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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Hamburger Cooking Tips from the E. coli Lawyer

I admit it. I know too much. I have been to too many slaughterhouses and Hospital ICUs – my family does not eat hamburger.  I would not eat it, I do not cook it and I certainly do not serve it.  That is my tip.  Just say No!  Or as I told Misti the Columbus Dispatch reporter:

Most cooks don’t consider that their food might be poisonous, said William Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represents people sickened by contaminated food.

But Marler doesn’t have to worry much about etiquette at the barbecue.

He’s never invited.

However, for those not able to remain just tempted, the Columbus Dispatch has a list:

Grilling guidelines

Start at the store:

1. Pick up meat last so it doesn’t sit in cart. Put meat and poultry into plastic bags to keep juices from dripping on groceries.
2. Take meat home and put it in the refrigerator quickly. If that’s not possible, bring along a cooler with ice. Always refrigerate perishable food within two hours (one if it’s 90 degrees or warmer outside).

Prepare with care:

1. Thaw meat and poultry before grilling to ensure even cooking. Thaw in the refrigerator or thaw sealed packages in cold water. The microwave can be used if you’ll be placing the food on the grill immediately.
2. Marinate in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
3. Don’t take meat and poultry out of the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it.
4. When transporting food to a cookout, keep it cold in an insulated container with ice or ice packs.
5. Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish it later.

Take the temperature:

1. Use a thermometer and cook to at least these temperatures:
2. Poultry (all varieties): 165 degrees
3. Hamburgers: 160 degrees
4. Beef, veal and lamb: 145 degrees (medium rare)
5. Pork: 160 degrees
6. When reheating cooked meats (such as hot dogs), heat to 165 degrees or steaming hot.

Serve safely:

1. Put cooked food on a clean plate.
2. Don’t use the same utensils for raw meat and cooked meat.
3. Keep cooked foods warm until they’re eaten, either by putting them off to the side of the grill or in an oven set to 200 degrees. Warming trays, chafing dishes and slow cookers also work.
4. Put away food that has been out for two hours. If it’s 90 degrees or warmer, put it away after one hour.
5. Keep cold foods cold by placing them in a container with ice.
6. Keep beverages and perishable foods in separate coolers.

  • A few more ideas:
    Don’t reuse the marinade – toss it.
    Don’t use the knife you cut the chicken with to cut salad or vegetables.
    Do use indirect heat and cook longer – more likely to bbq to correct temp without drying the meat out.
    Don’t re-freeze meat that already has red water in the package – it has already been frozen.
    Do use your sense of smell – anything that smells a wee bit off ought to be chucked.
    Do smoke, blacken and indirect cook to your hearts content. (Well that is not really a safety tip, just a cooking tip.)

  • Matt

    I’ve read “Fast Food Nation” and that was enough to put me off commercial hamburger for good. But there’s a Farmer’s Market near me, a real live cattle farmer has set up shop. Grass fed beef, skillfully butchered. The price is high compared to the grocery store, but I don’t mind anymore.

  • cb

    better yet, grind your own meat. purchasing whole meat, searing the outsides then grinding it yourself will allow you to cook your hamburgers (relatively) safely without having to char them to oblivion.
    besides, any RPP that knows anything about how ground beef is made wouldn’t eat that stuff. when the meat’s coming from a gagillion cattle, even the most prudent producers of ground beef can come up with a bad lot.
    i wonder if ground meat production could qualify as an ultrahazardous activity?