Cooking to a Safe Food Temperature
Cooking to the proper food temperature will not only keep you from getting sick, but it will also make your food taste a lot better.
For years, I was so concerned with making sure my food was cooked properly, I almost always overcooked anything I was making. In fact, I used to jokingly cook up a batch of “Dad’s World Famous Moisture-Free Hamburgers.” I was so afraid I would end up with food poisoning, I would keep those suckers on the grill till they resembled hockey pucks.
Fortunately, I’ve learned my lesson and it came about because I wanted food that tasted good and didn’t need to be chewed for 35 minutes before sending down the gullet.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in this area is cooking their food over too high of a heat. If you’ve got a very thin piece of meat and you want to sear it, you’ll need to get the cooking surface very hot, but for a thick chicken breast or even a giant burger, you need to make sure you’re cooking the inside to the right temperature before you burn the outside.
Depending on what I’m cooking, I like to start with a very hot surface and turn the temperature down as soon as the meat hits it. This will put a nice sear on the outside, sealing in the juices and flavor but still allow for even cooking.
Your cooking method also depends on the kind of meat you’re using. If it’s a solid piece of beef, like a steak or roast, you can leave center pink if you’d like and you’ll be safe. If you’re cooking up poultry or any type of ground up meat, you’ll need to insist on getting it to a safe temperature.
You have to remember, when meat is exposed to the air, it’s also exposed to bacteria which start to grow and multiply on the surface of the meat almost instantly. When you throw that meat on the grill, all that bacteria is killed with the high direct heat. However, if you grind that meat up before cooking it, you take that surface bacteria and mix it into the middle. That’s why it’s vital you get that burger to the proper internal temperature.
Here’s a list of foods and what temperature is required to ensure you’re serving up a safe meal.
- Poultry – 165° is normally safe, but you may want to go a little higher if you’re cooking a thigh (175°)
- Beef / Lamb– Ground beef should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°. If you’re cooking steaks, you can follow this guide:
- Rare – 125°
- Medium rare – 130-135°
- Medium – 135-140°
- Medium well – 140-150°
- Well done – 155°
- Pork – This is generally cooked to a bit higher temperature than beef. But, ground pork should reach an internal temperature of 160°
- Medium rare – 145°
- Medium – 150°
- Well done – 160°
So, there you have it, a guide to not only keep your food safe, but to make your it taste much better than the “World Famous Moisture-Free” varieties I used to make.
Of course, in order to make sure you’re reaching these temperatures, you’re going to want to have an instant read thermometer on hand. Here are some I would recommend from Amazon.com