Don’t stick the meat thermometer to your lips

Readers of the New York Times may have noticed this letter to the editor in yesterday’s food and dining section, from K-State professor and blogger Doug Powell who runs the food-safety-related Barf Blog from Manhattan, Kansas.

Powell wrote:

The only thin piece of metal that should be stuck into the side of a

hamburger is a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. Chef Seamus Mullen’s

recommendation to put any thin piece of metal into the side of a

burger, and “If it’s barely warm to the lips, it’s rare. If it’s like

bath water, it’s medium rare,” only demonstrates the divide between food safety and food pornography.


is a lousy indicator of burger safety, as is the taste of metal sticks.

Rather than putting E. coli O157:H7 on precious testing lips, use a


He was responding to an article that appeared in the Times last week. “The Perfect Burger and All Its Parts” broke down how to make the perfect burger, from the bun to the seasoning to the temperature of the grill (“hot, hot, hot,”). And yes, it did quote a chef saying that the best way to check for done-ness is to put a piece of metal to your lips.

The New York Times hasn’t been running the best health advice of late. Also last week, quick bites writer Mark Bittman had to remove a recipe on infused oils after it was pointed out that the preparation he described could lead to botulism.  

For the record, Powell recommends that the center of the burger get to at least 160 degrees to kill all of the E.Coli virus and the only way to ensure that is to cook it until it has no taste use a properly calibrated meat thermometer. From a personal point of view, I can tell you that doesn’t usually happen in professional kitchens, where most chefs use their sense of touch. But tasting a metal wire, that’s just weird. 

(Image via Flickr from our friend Adam Kuban. For the record the above burger was way too raw for him and he called it “completely inedible”)

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink