest part‚ away from bone‚ fat and gristle

Casseroles and egg dishes: The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest portion

Meat safe temperatures

Fish: 63°C

Minced meat‚ sausages: 71°C

Beef‚ veal‚ lamb‚ pork: Medium rare: 63°C: Allow at least 3 minutes for the meat to rest Medium: 71°C Well done: 77°C

Ham Raw: 71°C Cooked (to reheat): 60°C Chicken and turkey: 74°C

Leftovers: 75°C