Temperatures for keeping meals food-safe

Cooking temperatures are put into place the U.S. Department of Agriculture for restaurants and home-cooks to ensure safety when cooking meat because you want to kill any and all bacteria to avoid food borne illness.

To ensure you are cooking your meat to the right internal temperature, is it essential to have a food thermometer, which you can purchase at your local grocery store for less than $10.

How to use a food thermometer, from the USDA: Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat; the thermometer should not be touching fat, gristle or bone. It’s most important to check the temperature toward the end of the cooking process to ensure optimum safety. Be sure to clean your food thermometer after every use to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Recommended cooking temperatures:

  • Whole cuts of pork: 145 to 160 F with a three minute rest time.

  • Pork roasts and chops: 145 F with a three minute rest time.

  • Ground meats (including veal, beef, lamb and pork): 160 F with no rest time.

  • Poultry (including all cuts of chicken, ground chicken, goose, duck, turkey and ground turkey): 165 F and rest time is not necessary.

  • Fin fish: 145 F or until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.

  • Shellfish: Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque. No rest time recommended.

  • Clams, mussels and oysters: Cook until shells open during cooking.

What is rest time? As said by the USDA, “rest time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from the heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful bacteria. This ensures optimum safety for consumption.

When reheating foods, it is recommended that you reheat for at least 15 seconds at 165 F.