How to Use a Meat Thermometer

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A Chart of Minimum Internal Temperatures for Beef, Poultry, and Other Meats


Take the guesswork out of cooking! Here are tips for using a meat thermometer to ensure that the safe minimum internal temperature of meat is reached. That way, you know when it's done, at peak flavor, and also safe for eating.

Are You Cooking Meat Safely?

Meat and poultry are cooked and juicy at certain temperatures but become dry and tough if cooked much longer. Traditionally, judging when a bird is done roasting has meant visually checking the interior color of the meat while it is cooking—the redder the color, the rarer the meat. But this involves guesswork, which is neither accurate nor safe!

Instead, it's recommended that you use a meat thermometer to guage when your pork roast, chicken breast, or other cut of meat is truly ready to be served. According to the USDA, different meats must reach different temperatures to be considered safe. (Consult the chart below for minimum internal temperatures.)


How to Use a Meat Thermometer

To be certain, we recommend using an instant-read thermometer. Round-dial and digital instant-read thermometers are available from kitchen supply stores and hardware stores and cost from $12 to $20.

Instant-read thermometers give readings quickly, but they are not oven-safe and must not be left in the meat while it is cooking. Use the thermometer toward the end of the minimum cooking time and allow it to remain in the meat for only 15 seconds, at a depth of 2 inches or to the indicator mark on the thermometer's stem.

Follow these guidelines for accurate thermometer readings:

  • For roasts, steaks, and thick chops, insert the thermometer into the center at the thickest part, away from bone, fat, and gristle.
  • For whole poultry (such as turkey or chicken), insert the thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast but not touching bone.
  • For ground meat (such as meat loaf), insert the thermometer into the thickest area.
  • For thin items such as chops and hamburger patties, insert the thermometer sideways.

Minimum Internal Temperature Chart

  Ground 160°F
  Roasts, steaks, and chops 145°F; allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Casseroles 165°F
  Ground 165°F
  Whole 165°F
  Breasts, roasts 165°F
  Parts (legs, thighs, wings) 165°F
Duck (whole or pieces) 165°F
Eggs and egg dishes
  Eggs Cook until yolk and white are firm
  Egg dishes 160°F
Fish and shellfish
  Fin fish 145°F or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork
  Shrimp, lobster, and crabs Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque
  Clams, oysters, and mussels Cook until shells open during cooking
  Scallops Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm
Goose (whole or pieces) 165°F
Gravies, sauces, and soups Bring to a rolling boil when reheating
  Fresh or smoked (uncooked) 145°F; allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
  Precooked (fully cooked, to reheat) 140°F
  Ground 160°F
  Roasts, steaks, chops 145°F; allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Leftovers 165°F
  Ground 160°F
  Roasts, steaks, chops 145°F; allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Stuffing for poultry (cooked alone or in bird) 165°F
  Ground 165°F
  Whole 165°F
  Breasts, roasts 165°F
  Parts (legs, thighs, wings) 165°F
  Ground 160°F
  Roasts, steaks, chops 145°F; allow to rest for at least 3 minutes

Do you use a meat thermometer? Share your safety tips in the comments below!

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Dale Griffin (not verified)

2 years ago

I use a thermometer in every meat item I cook for both food safety and the fact that a slight difference in food weight, humidity, or room Temperature will make a big change in cooking time. There are many oven and grill thermometers with probes that you can leave in the food while cooking. I have had five with different brands and price points and they all work great.

Shai (not verified)

3 years 1 month ago

I started using a Meat thermometer when I realized that bacterias remain in a cooked food with the wrong temperature, finally, I have found amazing Thermometer very often and very satisfied with it

Cosmic (not verified)

3 years 9 months ago

°C to °F multiply by 9 divide by 5 then add 32.

°F to °C subtract 32 then multiply by 5 and divide by 9.


russell (not verified)

4 years 11 months ago

I have a beautiful piece of middle topside of beef 2,5kg,,, I have a good quality oven with a built in theromoeter probe. The book advises to set the thermometer at 65 for medium rare cooking but what I get confused about is, when I put the probe in and plug it in I can select 65 but dont understand if I have to set the oven temperature dial as well, if I do, do I set it at normal 180 or do I have no need to set it at all.

We highly suggest that you consult your manual. Otherwise, contact the company that made your oven.