Thermal stability of vegetative cells of Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli and Lactobacillus plantarum was studied by counting viable fractions and determining DSC curves of their suspensions. DSC curves in the 5–99°C range showed a series of endothermic transitions between 50 and 60°C, where the heat destruction of cells occurred. Heat denaturation of DNA required a higher temperature than cell killing. Thermal death was strongly influenced by the pH, composition and NaCl content of the suspending buffer. A mathematical model developed by us enabled comparison of DSC peak temperatures and temperatures required for loss of viability.