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Food Safety Feature Articles


Cooking temperatures for holiday meats

Holly Jay, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Cass County, University of Missouri Extension


The holidays are fast approaching. During this holiday season, be assured that the foods you prepare will be safe for your family and friends by cooking your meat to the recommended internal temperatures.


Cooking meats to those internal temperatures — determined by the type of meat being prepared — reduces the chance of foodborne illness. A food thermometer will help you know when your meat is safe to eat.


Sometimes the meat will still have a pink color when the thermometer registers the recommended internal cooking temperature. That is an indication that the pH level of the meat may be high, which stabilizes the meat’s pink pigment so that it doesn’t break down when exposed to heat. If the internal temperature is at the recommended level, the meat is safe to eat.


So what exactly is a safe internal cooking temperature? The following chart shows recommended temperatures for various meats and where to place the thermometer for accurate readings. Some foods require a change in appearance to ensure they are completely cooked and safe to eat. And some cuts will need to be cooked longer to help tenderize the meat and bring out its flavors.


Type of Meat Internal Temp Where to Place Meat Thermometer Meat Color
Ham 140 Center of thickest part of ham, away from bone, fat or gristle N/A
Roasts 145 Insert at an angle and slowly draw out to find lowest temperature of meat N/A
Steak 145 Insert through side of meat to center N/A
Fish 145 Insert through thickest part of fish; it should flake easily Fish will be opaque milky white, or, for salmon, opaque pink
Seafood 145 Throw out clams that will not close prior to cooking and those that do not open after cooking Shrimp, lobster should be opaque. Clams should open when cooked
Fresh pork or beef not listed above 160 Center or thickest part that does not touch bone N/A
Eggs 160 No visible liquid egg remains. Custards and quiche: knife should come out clean. Ice cream and eggnog: mixture should coat the spoon and reach 160 degrees F Cover to assure poached and soft cooked eggs are heated to recommended internal temperature
Poultry, All ground meats 165 Breast: thickest part not touching bone. Wing or thigh: thickest part not touching bone N/A
Casseroles 165 Center or thickest part Steaming hot
Reheating leftovers 165 Center or thickest part Steaming hot


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Last update: Monday, December 19, 2016