Many people go by their gut feeling - as I have done - when it comes to cooking their steak or rack of lamb rare, medium rare, medium or well-done. But you can be very precise and get the right result every time, if you follow the temperatures in the tables below.
When cooking meat, or any other food, surrounding heat (from the surrounding hot air, hot oil or hot water) travels from the outside of the product to the inside. Heat transforms the structure of the meat and makes it safe. The tables below list the ideal core temperatures for the different foods.
After you stop cooking / frying / roasting, the temperature on the outside of the meat will likely be higher than the temperature in the core. As a result, some heat will continue to flow from the outer part to the core. This means that, while you are resting your piece of meat, the core temperature will most likely continue increase.
Using a thermometer
By using a thermometer you can accomplish the perfect result, while at the same time making sure food safety will not become an issue for your dinner guests.
Beef, Veal and Lamb
This table for beef, veal and lamb below can be found on Wikipedia. The temperatures indicated refer to the moment after resting the meat.
|Extra-rare or Blue (bleu)||Very red||46–49 °C||115–125 °F|
|Rare (saignant)||Red center; soft||52–55 °C||125–130 °F|
|Medium rare (à point)||Warm red center; firmer||55–60 °C||130–140 °F|
|Medium (demi-anglais)||Pink and firm||60–65 °C||140–150 °F|
|Medium well (cuit)||Small amount of pink in the center||65–69 °C||150–155 °F|
|Well done (bien cuit)||Gray-brown throughout; firm||71 °C+||160 °F+|
|Overcooked (trop cuit)||Blackened throughout; hard||>71 °C||>160 °F|
A special note on ground beef and food safety
As ground beef has been processed, by definition contamination may be present at the core of the product (an not only on the outside, as with a regular piece of meat). For reasons of food safety, you should cook ground beef products, such as hamburgers, well done (71 °C or 160 °F). This US Govt website has more on food safety and temperatures.
Venison is best served medium rare. Core temperature should be 57° Celsius or 135 ° Fahrenheit.
Food safety minimum core temperature is 63° Celsius or 145° Fahrenheit according to the same website. This is true for chops, hams, roasts et cetera.
Chicken, Turkey, Pheasant, Quail
Food safety minimum temperature is 74° Celsius or 165° Fahrenheit according to the same website. This is true for both parts (drumsticks, wings, breasts) as well as whole birds.