It’s burger season! And every burger season we hear about ground meat being pulled off the shelves due to contamination with E. coli. The reason burgers are more at risk than other meats is because the flesh is ground which increases the surface area. Proper cooking of ground beef is the only way to make sure all illness causing bacteria is killed. Chicken, fish, lamb and beef burgers should always be cooked well done.
Burgers are such a pleasant part of the season that they are worth having, as long as you keep a few grilling safety guidelines in mind. (Also remember to choose lean meats and your binders and side dishes wisely to avoid derailing your diet in one barbeque.)
Here are some tips to minimize the risks of barbequing while maximizing safety and taste.
- Always use a meat thermometer on ground meats. Insert it horizontally and check a couple of spots in the thickest part of the burger.
- Use your thumb to create a dimple in the middle of each burger. This will fill in as the meat shrinks during cooking and ensure that the heat reaches the risky middle.
- Chicken, beef and salmon all need to be fully cooked to well done. One small speck of E. coli or salmonella can cause tremendous illness.
- Use moist and nutritious toppings to enhance flavour and juiciness.
- Gourmet ingredients can elevate your burger: ricotta cheese, blue cheeses, pesto sauce, a variety of mustards, fresh vegetables, baby lettuces and sprouts all add a burst of taste.
- Go beyond the bun! Paleo friendly lettuce wraps, kale or nappa cabbage leaves make great bases. If you do choose bread, keep the burger to bun ratio in check and don’t be afraid to try different grains and flavours.
So now that you are armed with these food safety tips get out there and grill!
About the Author:
Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com