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Color Of Juice Indicates When Meat Is Done

Steven Pratt Chicago Tribune

Just because meat turns brown doesn’t mean that it’s fully cooked, particularly when you’re talking about ground beef.

That’s the finding of Donald Kropf, professor of meat science at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

As beef is heated in a frying pan, an oven or on a grill, the internal color darkens from red to pink to tan as the temperature increases.

But Kropf and his colleagues found that some ground beef appeared well done at much lower temperatures than expected, such as 131 degrees.

That’s not hot enough to kill all pathogenic microorganisms, such as the virulent E. coli 0157:H7, the bacteria responsible for the outbreak of food-borne illness that killed several people and sickened thousands of others on the West Coast two years ago.

Kropf said raw hamburger can turn brown through natural oxidation when kept at less than ideal temperature, from lengthy exposure to air or from just being stored too long. That can be misleading during cooking.

Cooks should rely on the color of the ground beef juice, watching for it to turn from red to yellow, to judge the doneness of the meat, he said.

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