Meat Cooking Temperatures are an Important part of Food Safety in the Kitchen


Knowing the right meat cooking temperatures will keep your family healthy and safe from food-borne illnesses. While many of us grew up learning to cook by simply using meat cooking times and the appearance of the food, with the illnesses that are so common now, it is very important to use stronger proof that the meat is done. Cooking temperature is an easy way to get an accurate reading of your meat's doneness.

By using the correct meat cooking temperature, you can protect your family from ,Salmonella, E. coli and many other food-borne illnesses. It also keeps your food from being overcooked, ensuring you get a tasty meal. If you use meat cooking times only, you may get different results each time, since each piece of meat may be a little larger or smaller than the one before.

Using a thermometer is an easy way to ensure your family's safety. There are several types of meat thermometers to choose from. Regular, oven proof thermometers can be put into your roast or turkey when you first put the meat into the oven.

Digital and instant-read thermometers cannot stay in the oven during cooking, but are intended to give you a very quick reading by being inserted in the cooked food. Pop-up thermometers are usually found in turkeys, but you can buy them separately as well. Microwave-safe thermometers are designed specially to be used in the microwave.

Next, it is important to consider the type of meat you are cooking. Ground meat has more surface area and more chance to become contaminated while being prepared. An instant-read or digital thermometer is perfect for checking that burger you're cooking to see if it has reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Solid roasts or steak may be a little safer if they have not been pierced during processing and preparation. Whole poultry and cut up poultry need special care since it is easy to undercook poultry that contains bones.

No matter what meat you're cooking, be sure to check your meat cooking temperatures in the thickest portion of the meat. For poultry, that usually means in the breast or the thigh, making sure the tip of the thermometer does not touch the bone.

For a burger, steak or chop, insert the thermometer through the side of the burger. For a roast, put the thermometer right into the thickest portion of meat.

Proper Meat Storage is also Important

A good rule of thumb is to follow these minimum internal temperatures for different meats:

Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, chops and roasts can be cooked to medium rare when the thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooked to medium it will read 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fish should follow these guidelines as well.

Eggs, ground meat and all cuts of pork should be cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This keeps the meat in a safe range for you and your family.

Leftovers, poultry, casseroles and stuffing should be cooked until the thermometer registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make sure your thermometer is accurate, you can calibrate it. Accuracy is important so you know your meat cooking temperatures are correct. Many oven proof thermometers have a calibration nut located where the base of the stem joins with the dial.

You can check it by dipping the tip into boiling water and reading the dial. At sea level, the dial should read 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

For every additional 1,000 feet you are located above sea level, the boiling water temperature should register 2 degrees lower. In Denver, Colorado, for example, water boils at 200 degrees. If your thermometer has a calibration nut, you can adjust it if needed.

Additional safety measures include washing your preparation tools and surfaces before you begin preparing anything else. Cross-contamination can be a big problem if raw meat juices come into contact with vegetables or other foods. When you take the temperature of your cooking meat, be sure you wash the thermometer each time.

Before cooking your meat, be sure all absorbent paper, plastic pads and other packaging has been removed.

As you can see, by paying attention to your meat cooking temperatures, it is easy to protect your family from food-borne illnesses. It only takes a moment to verify the temperature, and it ensures that you will be eating a well-cooked meal.