Home Grilling this Memorial Day weekend? Get expert tips for healthy cooking
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Grilling this Memorial Day weekend? Get expert tips for healthy cooking

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Memorial Day weekend is about food, family, warmer weather and water. For those who choose to fire up the grill, a Virginia Tech expert offers advice to make sure your long weekend isn’t ruined by a foodborne illness.

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 food safe when cooked on the grill.

“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.”

Knowing the correct internal temperature for each type of burger is the best way to make sure your family and friends don’t end up sick from undercooking meat, said Wright.

Grab your meat thermometer, and fire up the grill.

  • Beef burger – 160°F (71°C)
  • 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. 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.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.