The last thing you want to invite to your Memorial Day cookout is foodborne illness.

An expert from Virginia Tech offers some suggestions for keeping it at bay, even when cooking something you may have less experience with, such as plant-based or turkey burgers instead of beef patties.

“If you choose the classic ground beef burger, it should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F, or 71° C,” said 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.

“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 added.

For ground chicken or turkey, the appropriate temperature is 165° F.

Impossible burgers, made with soy protein, should be cooked to 160° F. Their Beyond burgers counterparts, made with pea protein, and Morningstar Farms burgers, with chickpea protein, need to reach 165° F. That’s also the temperature that black bean burgers should reach, Wright advised.

Ground bison needs to reach 160° F. Both ground elk and ground salmon need to get to 145° F.

“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,” Wright said in a school news release.

“Beef-alternative meats are much leaner, so it’s easy to overcook them if beef is what you’re used to grilling,” Wright added. “Visual browning will assist in knowing it’s close to done and then the temperature can be checked to confirm.”

It’s also important to avoid contamination with foods that don’t require a minimal internal temperature. This includes portobella caps and cauliflower steaks.

“Avoiding cross-contamination between raw proteins and ready-to-eat foods is very important,” Wright 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.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on foodborne germs and illness.

SOURCE: Virginia Tech, news release, May 23, 2023