Food scientists have found that relying only on internal color to check if food is cooked properly isn't adequate. A beef patty may be brown throughout before it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the recommended minimum safe temperature. And a safely cooked hamburger may still appear pink on the inside.
Using a food thermometer is the most reliable way to ensure that food is cooked thoroughly, according to the May issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.
Most food contains small amounts of bacteria that usually are harmless. But when foods are undercooked, bacteria can multiply fast and cause food poisoning. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever and, potentially, dehydration. Pregnant women, young children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to severe symptoms and dehydration, which occasionally can be fatal.
To be safe, rather than sick, cooks should use an instant-read thermometer to check food near the end of cooking. Here are some recommended safe minimum internal temperatures: