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Published: Thursday, 4/29/2010

Burger Season Is Back -- Don't Forget The Basics

(ARA) - Americans love hamburgers, that's a fact. An estimated 1.5 billion pounds of ground beef become those favored burgers cooked at home each year. Whether it's gas versus charcoal, with cheese or without, every burger fan has a different opinion about what makes the perfect patty.

But there's one thing most burger enthusiasts agree on. According to a national consumer survey from The Beef Checkoff, 90 percent of people enjoy their burger cooked to medium (160 F) doneness or higher. However, some home chefs and grillmasters are using unsafe methods for checking when a burger is done, like cutting into them with a knife, squishing them with a spatula, or just making an educated guess.

Dave Zino, executive director of the Beef and Veal Culinary Center at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, suggests a better method for checking your burgers to ensure a juicy, flavorful and safe result.

"Don't waste time with guesswork and techniques that can affect the quality of your burger," Zino says. "Use an instant-read meat thermometer each and every time to make sure you're cooking ground beef to 160 F. It's the only sure-fire way to achieve the doneness most people prefer while also ensuring a safe meal."

No matter the hamburger preference, the beef industry is dedicated to providing consumers with healthy and nutritious food. Steps taken at every segment of the beef production chain -- from pasture to plate -- ensure the safest product possible. However, there still are many opportunities for consumers to improve food safety in their own kitchens, and making sure your ground beef is cooked to 160 F is just one of them.

"Whether I am at work as a professional chef or in my home kitchen, food safety is always a part the recipe," Zino says.

Try Chef Dave's tips to ensure your burgers are safe and savory:

* Keep beef refrigerated, even when thawing it. Don't leave beef out at room temperature.

* Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after making patties or preparing any other foods.

* Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw and ready-to-eat foods separate. Think ahead when at the grill or stove and have a clean plate ready for cooked meat.

* Insert an instant-read meat thermometer sideways into the center of the patty. Always cook burgers to an internal temperature of 160 F.

* Have leftover burgers? Refrigerate cooked foods no later than two hours after cooking.

Classic Beef Cheeseburgers

Makes four servings. Preparation and cooking time: 25 to 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

2 teaspoons steak seasoning blend

4 hamburger buns, split

4 slices cheese (such as Cheddar, American, Swiss, etc.)

4 lettuce leaves

4 tomato slices

Toppings:

Ketchup, mustard, onion slices, pickles

Directions:

Combine ground beef and steak seasoning in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 3/4-inch thick patties.

Place patties on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, uncovered, 13 to 15 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, covered, 13 to 14 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 F, turning occasionally. About two minutes before burgers are done, place buns, cut sides down, on grid. Grill until lightly toasted. During last minute of grilling, top each burger with cheese slice.

Line bottom of each bun with lettuce leaf; top with tomato slice, burger, and toppings, as desired. Close sandwiches.

Cook's Tip: To prepare on stovetop, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place patties in skillet; cook 12 to 15 minutes until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 F, turning occasionally.

Cook's Tip: Other popular burger toppings include grilled or caramelized onions, blue cheese, bacon, sauteed mushrooms and barbecue sauce.

Cook's Tip: Cooking times are for fresh or thoroughly thawed ground beef. Color is not a reliable indicator of ground beef doneness.

This recipe is an excellent source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, selenium and zinc. Courtesy of ARAcontent



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