To kill the pathogens that can cause food poisoning, foods need to be cooked to a high enough temperature, and either to be kept hot until served for eating, or to be rapidly cooled and refrigerated. This is because, although thorough cooking kills most bacteria, spores of some can survive this cooking. These spores do not cause a problem unless the food is left at a temperature of between about 10°C (50°F) and 63°C (145°F) after cooking, which can allow the spores to give rise to pathogens that multiply within this temperature range.
Ideally, use a digital thermometer such as a Thermapen to measure the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry. To make sure that the meat is cooked all the way through, it needs to reach a core temperature of at least 70°C (158°F) for 2 minutes. The colour of cooked meat and poultry is not always a sure sign of its degree of doneness. Only by using a food thermometer can you accurately determine that a meat has reached a safe temperature.
Thorough cooking right through is especially important with minced meat because the pathogens that are on the outside of the meat before mincing spread through the mince. Cook food made from mince to an internal temperature of at least 70°C (158°F) for 2 minutes. In any event, do not eat any food made with mince if it is still pink in the middle or if the juices are cloudy.
If prepacked food labels carry cooking instructions, follow these carefully. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm, not runny. Do not use recipes in which raw or only partially cooked eggs are used. Cook fish until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
When cooking in a microwave oven, make sure that the food is piping hot throughout before serving. You may need to mix it or turn it round during cooking to achieve this. If not piping hot throughout, microwave for a further period.
If you need to re-heat stored chilled leftovers, heat to a centre temperature of 74°C (165°F) or microwave until piping hot throughout. Never re-heat more than once. Keep hot food hot until the time of eating. If you intend to eat cooked food hot, but are not ready to serve it promptly after cooking, keep it hot, at 63°C (145°F) or higher.
With ovens even digital thermostats will only tell you what the temperature should be, rather than what it actually is. An oven thermometer is vital if you want to ensure your food is cooked to the correct and safe temperature.