Meat Temperature Guide

Recommended Doneness Temperatures for Juicy Grilled & Barbecued Meat

If you’re gonna make delicious meat, you need to know precisely what temperature you’re going to cook it to. When it comes to guidelines for doneness you there are two standards you can choose from: USDA recommended or Chef recommended; we always choose Chef.

The USDA recommended temperature, which was created with food safety in mind. It is thus very conservative, and in many cases, recommends temperatures far higher than what is generally considered “perfectly done” and the tastiest.

For example, chicken is usually recommended to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F – but most chefs agree that it tastes much better around 150°F to 155°F. In fact, chicken cooked to 150°F and held there for several minutes will be safe to eat, as well as much softer and juicier.

Meat Temperature Chart (Chef VS. USDA)

Chef Recommended

RAREMED. RAREMEDIUMMED. WELLWELL DONE
Beef, Veal & Lamb120° – 130° F*130° – 135° F*135° – 145° F*145° – 155° F*155° F-up*
Roasts, Steaks & Chops49-54°C54-57°C57-63°C63-68°C68°C-up
Pork135 – 145° F*145 – 155° F*155°F+*
Roasts, Steaks & Chops57-63°C63-68°C68°C+
BBQ190-205°F*
Brisket, Ribs & Pork Butt88-96°C

USDA Recommended

RAREMED. RAREMEDIUMMED. WELLWELL DONE
Beef, Veal & Lamb145° F*155° F*160°
Roasts, Steaks & Chops63°C68°C71.1°C
Pork145° F*165° F*170°F+*
Roasts, Steaks & Chops63°C74°C77°C+
BBQ145° F*180-200°F*
Brisket, Ribs & Pork Butt63°C82-93°C

*Indicates the ideal temperatures as recommend by the USDA. However, most meats should be pulled from the grill/oven a few degrees lower and allow to rise to the ideal temperature through resting. This is key with dense meats such as brisket and pork butt, it is know as the “carryover effect”.  Obtaining the prefect temperature is key to yielding competition quality BBQ.  Check our guide for selecting a meat thermometer that’s perfect for the way you cook

How To Cook Beef Safely (and Deliciously)

Ground beef is easier and simpler to cook than steak and is usually cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F for guaranteed safety, thanks to its ground nature, which has a higher chance of contamination than a regular steak. At 165°F, it won’t be quite as pink and juicy as some might like it, but you can be guaranteed it’s safe to eat.

Wholes cuts of steak, on the other hand, are more finicky and are usually cooked to lower temperatures for the desired level of flavor and juiciness. A steak is rare at 125-130°F, Medium at 140°F and is considered well-done at about 160°F.

Since whole cuts of beef generally only contain bacteria on the surface and not within the dense muscle fibers themselves, they are usually safe to eat with just a good searing.

What Temp is Chicken Done At?

Chicken can be safely cooked to be juicy as well as tender.

Chicken is a notoriously difficult food to cook properly. Underdone, and you get fleshy, unappetizing meat with the risk of salmonella. Overdone, and you get dry, stringy, rubbery meat that tastes…unappetizing, to say the least.

While official guidelines say chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F degrees, most will agree that it looks, feels and tastes much better (aka juicier, more tender) at about 150°F to 155°F degrees. If left there for several minutes, it will still be totally safe to eat – even if the color is pure, stark white.

Seriously, invest in an instant read thermometer, and you will be surprised at how quickly dry, flaky chicken can become a thing of the past.

What Temp Is Pork Done At?

Myths and Misconceptions About “The Other White Meat”

usda temperature recommendation

Many people believe that pork needs to be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F degrees and a white color, just like chicken. But the truth is that pork is usually safe to eat at 145°F degrees internal temperature, in which case it will like slightly pink inside. This is because while pork used to be contaminated with trichinella, which has been virtually eliminated from the food supply in countries like the US. This is due to the strict guidelines enforced on the hog industry by the USDA leading back to the 1970s.

So despite what you’ve likely grown up hearing, it’s perfectly safe to cook and serve your pork a little pink, as long as the internal temperature has reached 145°F degrees. In fact, the USDA even recommends cooking it to such temperatures now.

And, since pork is now much leaner than in the olden days and generally contains less fat, it’s more likely to dry out, even at lower temperatures. So you’re better off cooking it softly and slowly, as opposed to just overcooking it and being left with a dry, bland piece of meat.

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