I consider temperature monitoring to be THE most important factor in cooking meat.
Overcooked grilled or roasted meats are usually tough and dry. If you do not
have a digital thermometer with a remote probe - GET ONE!
a thermometer, you can get consistent results when cooking meats. I even use a
thermometer when cooking non-meat items like baked potatoes. It's a convenient way
to know when they are done. Be sure to insert the probe in the center of the food to
be monitored. It may take some practice, but the results will be worth it.
"Instant Read" thermometers work, but require that
you open the grill or oven and take the time to obtain a reading. As any cook knows,
time, especially when in the final throws of getting a meal on the table, is very scarce.
A thermometer with a properly inserted remote probe does not need to be constantly
monitored since it can be set to sound an alarm when the desired temperature is reached.
I purchased a remote probe thermometer in a kitchen store for
$15US. I've seen the same thermometer on the internet for $30US - So
Cooked Meat Temperatures
||Temperature in Degrees F
|beef, veal, lamb
|ham, fully cooked
usually ~140 or any
|fish (Note 6)
- Above is a rough temperature guide for cooking meats. Note
that the internal temperature of the meat will continue to rise after it is removed from
the heat source, usually by at least +5°F. The temperatures given are
the central internal temperature when the meat should be removed from the heat source. As
expected, the USDA Cooking
Temperature web site lists higher temperatures for each category and does not
acknowledge "rare". James Beard, whose recommendation I value far more
than the government's, lists the same or lower temperatures than the above.
- Concern over disease-causing parasites and bacteria cause many cooks
to cook certain predisposed meats to 160°F or higher to insure their safety.
If people in the US would get over their senseless fear of irradiation, this whole
issue could go away. If you are fortunate enough to have access to irradiated meat,
you can safely cook it (or not) to any temperature you like.
- The high temperature indicated for ground beef is due to the concern
that the intestinal contents of a slaughtered animal, which are very high in E. coli and
other bacteria, may have come in contact with the ground meat. You can cook ground
beef safely to lower temperatures by grinding your own hamburger from clean cuts of beef.
- Traditional concern over trichinosis in pork still exist despite the
pork industry's efforts to convince us that today's pork is parasite free. Besides
cooking, trichinosis can be destroyed by freezing. Three weeks at 5°F or
one week at -20°F is required. If you trust the pork industry's
assertions, you can cook pork using the same temperatures as for beef, but be prepared
that many people will not eat rare or medium pork. Fortunately, slow-cooked braised
pork is among the best meat there is!
- The big fear with poultry is salmonella. Being relatively
small, almost any part of a foul can easily have contacted and thus been contaminated by
bacteria in the bird's gut. Wash poultry well before cooking. After handling
poultry, wash everything which came in contact with it, especially your hands. Don't
forget the faucet handle.
- The popularity of sashimi over the last decade has resulted in every
trendy restaurant insisting that tuna must be served raw inside (and often cold).
However, if you are concerned about fish parasites, you may want to cook your fish.
There is no argument that fish, especially tuna, suffers very badly when
overcooked. To keep from falling apart, delicate fish, such as trout, is often
cooked whole (dressed) or filleted with the skin left on. A thermometer may not give
an accurate reading on very thin pieces. Better to watch it closely and test for
flaking. Thicker, firmer fish, such as swordfish or tuna, can be cut into fillets or
steaks and a thermometer used to monitor the internal temperature.