Cooking food to a safe temperature is the best way to ensure safety.
That’s because when food reaches a safe minimum internal temperature, bacteria that may be lurking are destroyed.
Sound complicated? It’s not. It’s as easy as using a food thermometer.
About Food Thermometers
Food safety experts agree: food is safe to eat when it is cooked or reheated to a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
The only accurate way to know if food is cooked safely is to measure the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry,and egg products with a food thermometer.
You can’t tell by looking at food, use a food thermometer to be sure.
Color and texture are not reliable indicators of safely cooked food.
How to Use a Food Thermometer
1. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food.
Make sure it’s not touching bone,fat, or gristle.
For whole poultry, check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
For combination dishes, place the thermometer in the center or thickest portion of the food. Egg dishes and dishes containing ground meat or poultry should be checked in several places.
2. Wait the amount of time recommended for your particular type of thermometer
3. Compare your thermometer reading to the Safe Minimum Internal
Temperature Chart to determine if your food has reached at least a safe internal temperature.
4. Clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after
• Don’t taste food while it’s cooking. To ensure safety, food should not be tasted until it
reaches a safe minimum internal temperature.
• No double dipping. Use a clean utensil each time you taste food; otherwise, you may
contaminate the batch.
Done Versus Safe: What You Need to Know
Webster’s Dictionary defines “doneness” as the condition of being cooked to the desired
degree. This includes subjective qualities, like a food’s appearance, texture, and optimum
But whether a food is cooked to a “safe” degree is another story. The standard that ensures“safety” is not subjective at all. It’s a simple matter of cooking food until the internal temperature reaches the level that ensures destruction of any potential pathogens, as measured with a food thermometer.
Visual signs of doneness should only be taken into consideration after the food has
reached a safe temperature. And if you’re thinking about leaving the food thermometer
in the drawer, consider this: According to USDA research, 1 out of every 4 hamburgers
turns brown before it reaches a safe internal temperature!
Avoid the “Danger Zone”—Keep Hot Food Hot After Cooking
The possibility of bacterial growth is greater when food cools because the drop in temperature allows bacteria to thrive.
There are two ways to keep cooked food from entering the “Danger Zone”:
Don’t Interrupt Cooking:
Interrupted cooking allows partially cooked food to cool down . . . and may encourage bacterial growth before cooking is complete. To avoid this,make sure to cook food all the way through the first time.
• Hold Hot Food at 140 ºF (60 °C):
If you aren’t going to serve food right away, it’s important to keep it at 140 ºF (60 °C) or above. Once food is safely cooked on the stovetop, in the oven,or in a microwave oven, keep food hot by using a heat source. Place food in chafing dishes, on warming trays, or in slow cookers.
Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart
Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential in preventing foodborne illness. You can’t see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. In every step of food preparation, follow the four guidelines to keep food safe:
- Clean—Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Separate—Separate raw meat from other foods.
- Cook—Cook to the right temperature.
- Chill—Refrigerate food promptly.
Cook all food to these minimum internal temperatures as measured with a food thermometer before removing food from the heat source. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook food to higher temperatures.
|Product||Minimum Internal Temperature & Rest Time|
|Beef, Pork, Veal & 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).|
|Product||Minimum Internal Temperature|
|All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing)||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
|Eggs||160 °F (71.1 °C)|
|Fish & Shellfish||145 °F (62.8 °C)|
|Leftovers||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
|Casseroles||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
Meat and Poultry Roasting Chart
If you prefer, you may choose to cook these meats and poultry to higher temperatures.
|Red Meat, Type||Oven °F||Timing||Minimum Internal Temperature & Rest Time|
|Beef, rib roast, bone-in; 4 to 8 pounds||325||23 to 30 min/lb||145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Beef, rib roast, boneless; 4 pounds||325||39 to 43 min/lb|
|Beef, eye round roast; 2 to 3 pounds||325||20 to 22 min/lb|
|Beef, tenderloin roast, whole; 4 to 6 lbs||425||45 to 60 minutes total|
|Beef, tenderloin roast, half; 2 to 3 lbs||425||35 to 45 minutes total|
|POULTRY: Times are for unstuffed poultry. Add 15 to 30 minutes for stuffed birds. The internal temperature should reach 165 °F in the center of the stuffing.|
|Turkey, whole;||325||30 min/lb||165 °F and check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh, innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast.|
|Chicken, whole; 4 to 8 pounds||375||20 to 30 min/lb|
|CAPON, whole; 4 to 8 pounds||375||20 to 30 min/lb|
|CORNISH HENS, whole; 18 to 24 oz.||350||50 to 60 minutes total|
|DUCK, domestic, whole||375||20 min/lb|
|DUCK, wild, whole||350||18 to 20 min/lb|
|GOOSE, domestic or wild, whole||325||20 to 25 min/lb|
|PHEASANT, young, whole, 2 pounds||350||30 min/lb|
|QUAIL, whole||425||20 minutes total|
|Lamb, leg, bone-in; 5 to 9 pounds
Lamb, leg, boneless; 4 to 7 pounds
|325||20-26 min/lb||145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Lamb, crown roast; 3 to 4 pounds||375||20-30 min/lb|
|Pork, loin roast, bone-in; 3 to 5 pounds||325||20-25 min/lb||145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Pork, loin roast boneless; 2 to 4 pounds||325||23-33 min/lb|
|Pork, crown roast; 6 to 10 lbs||325||20-25 min/lb|
|Pork, tenderloin; ½ to 1½ lbs||425||20-30 minutes total|
|Ham, cook-before-eating, bone-in; Whole, 14 to 16 pounds||325||18-20 min/lb||145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Ham, cook-before-eating, bone-in; Half, 7 to 8 pounds||325||22-25 min/lb|
|Ham, fully cooked, bone-in; Whole, 14 to 16 pound||325||15-18 min/lb||140 °F|
|Ham, fully cooked, bone-in; Half, 7 to 8 pounds||325||18-25 min/lb||140 °F|
|Ham, fully cooked, boneless; 3 to 4 lbs||325||27-33 min/lb||140 °F|
|Ham, country, dried||(see label directions)|
|Veal, boneless roast, rump or shoulder; 2 to 3 pounds||325||25-30 min/lb||145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Veal, bone-in roast, loin; 3 to 4 pounds||325||30-34 min/lb|
Turkey Roasting Chart
For a fresh or thawed turkey:
- Set the oven to 325 °F.
- Cook to 165 °F.
- For details on grilling, smoking, microwaving, or deep fat frying turkey, see Alternative Ways to Cook Turkey.
- For details on preparing, cooking, and storing turkey, see Turkey.
|Size of Turkey||Unstuffed||Stuffed|
|4 to 6 pounds (breast)||1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours||Not usually applicable|
|6 to 8 pounds (breast)||2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hours||2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours|
|8 to 12 pounds||2 3/4 to 3 hours||3 to 3 1/2 hours|
|12 to 14 pounds||3 to 3 3/4 hours||3 1/2 to 4 hours|
|14 to 18 pounds||3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours||4 to 4 1/4 hours|
|18 to 20 pounds||4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours||4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours|
|20 to 24 pounds||4 1/2 to 5 hours||4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours|