Nutrition-wise blog

Remember 3 numbers for safely cooking meat

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. July 2, 2011

No matter the season, food safety should always be on the menu. And that means using a thermometer to judge when meat and poultry are fully cooked. But remembering the appropriate meat cooking temperature can be challenging. Well, that just got a bit easier.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently revised the recommended internal cooking temperatures for all whole cuts of meat. Now you just have to remember three numbers:

  • 145 F for whole cuts, such as ribs, roasts, chops and steaks, of beef, pork, lamb and fish
  • 160 F for ground versions of the above
  • 165 F for all poultry

Be sure to cook foods to these recommended temperatures. Check the temperature by putting the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Don't rely on looks. Appearance is not a safe indicator of doneness.

When a whole cut of meat reaches the right temperature, remove it from the heat but continue to watch the thermometer to ensure it's at or above the minimum temperature for at least 3 minutes. The temperature may continue to rise — this is normal.

Leave the thermometer in the meat until you see the temperature start to cool. This will preserve some of the moisture in the meat while still allowing enough time to kill or reduce the bacteria always present on meat.

You might wonder if higher temperatures are better, but that's not necessarily the case. By using the temperatures above, you can be safe and still keep food moist and juicy.

To your health,

Katherine

Jul. 02, 2011