Meat and Poultry Temperature Guide

Use our internal-temperature chart to serve perfectly cooked chicken, turkey, beef, lamb and pork.

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April 20, 2021
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Photo by: EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS/Getty Images

EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS/Getty Images

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.

Meat Temperatures

At what temperature is chicken and turkey done?

To take the temperature of a whole chicken or turkey, insert the thermometer straight down into the thickest part of the breast near the backbone and straight down into the thigh, taking care not to hit the bone (which can cause an incorrect reading). If you’re cooking chicken parts, stuffed chicken or ground chicken, insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part to take the temperature.

Chicken breast: 165 degrees F

Chicken thigh: 165 to 175 degrees F

Stuffed chicken: 165 degrees F

Ground chicken: 170 to 175 degrees F

At what temperature is beef and lamb done?

Insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat to take the temperature, taking care to avoid any bones if there are any.

Rare: 125 degrees F + 3 minutes of resting time

Medium rare: 130 to 135 degrees F

Medium: 135 to 140 degrees F

Medium well: 140 to 150 degrees F

Well done: 155+ degrees F

Ground: 160 degrees F

At what temperature is pork done?

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to take the temperature, taking care to avoid any bones if there are any.

Medium rare: 145 degrees F + 3 minutes rest

Medium: 150 degrees F

Well done: 160 degrees F

Ground: 160 degrees F

We roasted chickens and checked the temperature throughout the cooking process to see how quickly the thermometers registered the temperature of the meat. We also tested for accuracy by placing each thermometer in a glass of ice water to see how quickly and precisely they measured the freezing temperature. Here are the best picks.

What is carryover cooking?

Meat will continue cooking even after you’ve removed it from a heat source. That means if your steak hits the perfect medium-rare temperature on the grill, it will continue to rise several degrees while it’s resting. Meat temperature can increase 10 degrees or more while it's resting, depending on its size. The larger the cut, the more carryover cooking will occur. So, if you’re cooking a larger piece of meat (such as a turkey), you will want to remove it from the heat source when its several degrees under the USDA’s official temperature for doneness.

What to Know About Taking the Temperature of Ground Meat

You may have noticed that ground meat often needs to be cooked to a slightly higher temperature than whole cuts of meat. The food scientist Harold McGee explains a crucial distinction to be made between whole muscle cuts and ground meat: "... 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. " 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.

A Few Notes on Meat Safety

People very rarely get sick from rare or medium-rare cuts of whole 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.

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