Thermometer /
Cooked Meat Temperatures
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!

With 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 shop around.


Cooked Meat Temperatures

  Temperature in Degrees F (Note 1)
Rare Medium
Medium Well Done
(Note 2)
beef, veal, lamb 125-135 135-145 145-150 160
ground beef

(Note 3)


(Note 4)

ham, fully cooked

usually ~140 or any temperature desired

ham, uncooked

(Note 4)


(Note 5)

fish (Note 6) 120-125
130 140 150
don't bother


  1. 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 +5F.  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.
  2. Concern over disease-causing parasites and bacteria cause many cooks to cook certain predisposed meats to 160F 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 5F or one week at -20F 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Lynn Ashley
Lynn Ashley

13 November 2004
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