Safe Meat Serving Temperatures

There’s nothing more embarrassing than dedicating your time to a wonderfully grilled piece of meat, only to cut into it and discover that it is still raw on the inside. After hours of hard work and focus, having to fire up the grill again and throw the meat back on is incredibly frustrating. When learning to grill there is nothing more important than knowing the temperature to cook your meat to. Otherwise, it can end up in illness and in some severe cases; death. 

Safe Meat Serving Temps…

Beef160 degrees Fahrenheit
Chicken165 degrees Fahrenheit
Turkey165 degrees Fahrenheit
Pork145 degrees Fahrenheit
Ground Pork160 degrees Fahrenheit
Lamb (roast)145 degrees Fahrenheit
Lamb (ground, chops)165 degrees Fahrenheit
Fish145 degrees Fahrenheit

Beef

One of the most difficult meats to grill is beef. Many love their steaks medium rare or even rare. As a griller, it can be difficult to know what is safe. Fresh beef should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure no one will end up sick. The absolute bare minimum is 145 degrees; but even then, try not to risk it. Some cuts of beef are cooked or smoked well past this point, like a brisket usually runs over 200 degrees.

Consider Rest Time 

With many types of meat and especially with beef, it is important to consider rest time. When I think of rest time it is the final stretch of the grilling process and you are waiting for the meat to consistently reach the final temperature. And by this I mean, don’t be ripping the meat off the grill the moment it hits 160 degrees, but give it about 3 minutes of the same consistent temperature. Resting meat also lets the juices soak back into the cut which makes for a more tender juicy meal.

Use A Food Thermometer with Beef

I mentioned it above, but I’ll mention it again, beef is a tricky meat to cook. It is not like chicken or turkey; where, if it still looks pink on the inside you know it is inedible. Many people like rare steaks. This can be difficult to master. It is easy to mess up without a food thermometer. A thermometer is a great tool to use when trying to nail that perfectly cooked steak (and other types of beef). Don’t be afraid to take it out and test your meat as you go. 

Chicken/Turkey 

The most common meat that is found on Americans’ kitchen table is chicken. When cooking chicken, it can be hard to not get your feathers all ruffled while trying not to overcook it. But that is no excuse for having an under-cooked chicken.

Devastating Numbers of Raw Chicken Consumption 

Consuming raw or under-cooked chicken can lead to terrible illnesses that will leave in the bathroom or even worse, in the hospital. Every year, there are approximately 1 million cases of people consuming raw and undercooked chicken. These illnesses are devastating even if it is only for 24 hours. 

The Correct Temperature for Cooking Raw Chicken 

The right temperature for cooking chicken is 165 degrees and no less. Undercooking your chicken could leave your whole family running to the bathroom in under an hour. Some pink spots in your chicken may seem like a pass but this could lead to a restless night of illness. 

picture of raw chicken

Chicken Thighs Vs. Chicken Breasts 

A long-winded debate that has divided my wife and I for years is the white vs. dark chicken meat discussion. For me, I am way more of a dark meat kind of guy and I love the rich and juicy flavors of a tender, slow-cooked thigh or leg. For my wife, she feels like the white meat is much more palatable and relatively easier to cook. 

These two different cuts of meat must be cooked a bit differently. This should be taken into consideration when trying to cook chicken safely. A chicken thigh should be slow-roasted or cooked at a lower temperature for longer, compared to the breast. This is because the fat content in the thigh is what gives it the great juicy flavor. A breast can be cooked quicker and at higher temperatures. Make sure that when cooking a chicken breast, you do not cook it at too high of a temperature. This could cause you to end up with a raw center, that doesn’t get a chance to cook through. 

What About Turkey? 

Turkey is in the poultry family with chicken. Although turkey is not consumed at as high of a rate as chicken, it still needs the same attention as cooking chicken. Turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Pork 

There are several different ways to enjoy pork, for example, some of my favorites are pork tenderloin and some juicy tender pork chops with a bit of apple flavoring. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. But you know what makes pork chops scrumptious? When they are cooked all the way through but still avoiding the tough, dryness of overcooking. Pork chops are best when they have lots of juice left in them. It can be difficult to master the desire for juiciness while trying to cook them all the way through. I actually find the pork chop one of the most difficult meats to cook perfectly.

Pork chops on the Grill

What Temperature Should Pork Be Cooked At? 

Any slab of pork should be cooked to at least an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Although, it is suggested that ground pork is cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When you take the temperature of the pork, sticking the thermometer in can be a bit odd. Sometimes, one area seems above temperature and it may seem done. However, you will want to be sure that you stick the temperature gauge in the thickest and meatiest part of the meat so you know it is ready. This also goes for just about any other piece of meat. 

How To Cook Pork Tenderloin and Roast

Cooking a pork tenderloin or roast can easily be messed up by being overly cautious about cooking the meat through. Trust me, I have overcooked many pork tenderloins in my life and my wife seemed like she was going to break her jaw trying to chew it. Figuring out the timing of the pork tenderloin and the roast is key. The main key of advice to remember is that you really cannot rush it. Some of my favorite pork roasts have been from slow cookers and slow roasters which take up to 8 hours

If you don’t quite have 8 hours to roast an entire tenderloin, then my suggestion is that per pound of tenderloin (or roast) try to cook for at least 25 minutes. I would use the same steady temperature at 375 and do not crank it up from there. This way, your pork can turn out tender and juicy without being raw inside, and make sure the internal temperature hits at least 145 degrees

Grilling vs. Oven Roasting Pork 

Grilling times vs. roasting in the oven times will vary but check out this chart to see exact times for different cuts. They vary so widely because of where the cut is from on the body. Some pork cuts are thicker and denser than others and some are a bit more delicate like ham. It all depends on the cut and where that was taken from on the pig. Grilling time will usually be a bit longer than roasting times since temperatures can fluctuate while grilling. 

Lamb

In many countries and the USA, lamb is a delicate and tasty treat for the kitchen table. Often, lamb is aged to perfection for 6 days to 10 weeks for top-notch taste and flavor. Cooking lamb carefully and well is important to enjoy safely. 

The Rise of Food Poisoning From Lamb: Cooking Diced vs. Chops 

Usually, lighter meats like chicken or turkey as well as eggs raise concern for carrying salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium that can infect your stomach and make you very sick and dehydrated for a day or up to several weeks. 

salmonella

Many think that pink lamb is okay to serve as long as the outside is cooked. This is true for a nicely seared lamb roast but this is not true for shredded or ground lamb. The outside of the raw lamb is where the bad bacteria live. When it is shredded or chopped, this bad bacterium can get all over the lamb and can cause contamination if not cooked thoroughly. 

How To Handle Lamb At Home

If you are looking to cook or grill a lamb delicacy in your own home, be sure to cook it to at least 145 degrees or 165 degrees Fahrenheit for lamb chops. Like I mentioned above, cook the lamb differently for different cuts. 

Cubes or ground lamb patties must have no pink, whereas a roast can have a slight pink in them. Always be sure that the outside of a roast is seared hot enough to get rid of any lingering bacteria. 

The best guide to follow is the USDA recommendations for how to properly cook your lamb. Lamb can be tricky to master but I have absolute faith in you. 

Fish 

Light and feathery meat, fish is delicate and needs some extra care and attention when being handled. One of my favorite fish to cook is salmon. However, it takes some good practice and tips to cook or smoke properly. I have had my fair share of seemingly flaky fish turn out to be undercooked and raw in the middle and it is heartbreaking but I want to help you prevent this from happening. 

The Correct Cooking Temperature for Fish

This goes for all fish and not just salmon but I always make sure the internal temperature of my fish is at least 145 degrees. I prefer it to be a bit higher but the USDA recommends at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit for those that like to cook low. 

Eating and Preparing Raw Fish, Is it Safe? 

One of my personal favorites is sushi and smoked salmon. The biggest concern when eating and preparing these foods is risking the spread of the Listeria bacterium into our bodies. Pregnant women should especially watch out for raw fish such as sushi because there is a risk to them and their child.  

Smoked Salmon on white plate
Smoked Salmon

How to Cook Fish

Cooking fish at home is relatively safe and easier than you may think. The most important and very first step is to buy your fish from a reputable store. This way you are starting with good fish, to begin with. Then, there are multiple ways to prepare it. You can either bake it in the oven, grill it or pan fry it. I love a nice grilled salmon in the summertime, smoked salmon in the morning on my bagel, or some pan-fried tilapia. Just be sure that when you are pan-frying it that you flip the fish at least once or twice to get a nice golden-brown crust. Use a temperature gauge to make sure it reaches 165 degrees internally. 



Conclusion

Under-cooked meat can be dangerous and hazardous to your health and the health of your loved ones. However, there is no need to fret because as long you follow the minimum internal temperatures then you should be all set to go. Try finding a nice thermometer that will allow you to measure the internal temperatures accurately and safely. While there are a wide variety of meats out there, most need to be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered free of harmful bacterium. The most important step is to be aware and if anything, overcooked meat is better than raw meat. It may take a few tries to get that perfect juicy and tender entree mastered but always try to keep food safety in mind every time you cook.

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