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Cooking is a balancing act. You need to cook meat and other foods long enough to kill germs but not so long that they dry out and lose flavor. Finding that sweet spot isn’t always easy. But take a tip from the professional cooks in our Test Kitchen: Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature—our Test Kitchen staffers love this digital thermometer from Thermoworks. Then compare the results with the safe temperatures listed on this page.
Test Kitchen-Recommended Temperatures
|Ground meat and meat mixtures||Temperature|
|Beef, pork, veal and lamb||160°F (71.1°C)|
|Turkey, chicken||165°F (73.9°C)|
|Beef, veal and lamb – roasts, steaks and chops||Temperature|
|Whole chicken or turkey||170-175°F (76.7-79.4°C), as measured in deepest part of thigh**|
|Legs or thighs||170-175°F (76.7-79.4°C), as measured in deepest part of thigh**|
|Stuffing (cooked in bird)||165°F (73.9°C)|
|Chops, roasts, ribs||145°F (62.8°C)|
|Fresh (raw)||145°F (62.8°C)|
|Precooked (to reheat)||140°F (60°C)|
|Egg-based entrees||160°F (71.1°C)|
|Custard, sauces, ice cream base||160°F (71.1°C)|
|Fin fish||Flesh should be opaque and flake easily.|
|Lobster, crab||Flesh should be opaque and pearly.|
|Scallops||Flesh should be opaque, milky white and firm.|
|Shrimp||Safe to eat when flesh turns pink.|
|Clams, oysters, mussels||Safe to eat if shells have opened during cooking. Discard any unopened shells.|
|Leftovers and casseroles||165°F (73.9°C)|
|Microwave dishes||165°F (73.9°C)|
**Poultry is safe to eat at 165° (73.9°C), but we prefer the taste and texture when the legs and thighs are cooked to 170-175° (76.7-79.4°C).
Taste of Home
Several meat temperatures are lower than we used to recommend, thanks to research into “carryover cooking.” Scientists call it that because heat “carries over” from the hot surface of a piece of meat to the cooler interior after the meat has been removed from its heat source. That’s why many professional kitchens, ours included, use temperatures slightly lower than recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If that’s your preference, too, we suggest you remove your meat from the oven or grill before it reaches your target temperature, then let it stand for several minutes so it can finish cooking: 5 minutes for steaks and chops all the way up to 15-20 minutes for roasts.
Important: Reduced meat temperatures aren’t for everyone. Pregnant women, infants, the very elderly and people with compromised immune systems should only eat meat that’s been cooked to the higher temperatures recommended by the USDA. But for healthy adults, many food scientists and chefs see little risk in eating meat that’s cooked to slightly lower temperatures.
Official USDA Guidelines
|Product||Minimum internal temperature and rest time|
|Beef, pork, veal and lamb
Steaks, chops, roasts
|145°F (62.8°C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Ground meats||160°F (71.1°C)|
|Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked)||145°F (62.8°C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Fully cooked ham
|Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140°F (60°C) and all others to 165°F (73.9°C).|
|All poultry (whole bird; breasts, legs, thighs, and wings; ground poultry; stuffing)||165°F (73.9°C)|
|Fish and shellfish||145°F (62.8°C)|
With these guides, cooking up roasts, filets, whole birds and more should be a breeze!