Why do I need to know?
So you got that new grill and the wife wants you to cook a couple of whole chickens. As you put the chickens on the grill you find yourself asking when am I going to know when they’re done? Well, that’s why you need to know your meat temperatures.
There are actually two reasons for knowing. The first is taste. If the food is too hot for too long it will be overcooked and tastes dried out and stringy.
If the food is cold for too long then it could be raw and no one likes the taste or texture of raw meat especially off your barbecue.
Is it Safe?
The second reason is safety. Meat is full of living bacteria, some good and some really bad. Those bad one will make you sick or worse.
A good example of understanding meat temperature when cooking is when you order a steak. When we order a steak rare the internal temperature will be 120 degrees to 130 degrees Fahrenheit(F). Order it medium rare and it will be 130F to 135F. Order it medium it’ll be 135F to 145F. Medium well is 145F to 155F and well done is 155F.
So I order my steak medium and I’m wondering if this steak safe to eat and how would I know it’s safe? The USDA or US Department of Agriculture has addressed this and has determined that your steaks internal temperature needs to be at at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe. Here’s what it looks like on our doneness chart.
Is there Risk?
So you really are a risk taker. You can now add eating at a steakhouse up there with skydiving and bungee jumping.
Well the USDA has lower the safe temperature of one meat and that is pork. It used to be pork had to be at least 160F but it has now been lowered to the same temperature as beef at 145F but the only caveat is that the meat needs to rest or maintain the 145F for three minutes.
The Five Types of Meat
The USDA has also broken down the types of meats and what is the minimum safe temperature for each type. These five types are pork, poultry, beef, seafood and all ground meats. The two types of meat that require higher cooking temperatures are poultry and all ground meats. For poultry, the minimum temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit and that needs to be measured in both the breasts and the thickest part of the thigh. When cooking a turkey check the internal temperature and the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. All ground meats have to be at 160F but no resting is required so the moment the meat comes to temperature it can be served. When making hamburgers make sure you check the internal or middle of the patty temperature.
Now that you understand the different requirements and temperatures there is one last thing that I highly recommend. Always have a reliable instant handheld thermometer with you at all times and never cook by time and always cook by internal temperature. Just like a professional chef has a tasting spoon a serious grillmaster should always have his handheld thermometer with her or him at all times.