Is it Done Yet? What’s the Proper Cooking Temperature for Meat?

Picture this: you’ve just pulled a beef pot roast out of the oven and the edges are browned and it’s sizzling. It smells delicious and you have hungry guests sitting in the other room. But, is it done?

If you don’t cook it long enough, it can make you and your guests sick. If you overcook it, you’ll end up with meat that’s tough and dry. 

So, how do you know if the meat is done without cutting into it?

Luckily, a meat cooking temperature chart and a thermometer takes all the guesswork out of it. Read on to learn the proper way for checking the temperature for beef, chicken, pork, and more. 

How to Check Meat Temperature

If you don’t have one already, you should get a meat thermometer. You’ll typically get the most accurate readings from an instant read digital probe thermometer

To test the temperature, stick the probe into the thickest part of the meat (usually in the center). Just avoid touching the bone because that can give you a false temperature reading. To check whole chickens and turkeys, stick the thermometer between the thigh and the breast. 

If you have trouble finding the center of the meat, Serious Eats recommends a technique of poking the thermometer all the way through. Then, you slowly pull it back out while watching the temperature reading. When the temperature hits the lowest point, that’s where the center is. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Once the meat gets to the minimum temperature, don’t serve it right away. 

You need to set it aside and let it rest for at least three minutes and up to 10 minutes. The rest time is important because the meat’s internal temperature continues to rise during this time.

Plus, resting the meat prevents all the juices from running out when you cut it. You’ll get to enjoy a juicier and more flavorful piece of meat. 

Meat Cooking Temperature Chart

According to the USDA minimum temperature guidelines, cooked meats need to fall between 145°F and 165°F, but there can be some exceptions when it comes to beef and lamb.   You can download  and print my own temperature chart here from my library.

Ground Meats 

Ground meats including beef, veal, lamb, and pork need to reach an internal temperature of 160°F/71.1°C. 

Beef and Lamb

You can eat whole cuts of beef and lamb below the 145°F internal temperature, but for safety precautions the USDA doesn’t officially recommend it. The USDA’s recommendation for beef and lamb is 145°F/62.8°C with a 3 minute rest.

Below are the internal temperatures for popular doneness. 

Rare: 125°F/51.6°C with a 3 minute rest

Medium Rare: 130-135°F/54.4-57.2°C

Medium: 135-140°F/57.2-60°C

Medium Well: 145°F/62.7°C with a 3 minute rest

Well Done: 155°F/68.3°C

Pork and Veal

Pork and veal both need to reach a minimum temperature of 145°F/62.8°C and rest for three minutes. You can cook both types of meat up to 160°F/71.1°C. 

Chicken and Turkey

Breasts, thighs, legs, wings, and ground turkey or chicken must reach 165°F/73.9°C. Some people prefer to cook dark meat (thighs, legs, wings) to 175°F/79.4°C. But, it’s a matter of preference, not safety.  

Whip Up a Delicious Italian Meal Today

If you’re a beginner in the kitchen, cooking meat can be a difficult skill to master. But, with an instant read thermometer and this handy cooking temperature chart, you’ll know exactly what to do. 

You’ll impress your guests (and maybe yourself too!) with recipes such as perfectly cooked Chicken Marsala and a simple pot roast. Plus, you’ll have the confidence to try other Italian dishes. 

Ready to expand your Italian cooking skills? If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll be the first to know when I post a new recipe! 

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