Your Cookbook Could Make You Sick


Don’t count on cookbooks, even the most popular ones, to give much useful or accurate advice about food safety.

A 2017 study in the British Food Journal evaluated 1,497 recipes from best-selling cookbooks that contained at least one raw animal ingredient (eggs, meat, poultry, seafood) intended to be cooked and whose internal temperature could be measured with a food thermometer. Only 123 (8 percent) of the recipes instructed cooking to a specific temperature-and of those, 34 gave a wrong temperature.

Moreover, most recipes, whether they provided correct endpoint temperatures or not, gave subjective, unscientific “doneness” recommendations-such as to cook for a certain time or to a certain color or texture, which are generally not reliable safety indicators. Cooking time, for instance, does not ensure safety because of differences in cooking equipment and in the ingredients themselves, such as their size and initial temperature. Some descriptions of doneness, such as to cook until “totally done,” were especially vague and questionable. (In some cases, subjective measurements of “doneness” are considered acceptable, however-for foods too small or thin to be tested with a thermometer, for instance, and for eggs that are scrambled until not runny and ground beef that’s cooked until all brown.)

Bottom line: Home cooks should pay little attention to subjective recommendations in recipes regarding “doneness.” Instead, they should double-check proper cooking temperatures at such reliable sources as