Safe cooking temperatures are the minimum temperatures that you are advised to cook meat to in order to ensure that it is safe to eat.
Here are some absolute base minimums that lab results have show researchers will kill nasties.
Beef130°F54°CEggs140°F60°CLamb and Seafood140°F60°CPork150°F66°CPoultry and Stuffing165°F74°C
The temperatures that Health Authorities give out are almost always higher than the laboratory base minimum because:
- Controlled lab conditions are usually very different from what we can achieve in our kitchens;
- Lower temperatures can work, but only if the temperature is reached and held for a given period of time;
- What is being cooked can have areas that are hotter than others; by raising the target temperature, it may ensure that consumers wait to give all areas of the food the chance to reach the safe temperature;
- Household thermometers may be off one way or another by a few degrees, so there probably needs to be a margin of error built in;
- In the comparison table below, the British temperatures for beef are for the most part higher than American ones. This may reflect national preferences.
Various health authorities interpret these in their own ways, and either pass them on as is (as is generally the case for stuffing), or pad the number as they feel necessary (such as the case for Poultry, which is boosted to 180°F in the US.)
As a result, recommendations vary per country. In America, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has given some very specific recommendations. In Canada, they are more general, and in the UK, even more general still. Overall, the British approach emphasizes reaching a certain temperature and holding it for a given period of time. The North American scales don’t tell you how long to maintain that internal temperature.
The British advice is mainly provided by various county councils, and is all over the map. Some say bring most meats to 167°F (75°C) and hold that temperature for 2 minutes. Some say 167°F (75°C) for 30 seconds or 158°F (70°C) for two minutes. Some say leftovers only need to be reheated to 158°F (70°C.) Some British sources say 175°F (80°C) for poultry, some say just 167°F (75°C.)
The table below is just meant to give an idea of how varying the recommendations are. They also change from time to time. You should consult the Health Authorities where you live to see what their latest advice is for you.
FahrenheitCelsiusUSDACanadaBritishUSDACanadaBritishGround Meats*Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb160°F160°F158°F71°C71°C70°CTurkey, Chicken165°F185°F167°F74°C85°C75°CFresh Beef, Veal, LambRare130°F140°F140°F54°C60°C60°CMedium-Rare145°F63°CMedium160°F160°F160°F71°C71°C71°CWell-Done170°F170°F175°F77°C77°C80°CFowlChicken and Turkey, whole180°F185°F176°F82°C85°C80°CPoultry breasts170°F185°F77°C85°CPoultry legs, thighs & wings180°F82°CDuck & Goose180°F82°CStuffing**
(in bird or cooked alone as dressing with meat juices on it)165°F165°F74°C74°CFresh PorkMedium160°F160°F71°C71°CWell-Done170°F77°CHamFresh (raw)160°F160°F71°C71°CPre-cooked (to reheat)140°F60°CEggs & Egg DishesEggs***140°F140°F140°F60°C60°C60°CEgg dishes160°F160°F71°C71°CFishGeneral160°F158°F70°CGround Fish160°F160°F71°C71°CStuffed fish165°F74°CLeftovers & Casseroles165°F165°F167°F74°C74°C75°C
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. The Thermy™ Campaign. May 2002.
- Food Safety Basics for Working Healthy: Food temperatures. Public Health Department, Seattle and King County. 27 July 2004.
- A Consumer Guide to Cooking British Meat. Meat and Livestock Commission, PO Box 44, Winterhill House, Snowdon Drive, Milton Keynes, MK6 1AX.
- Health Canada. “Food Safety Tips for Using Food Thermometers.” Publication P0285E-03. March 2003.
- Denis Adams. Safe Cooking, Cooling and Reheating of Food. Mid Bedfordshire District Council, England. February 2003.
*The British advice for ground meat is that a minimum internal temperature of 158°F (70°C) be reached and held for two minutes.
**The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service advises “Cooking whole, stuffed poultry in a microwave oven is not recommended. The stuffing might not reach the temperature needed to destroy harmful bacteria.” (Food Safety Facts, “Cooking Safely in the Microwave oven”, November 2000.) They might also have added “a chicken roasted in the microwave would be so ghastly no one would want to eat it.”
***American, British and Canadian Health Authorities say of eggs “Cook until yolk & white are firm.” That happens at 140°F (60°C.)
The unsafe zone is the zone at which bacteria will breed quickly in food. In the US and Canada, this range is defined as between 41°F and 140°F (5°C and 60°C). In the UK, it is defined as between 41°F and 145°F (5°C and 65°C).
Salmonella is killed at 140°F (60°C). Trichinosis in pork and veal is killed at 137°F (59°C).