Meats, Meat Temperatures, and Meat Safety

Meats, Meat Temperatures, and Meat Safety

Doctors have said in the past that anything less than well-done meat was bad for you, and modern doctors often say well-done meat is carcinogenic.  Chefs, on the other hand, will tell you that a piece of meat that is not medium rare or medium is ruined… so where do you begin?  Today, we will discuss target safe temperatures and prepared meat temperatures.

Making sure your meat is the right temperature enhances flavor… and safety!

Making sure your meat is the right temperature enhances flavor… and safety!

            Alright, we are here! 

            And we are here with the blog post that was supposed to go up this past Friday… and we apologize that it did not happen.

            We faced some technical difficulties – our writer was technically too sick to hold his head up…

            But that is all in the past, and we are here now to talk more about our favorite topic:

MEAT

            Specifically, we are going to be discussing meat temperatures today.  This comes from a number of questions that you must ask yourself when you are preparing any kind of meat, fish, or poultry:

·       What level of preparedness should this be (rare, medium, rare, medium, medium well, well done)?

·       What is the recommended safe temperature for the meat/fish/poultry that I am eating?

·       What is the actual minimum temperature required for this meat/fish/seafood?

            There are probably other questions that could be asked, but these are the important ones that we are going to start with right now. 

            We are going to look at our favorite types of meat:

·       Beef and Steak

·       Poultry

·       Fish

·       Pork

·       Lamb

·       Ground Meat (with good reason!)

            Alright, enough preamble!  Let’s get into the main course!

Steak and Beef

            The granddaddy of them all (says the butcher shop that specializes in beef and aged meats), beef has a number of different recommendations that should be considered when it comes to safe temperatures and preparedness:

            The recommended safe minimum temperature for beef is 145 degrees, which would give you a medium cooked steak.

            Now, there is nothing wrong with the minimum recommended safe temperature… but if you want a rare steak, then this is going to feel overcooked and overdone.  Probably not something that you would enjoy.

            The temperatures and level of temperature preparedness for beef and steak are as follows:

·       Rare – 125 degrees

·       Medium Rare – 135 degrees

·       Medium – 145 degrees (recommended minimum safe temperature)

·       Medium Well – 150 degrees

·       Well Done – 160 degrees

            Checking your temperature should be done by inserting a digital meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, being sure to not touch the any bone. 

            To make sure that your meat is not overcooked, you probably want to remove the meat from the heat source when it is 5 degrees below the target temperature.  The meat continues to cook for a few minutes once it is removed from the heat, and you should usually let meat rest for 3-5 minutes after cooking to allow for it to get up to temperature.  

Poultry

            Poultry is less complicated than beef; poultry must be cooked to 165 degrees.  This temperature is to be the thickest part of the poultry being cooked if you are cooking parts, and if you are preparing a whole bird you should insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.  Just like with beef, you will want to be sure that you are not in contact with bone when you are going this temperature check.

            With the number of parasites and other risks associated with undercooked chicken, turkey, pheasant (probably only in the UK), and waterfowl, you really cannot take the chance of undercooking poultry of any kind.  Be absolutely certain that your poultry is at or above 165 degrees, and if you want to make sure it is not going to be dry cook at a low temperature for a longer period of time.

Fish

            Alright, fish… since sushi (raw fish) is so incredibly popular there are going to be people that argue that there is no need to be concerned with fish temperatures.

            Here is the thing – most sushi is either quickly seared (just long enough to kill bacteria), it is frozen before being prepared (to kill specific bacteria and parasites), or it is processed very quickly from fish that has little risk of any type of parasitic contamination.

            That being said, unless you are a sushi chef (and know all the ins and outs of sushi preparation), I would recommend that you do not undercook fish!

            Fish should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees.  Just like with anything else, use your thermometer to check for doneness, and make sure that the internal temperature of the thickest part of the fish is at least 145 degrees.

Pork

            For a long time, most people thought that the only way to prepare pork was to serve it well done, dried out, and essentially without flavor.

            We are very happy to report that this is NOT correct… while common wisdom is to prepare pork to anywhere between 160 and 180 degrees, this can create utterly tasteless meat.

            The USDA has official confirmed that the safe internal temperature of pork is 145 degrees.  Yes, this means that your pork will look pink in the middle, and may appear slightly underdone.

            However, the taste of pork that has been slowly cooked to 145 degrees is so much better than overcooked and overprepared pork!  The test for internal temperature is the same as with any other meat; insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, and make sure to not touch bone or to be resting in a pocket of fat.

Lamb

            With lamb, the recommended minimum safe temperature is 145 degrees.  However, unlike beef, this does not make your lamb chops or rack of lamb medium…

            It makes it medium well, with a strong possibility of it edging over into well done!

            The levels of lamb temperature preparedness are as follows:

·       Rare – 115 – 120 degrees

·       Medium Rare – 120 – 125 degrees

·       Medium – 130 – 135 degrees

·       Medium well – 140 – 145 degrees

·       Well done – 150 – 155 degrees

            Now, an important point… cooking lamb much past 155 degrees will leave it almost tasteless, and very tough.  Make sure that you do not exceed that temperature!  However, you can see that rare lamb is 115 degrees, a full 30 degrees below the recommended safe cooking temperature.

            To make sure you are safe, just keep the lamb at 115 – 120 degrees for a longer period of time… it is no different than when you braise something at a low temperature for hours upon hours to get a juicy and tender flavor.

            And… just a side note… does anyone else wonder what happened to lamb temperatures 125 – 130, 135 – 140, and 145 – 150?

            No?

            I guess… I need more to occupy my mind…

Ground Meat

            Alright… if you are serving any kind of ground meat at all, pay attention.  The rules mentioned above do not apply at all!

            If you are cooking any ground beef (except for ground poultry) your minimum temperature is going to be 160 degrees.  If you are cooking poultry, your minimum temperature is still 165, but a temperature of 170 might be safer.

            The reason is that more pathogens live in the fattier ground meats than in whole pieces, and extra care must be taken to protect yourself!

And that is it!

            I was actually worried that this article was not going to have much content, and that there was not enough information to make this more than a filler piece.

            I am glad I was wrong… we covered a lot of good stuff relating to meat and meat temperatures!

            We are glad you joined us today, and please join us this Friday for our SURPRISE Fun Friday article!

            We will see you then!