The Importance of Using a Food Thermometer
A food thermometer should be used when cooking ground meat patties, meatloaf, beef, veal, lamb, pork, ham, chicken and turkey. Using a food thermometer is the ONLY way to ensure your food is cooked to a safe temperature.
Be a Safer, Better Cook
- Raw meat may contain harmful bacteria. These bacteria are killed when meat is cooked to the proper temperature.
- Many people rely on the internal color to check the doneness, but research has shown that color is NOT a good indicator of doneness.
- Unless you use a thermometer, it is very easy to overcook meat. Overcooked meat is tough and dry.
Know the current safe food temperature guidelines
On May 24, 2011, the USDA made some important changes in their recommended cooking temperatures for meats. Here’s what you need to know:
- Cooking Whole Cuts of Pork: USDA has lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160ºF to 145ºF with the addition of a three-minute rest time. Cook pork, roasts and chops to 145ºF as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source, with a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. This will result in a product that is both safe and at it’s best quality – juicy and tender.
- Cooking Whole Cuts of Other Meats: For beef, veal, and lamb cuts, the safe temperature remains unchanged at 145ºF, but the department has added a three-minute rest time as part of its cooking recommendations.
What Cooking Temperatures Didn’t Change?
- Ground Meats: This changed does not apply to GROUND meats, including beef, veal, lamb and pork, which should be cooked to 160ºF and do not require a rest time.
- Poultry: The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey, stays the same at 165ºF.
What Is Rest Time?
“Rest Time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from the grill, oven or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful bacteria.
Why Did the Recommendation Change?
- It’s just as safe to cook cuts of pork to 145ºF with a three-minute rest time as it is to cook them to 160ºF, the previously recommended temperature, with no rest time. The new cooking recommendations reflect the same standards that the agency uses for cooked meat products produced in federally inspected meat establishments, which rely on the rest time of three minutes to achieve a safe product.
- Having a single time and temperature combination for all meat will help consumers remember the temperature at which they can be sure the meat is safe to eat.
How Do You Use a Food Thermometer?
Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food. It should not touch bone, fat, or gristle. Start checking the temperature toward the end of cooking, but before you expect it to be done. Be sure to clean your food thermometer with hot soapy water before and after each use.
Ask USDA, your guide to expert knowledge on handling and storing food safely and preventing food poisoning. Search the USDA’s Food Safety Education knowledge base of common food safety questions, available 24/7. Available for mobile devices.
The Partnership for Food Safety Education encourages consumers to be aware of food recalls and what to do if you have a recalled food product.
Where Do You Find Out About Food Recalls?
Visit FoodSafety.gov for a current list of food recalls.
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These external sites and pages are not managed by WSU Extension. Furthermore, WSU Extension does not review, control or take responsibility for the content of these sites, nor do these sites implicitly or explicitly represent official positions, policies or recommendations of WSU Extension.
Keeping Food Safe in an Emergency
Remembering the rules about food safety when the power is out and during an emergency is difficult. Learn how to avoid food-related illness from our own Regional Food & Nutrition Specialist, Lizann Powers-Hammond.
Food Safety Fact Sheets
- At Home Food Safety
- Lunch Box Food Safety
- Handling Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
- Food Safety On The Go
- Grilling Safely
- Holiday Entertaining Safely
- Safety Rules for Leftovers
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has put together helpful food safety fact sheets for consumers to learn how to keep their family food safe.
- Barbecue Safely
- Deep Fat Frying Safely
- Door to Door Meat Sales
- Mail Order Food
- Microwave Cooking
- Recreational Food Safety
- Safe Handling of Take Out Foods
- Slow Cooker Food Safety
- Special Devices Food Safety