Meat and Poultry Temperature Guide

Use our internal-temperature chart to serve perfectly cooked meat every time.

Categories:
Pork, Beef, Meat, Grilling

Cooking meat and poultry to that perfect state of “just right” is not as elusive as it sounds. While judging doneness by look and feel is an uncertain art at best, it is actually pretty easy to get great results all the time when you use an instant-read thermometer. A thermometer is the only reliable way to measure internal temperature. Take a few minutes to commit these temperatures to memory, or jot them down in a place near where you keep your thermometer. Factor in carryover cooking, which happens when meat keeps cooking for a few minutes after you remove it from the heat source. Rely on the thermometer for doneness, and save your creativity for seasoning and presentation.
 
Note: The following table shows Food Network Kitchen's preferred internal temperatures for meat and poultry based on taste and texture. Out of a concern for safety, the USDA recommends higher temperatures for whole cuts of beef and lamb than we do. We have included the USDA recommendations, leaving it up to you to decide.

USDA Safe Minimum Food Network Kitchen

Chicken & Turkey

Whole 165 165 breast 165-175 thigh

Parts 165 same as above

Stuffed 165 165

Ground 165 170-75

Beef & Lamb

Rare 125 + 3 minute rest

Medium rare 130-135

Medium 135-140

Medium well 145 + 3 minute rest 140-150

Well done 155+

Ground 160 160

Pork

Medium rare 145 + 3 minute rest

145 + 3 minute rest

Medium 150

Well done 160

Ground 160 160

A Few Notes on Meat Safety:

When determining the temperature to cook your meat to, there's a crucial distinction to be made between whole muscle cuts and ground meat. The food scientist Harold McGee explains:

"... meats inevitably harbor bacteria, and it takes temperatures of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher to guarantee the rapid destruction of the bacteria that can cause human disease — temperatures at which meat is well-done and has lost much of its moisture. So is eating juicy, pink-red meat risky? Not if the cut is an intact piece of healthy muscle tissue, a steak or chop, and its surface has been thoroughly cooked: bacteria are on the meat surfaces, not inside. "

In other words, with whole cuts of meat it is the external temp, not the internal temp, that must exceed 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal cooking methods — sauteing, grilling, roasting, braising, etc. — raise surface temperatures far above 160 degrees Fahrenheit. (To get a sense of this, consider that meat only begins to brown at 230 degrees Fahrenheit.) People very rarely get sick from rare or medium-rare meat. Overwhelmingly, people get sick from the way meat is handled in the home: from cross-contamination, lack of cleanliness and holding meat at dangerous temps. Internal temperature should be the least of your worries.

Nonetheless, we should emphasize that extra caution must be exercised when cooking for at-risk groups, particularly the elderly, children under 7 and the immuno-compromised. In such cases, we suggest the USDA guidelines be strictly followed.

When raw meat is ground up, the distinction between internal and external no longer applies. McGee says: 

"Ground meats are riskier, because the contaminated meat surface is broken into small fragments and spread through the mass. The interior of a raw hamburger usually does contain bacteria, and is safest if cooked well done." 

Because E. coli is killed at 155 degrees Fahrenheit, the USDA sets the minimum safe temperature for ground beef at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. We can only second this.