At what temperature to cook to kill bacteria in food?

There are some products that can and should even be eaten raw. But most food must undergo a cooking process, in order to kill bacteria, as well as to improve its taste, appearance or texture. Heat is one of the simplest, safest and cheapest ways to kill pathogenic microorganisms.

This should not be done indiscriminately, as excess can also affect meals, impairing nutritional quality. In this article we will learn about the appropriate temperature to kill bacteria in water and food, depending on the type of cooking: frying, roasting, boiling or microwave.

Bacteria in food

As long as they have the appropriate temperature and humidity conditions, bacteria can reproduce and thrive in almost any environmenteven in the human body. In fact, we have many that do not harm us, but rather help us. Only a few produce diseases, which are called pathogens:

  • Escherichia coli: it can damage the small intestine causing infectious diarrhea.
  • Salmonella: produces diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
  • Staphylococci: cause different types of gastrointestinal and skin infections, as well as the respiratory tract.

The reproduction of bacteria depends on various factors, such as the acidity of the food, the amount of water it has or the temperature at which it is kept. Anyway, the risk of disease can be reduced by taking various measures to kill bacteria, including cooking.

Bacteria can be in food and in the human body, but not all are pathogenic.

You can continue reading: The differences between viruses and bacteria

Recommended temperature to kill bacteria in food

Cooking can kill bacteria, but also lead to the elimination of some nutrients. For this reason, it is very important to control the heat that ensures that the food is good in both ways: that it is safe and that it is nutritious.

So the heat should not be too much or too little, but just enough. And how much is fair? To begin with, it should be noted that at more than 70 ºC most pathogens die. Some do not even support temperatures above 55 ºC. This also happens when they are cooled below 5 ° C.

When we cook, these temperatures are reached and even exceeded in most methods. used cooking tools. And the longer the heat is maintained, the more bacterial accumulations are eliminated.

In any case, a temperature that is too high could favor the appearance of toxic substances in some foods, so it is important to maintain balance when cooking. For example, in foods that contain starch (bread, cookies, cakes) the excess leads to the formation of acrylamides, a substance considered pro-carcinogenic.

Discover: Increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in your intestines.

Recommended temperature to kill bacteria in water

Nowadays, most of the water for human consumption is subjected to treatments to minimize potentially harmful bacteria and substances. However, in certain circumstances the quality of the water can be affected. For example, when there has been a service interruption or after natural disasters.

It should be noted that organisms that cause diseases of bacterial origin, such as salmonellosis, dysentery and cholera, may be present in untreated water.

Therefore, in places or times when there is no direct access to drinking water, the option is to boil it. The World Health Organization notes that bacteria in water die at temperatures above 65 ° C. It is recommended to keep it at 100 ° C for one minute. In cases where the water is too cloudy, it is recommended to filter beforehand and use the one closest to the surface.

Even if the tap or pipe comes out cloudy, let it run for a few minutes before collecting it to boil. Once boiled, it should be stored in clean, tightly closed containers.

Temperatures reached according to the type of cooking

The effects of heat on food vary depending on the type of cooking, temperature and time. Of course, boiling is not the same as frying. When in contact with water or oil, the chemical changes that occur in food are different.

On the other hand, it should be taken into account that in some of these procedures there is a temperature gradation that can decrease a little when the product is introduced, especially if it is cold or frozen.


When frying food, high temperatures are reached, from 180 ºC to more than 200 ºC. It varies with the intensity of the flame, the size of the container, and the thickness of the container wall.

For this reason, care must be taken and be vigilant when it is frying so as not to burn the food and avoid the proliferation of toxins. Likewise, you must choose a quality oil that is clean, trying not to reuse it.


In this procedure, the food is placed in a container with boiling water. Thus, temperatures of 100 ºC are reached.

Depending on the type of food, a few minutes may be required, in the case of pasta; 15 minutes to half an hour for rice (brown rice takes a little longer) and up to an hour for some soups.


It is called roast cooking that is done with dry heat in an oven (closed chamber). In this case, the food is placed on a surface receiving the heat evenly from all sides, since the air that circulates around it is also hot.

The oven is the most used system for meat, fish and desserts. The average temperature for baking a cake in a home oven is 375 ° F or, what is the same to say, close to 175 ° C.

Microwave oven

We use the microwave more for heating than for cooking. In this appliance, food is heated by the movement of molecules, which produces friction and heat.

In microwaves we talk about power. But, for a reference, the equivalent that is reached is about 100 ° C. When using it, it should be remembered that the heat generated is not uniform; therefore, cold areas may remain if the food is not turned over and the reasonable time is allowed.

The use of the microwave is more widespread for heating than for cooking, but there they reach 100ºC.


Grilling is the method we use when we barbecue, grill or grill. This procedure consists of roasting strips of meat, pieces of chicken or fish on a metal grill placed over the fire. Of course, it must be done outdoors so that carbon monoxide does not affect us.

The temperature in the embers can be between 150 ° C and 175 ° C, even up to 190 ° C. This depends on whether it is red hot or fiery, how close the grill is to the heat and the type of fuel (charcoal or wood).

Killing bacteria in food and preventing them from reproducing

Undercooked or undercooked poultry, meat, seafood and fish are the cause of food poisoning and various diseases, due to the bacteria present that are not eliminated. But this is not the only cause.

Pathogenic bacteria have an optimal growth temperature close to 37 ° C. So, the first precautionary measure is to keep food refrigerated when they are not going to be consumed for a certain time.

In the same way, the efficiency of the cooking does not exempt from possible contamination, especially if the guidelines regarding handling have been followed before. Therefore, food must be washed well to remove traces of dirt or pesticides that may affect us.