Expert offers safety tips for grilling beef-alternative burgers on Memorial Day
Hamburgers are an American classic. There are few foods that embody what a Memorial Day weekend should taste like sinking your teeth into a juicy burger hot off the grill. But with more and more Americans opting for beef-alternatives like plant-based and turkey burgers in recent years, it’s important to keep in mind that the requirements for safely cooking and enjoying a beef hamburger won’t necessarily apply to a black bean burger.
Melissa Wright, director of the Food Producer Technical Assistance Program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech, has a few tips for keeping foodborne illness away from your Memorial Day cookout.
“If you choose the classic ground beef burger, it should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F or 71°C,” Wright said. “There are many alternative burger options, and knowing the correct internal temperature for each type is the best way to make sure your long weekend isn’t ruined by foodborne illness.”
Wright said the appropriate cooking temperatures for popular burger options include:
● Ground chicken or turkey – 165°F (74°C)
● ImpossibleTM burgers (soy protein) – 160°F (71°C), according to product packaging
● Beyond® burgers (pea protein) – 165°F (74°C), according to product packaging
● Morningstar Farms® burgers (chickpea protein) – 165°F (74°C), according to product packaging
● Black bean burgers – 165°F (74°C)
● Ground salmon – 145°F (63°C)
● Ground bison – 160°F (71°C)
● Ground elk – 145°F (63°C)
“Food continues to cook after being removed from the heat source, so it’s alright to remove your burger from the grill and check its internal temperature after a couple of minutes to avoid overcooking,” said Wright.
“Beef-alternative meats are much leaner so it’s easy to overcook them if beef is what you’re used to grilling,” she said. “Visual browning will assist in knowing it’s close to done and then the temperature can be checked to confirm.”
Wright said that some “ready-to-eat” options — such as portobello caps and cauliflower steaks — don’t have a minimum internal temperature requirement, which makes it all the more important to avoid contamination.
“Avoiding cross-contamination between raw proteins and ready-to-eat foods is very important,” she said. “Remember to use separate cutting boards and utensils for produce and meat. Uncooked plant-based burgers should be included in this category when prepping to grill.”
Melissa Wright is director of the Food Producer Technical Assistant Network at Virginia Tech, which supports the food entrepreneur by assisting with starting a food business, nutrition label content, food safety analysis, and pertinent food regulations. The program’s goal is to help Virginia’s food-processing industry produce high-quality, safe, and innovative food products. As part of the Virginia Cooperative Extension network in the Department of Food Science and Technology under the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the program provides affordable and valuable assistance to help food entrepreneurs and businesses bring their products to market of food products produced in Virginia and beyond.
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