The only certain way to know whether meat, poultry and game is safely-cooked is to use a cooking thermometer or temperature probe to check its internal cooking temperature. That is the cooking temperature at the centre of the piece of food. Our chart below gives you the correct safe cooking temperature for the most common types of meat and poultry and for the most common cuts.
|Beef and lamb|
|Well done||77°C (170°F)|
|Pork (pieces and whole cuts)||71°C (160°F)|
|Any minced or ground meat (sausages, burgers, meatballs, meatloaf etc)|
|Beef, veal, lamb and pork||74°C (165°F)|
|Chicken, turkey, reheated leftovers||74°C (165°F)|
|Chicken, turkey, duck and rabbit.|
|Legs, breast, individual cuts||74°C (165°F)|
|Whole chicken, turkey or duck||82°C (180°F)|
|Game birds (duck, pheasant, goose and partridge)|
|Whole bird||82°C (180°F)|
|Breasts and legs||74°C (165°F)|
|Thighs, wings||74°C (165°F)|
|Stuffed bird||74°C (165°F)|
How to check if meat is cooked right through and is safe to eat?
– Probe the food with a temperature probe making sure that you don’t hit bone which can skew the reading. Press the probe into different parts of the meat to get a reading in a few places. Check the reading against our chart above.
– If you are ever unsure whether meat is safe to eat cut through to the centre of the food with a sharp knife and take a look. Does it look cooked or is it pink? Can you see blood – if you are cooking a steak to medium rare that’s to be expected but if you are cooking chicken or pork it should be cooked right through to the middle. On larger cuts press your finger into the centre of the cut to make sure that it is very hot inside, this means that the heat of the oven has permeated the meat. If it is cool or cold it’s not cooked and needs to be cooked for longer.
When you are cooking large cuts of meat, for example, a large piece of ham, you may find that the probe registers the correct temperature but when you cut into the joint the centre is rare and uncooked. You may have placed the probe incorrectly or hit the bone and got a false reading. The lesson? Never rely completely on a meat thermometer for large joints – always press the probe into a few places to take a few readings and cut into the meat to check.
IMPORTANT: While lamb and beef and game can be eaten rare or medium-rare, minced meat, chicken and turkey and pork need to be cooked completely.
KEEP IN MIND: There is always a tension between flavour and food safety. One person may be absolutely happy to take what they see as a small risk by eating a rare or medium-rare burger made with minced meat that comes from their butcher and where the butcher has minced the meat in front of them. Another person will require a chicken breast that is cooked right through, even though it is dry and a safely-cooked chicken breast is often a little pink in the centre. However, this kind of cooking takes vigilance and skill and expertise to meet the food safety imperative and to get the best from each cut. If you don’t have those cooking skills, play safe and cook food so that it meets the temperature listed bove (see our chart) or goes past that temperature. Never take a risk – over-cooked food is safer especially if you are cooking for elderly people, babies and small children and anyone with a compromised immune system.
How to Barbecue Meat Safely
– Whenever you cook meat on the barbecue you need to apply consistent safety checks whether you are cooking or your family and friends are manning the barbecue. You don’t want to give a large group of people food-poisoning.
– Keep the food that is to be barbecued in the fridge until just before you are going to cook it – don’t leave it in the hot sun waiting to put it on the barbie. You need to let it come to room temperature before you cook it – don’t put it on the barbecue straight from the fridge.
– Designate one person as chef and make sure they know how to ensure that each cut of meat and poultry is safe to eat.
– Light the coals on a barbecue at least 30 minutes before you start cooking and let the coals die down before you place food on the grill.
– Always use a food thermometer or probe and use different utensils for handling raw meat, cooked meat and for different meats. Keep food warm at an even temperature at 63°C (145°F).
– Never cook frozen food on the barbecue.
– Always place cooked food back in the fridge as soon as it is fully cool and always within 2 hours of cooking it.