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Whether you’re cooking a quick meal or organizing a backyard barbecue, cooking meat to the proper temperature is an essential part of safe food handling. Undercooked meat can contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites that’ll easily take all the fun out of your food adventures. Want to know what temperatures the long-trusted United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends for each type of meat? Read on below!
How to check temperature
The best way to check temperature is with an instant-read meat thermometer. Always make sure you push the thermometer probe to the center of the thickest part of the meat to get an accurate reading.
Ground meat patties like burgers and chicken patties can be checked with a meat thermometer. For loose ground meat, however, it can be difficult to check the temperature with a thermometer. Make sure all loose ground meat is thoroughly browned, and cut open bigger pieces to make sure they aren’t pink inside.
As a general rule, ground meats need to be cooked to a higher temperature than whole steaks, roasts, or other unground meat. That’s because most disease-causing bacteria and viruses are found on the surface of the meat. When meat is ground, these pathogens are mixed through the meat, so it’s important to get all the meat heated hot enough. Heat ground poultry to 165 °F and other ground meats to 160 °F.
Beef roasts, steaks, and chops should all be heated to an internal temperature of at least 145 °F. While many people like their steaks somewhat rare, a safe temperature of 145 °F will be a medium to medium-well steak. Eating undercooked beef can infect you with E. coli bacteria, which can be the source of many life-threatening conditions. Be aware of the risks you take when eating undercooked meat.
Pork is one of the most important meats to heat to the proper temperature, as undercooked pork can contain parasites, including the particularly harmful Trichinella spiralis which can lead to a trichinosis infection. To avoid this, cook all fresh pork to an internal temperature of 145 °F, and reheat cooked pork products to at least 165 °F.
Chicken and other poultry should be heated to a temperature of 165 °F. Eating raw or undercooked poultry can often lead to salmonella or other food-borne illnesses. Fully cooked chicken should be white or light brown. Any hints of pink show that the chicken isn’t cooked through.
Mutton and lamb
Lamb chops and mutton should always be cooked to at least 165 °F, as lamb can contain most of the pathogens found in all other types of meat. Undercooked lamb can contain E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, and many other types of bacteria that can cause all sorts of nasty food-borne illnesses.
Fish, shrimp, and other seafood should be cooked to 145 °F. The meat should be completely opaque and separate easily when pulled apart with a fork. Raw fish can contain roundworms and other nasty parasites that can cause all sorts of digestive issues if ingested.
To keep your next great meal healthy and delicious, make sure you thoroughly cook your meat and take all necessary steps to prevent cross-contamination.