Consumer Information From USDA
Use A Meat Thermometer
Why Use a Meat Thermometer?
Use a meat thermometer to take the
guesswork out of cooking and to assure that a safe temperature has been reached
to destroy harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli
A meat thermometer can
Cook foods to a safe temperature;
Hold hot, cooked foods
Where to Insert
To be an accurate indicator, a meat
thermometer must be inserted properly. The sensing area of thermometers is ½
inch to 2 inches long, and this area must be completely immersed in the deepest
area of the food.
- Poultry - insert it in the inner thigh area near the breast of the bird,
but not touching bone.
- Red meat, roasts, steaks or chops - insert in the center of the thickest
part, away from bone, fat, and gristle.
- Ground meat and poultry - place in the thickest area of meat loaf; insert
sideways in thin items such as patties.
- Casseroles and egg dishes - insert in the center or thickest area.
- Hot, cooked foods must be held at 140° F or higher; cold foods, at 40°F or
REMEMBER: After each use, wash the
stem of the meat thermometer thoroughly in hot, soapy
...that foods must reach to be considered safe and done,
no matter how you prepare them:
Fresh ground beef, veal, lamb and pork: 160°
Beef, veal, lamb (roasts, steaks,
Medium rare: 145° F
Medium: 160° F
Well done: 170° F
Fresh Pork (roasts, steaks,
Medium 160° F
Well done 170° F
Ham, cook before eating: 160°
Ham, reheat fully cooked: 140° F
Ground chicken, turkey: 165°
Whole chicken, turkey: 180° F
Breasts, roasts: 170° F
Stuffing, alone or in bird: 165°
Egg dishes, casseroles: 160°
Leftovers, to reheat: 165°
Use a meat thermometer every time you cook raw
foods, re-heat left-overs, and hold hot, cooked foods.
Which Type to Buy
Make sure the thermometer you buy is designed for meat and poultry -- not for
candy or appliances. There are several types of meat thermometers available in
When you insert a thermometer will be determined by the type:
oven-proof or instant-read.
Regular, oven-proof types go into the food at the
beginning of the cooking time and can be read easily. Most have a dial and
thick stem which senses the temperature of food at least 2 inches thick.
Instant-read types cannot go into the oven, but give you
a quick reading when inserted into the food after removal from the oven. These
may have a dial or digital readout. Most digitals can read accurately when
inserted into the food only ½-inch.
Microwave-safe types are designed ONLY for use in
Thermocouple thermometers are considered the fastest and
most precise, thus they are the thermo-meter of choice for laboratories, food
service, and food inspectors. A thermocouple uses thin wires in the tips of
Are They Accurate?
Most meat thermometers are accurate to within plus or minus 1 to 2° F. Always
check cooked meat and poultry in several places with a meat thermometer to
ensure food safety.
Call Toll-free for More Information:
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
Washington DC (202) 720-3333
TTY: 1 (800) 256-7072
Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of
USDA Food Safety Publications
Turkey Roasting Holiday Dinner Safety Index
Thanksgiving Recipes Index
Christmas Recipes Index