The ultimate internal temperature cooking guide for meat, poultry, and fish. Learn the essential tools needed, how to use them and how to safely cook protein that’s delicious, moist and perfect every time!
- Instant-Read or Digital Thermometers
- Safe Internal Temperature Cooking Guide
- A Note on Internal Cooking Temperatures
- Meat Temperature Chart
- The Importance of Resting
- How to Make Perfect Pan-Seared Salmon
- How to Pan-Sear Scallops
- Rosemary & Orange Glazed Roast Turkey
- How to Roast Pork Tenderloin
- How to Pan-Fry Lamb Chops
- How to Pan-Sear Filet Mignon
- How to Grill Boneless Pork Chops
- How to Pan-Sear Boneless Chicken Breast
- How to Roast Bone-In Turkey Breast
- How to Cook Chicken Marbella (bone-in chicken thighs)
Here in the Midwest, meat is a must. You’ll find it very few and far between where the main entree isn’t consisting of some kind of red meat or at least poultry. However, the problem I run into time and time again is either grossly undercooked or overcooked meats (to the point of no return).
The solution? Don't use time as the rule when cooking meat. Instead, use time as a guide and use temperature as a rule. Cooking times vary, but temperature never lies (unless your thermometer is in severe need of recalibration).
Cooking meat by internal temperature instead of time guarantees a safe to eat, perfectly cooked, tender piece of meat even if your grill runs hot or your oven runs cool. Cooking by internal temperature takes all of the guesswork out of cooking your meals.
Instant-Read or Digital Thermometers
Instant read thermometers are a MUST in cooking and although a quality one can be a bit of an investment, it’s a one-time purchase you’ll never have to make again—it’s well worth it. Here at ZK we recommend the Thermapan Mk4 or the more economical ThermoPop, both are fabulous digital thermometers.
Check out our article on how to use your instant-read thermometer! You'll learn how to insert the thermometer probe correctly, which is essential for getting an accurate temperature reading.
Read all about kitchen gear in our article for the 15 Essential Kitchen Gadgets and Equipment for Every Cook.
Safe Internal Temperature Cooking Guide
Chicken & Turkey
- Light meat: 160–165ºF (71–73ºC)
- Dark meat: 175ºF (79ºC)
- Medium: 140–145ºF (60–63ºC)
145–150ºF (63–65ºC) after resting
- Well-done: 150–155ºF (65–68ºC)
155–160ºF (68–71ºC) after resting
Beef, Veal & Lamb
- Rare: 115–120ºF (46–49ºC)
120–125ºF (49–52ºC) after resting
- Medium-rare: 120–125ºF (49–52ºC)
125–130ºF (52–54ºC) after resting
- Medium: 130–135ºF (54–57ºC)
- Medium-well: 140–145ºF (60–63ºC) (recommended USDA temperature)
- Well-done: 150–155ºF (65–68ºC)
Ground Meat & Sausage
(such as ground beef, ground pork, ground chicken and ground turkey)
- 160ºF (71ºC)
Fish & Seafood
- Rare (tuna or swordfish only): 110ºF (43ºC)
- Medium-rare (tuna, swordfish, salmon): 120–125ºF (48–52ºC)
- Medium (salmon and white-fleshed fish like tilapia, cod, halibut, sea bass): 140–145ºF (60–65ºC)
A Note on Internal Cooking Temperatures
These temperatures are what we recommend when cooking meat, poultry and fish. There are, however, some exceptions that should be noted.
Beef, pork, or lamb should be removed from the heating element when it temps 5–10 degrees BELOW your desired doneness. Dense meat retains heat better, which causes internal temperatures to continue to rise as it rests off-heat. This is called carry over cooking, so if you want your meal to come off the grill, pan, or oven just the way you like it, give it a short rest and pay attention to the temp!
The above temperatures take into consideration your health, safety and enjoyment. We’ve found these degrees (from experience) are the ideal safe temperature—great meaty results that are safe and delicious. You can always cook for a little longer if you prefer your meals especially well-done.
Meat Temperature Chart
Print off our meat cooking temperatures cheat sheet and post it to your fridge for easy access any time!
The Importance of Resting
As instructed with pork, beef, veal and lamb, it’s important to allow a resting period between your cooking temperatures. This will vary depending on a number of factors, including the density, size and even the “juiciness” of your meat.
Allowing your meat to rest keeps the juices absorbed in the meat and helps to avoid overcooking! Keep in mind, the lower the cooking temperature, the less resting time it will need. As a general rule of thumb, any thicker slices of meat should rest for at least 10–15 minutes, but you can let it rest longer without any worry.
We are always here to help, so if you have any meaty inquires or general kitchen cooking questions, leave a comment or send an email to [email protected]