I was pleasantly surprised when a friend of mine used a digital, tip-sensitive food thermometer to measure the temperature of the chicken he was preparing for our Memorial Day BBQ. He even cooked the chicken to an internal temperature of 180°F, which exceeds the recommended 165 degree cooking temperature for chicken. Despite this, the chicken we enjoyed was very well prepared – tasty, moist, well seasoned, and definitely safe.
Anyone grilling this season could follow my friend’s example and cook foods to 180 to ensure their safety, but in the interest of keeping burgers and other non-poultry items palatable, I have posted the USDA recommended cooking temperatures for a variety of meat products here:
- Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F
- Pork should reach 160°F
- Ground beef, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 160°F
- Poultry should be cooked to 165°F; although this temperature will assure that the meat is safe, it may not achieve a palatable texture and doneness (180°F is better for poultry in my opinion)
Remember that if meat, poultry, and other foods have been mishandled in the raw state, they may not be safe to eat even after proper cooking. Foods left in the "danger zone" between 40°F and 140°F for extended periods of time could be unsafe before preparation. USDA recommends refrigerating cooked or raw foods awaiting preparation before they’ve been out for 2 hours. If food is sitting out at 90°F temperatures or higher, USDA recommends refrigerating after no more than one hour to ensure its safety.
Color is not a good indicator of doneness. Hamburgers that have reached 160°F sometimes are still pink, while hamburgers that have turned brown while cooking may not have reached a safe cooking temperature. The only way to know whether foods have reached high enough cooking temperatures to kill pathogenic bacteria and viruses is to use a food thermometer.
The hospitality Institute of Technology and Management is a great resource for anyone looking for information about food thermometers.