How to cook chicken, beef, pork and other meats to proper doneness.The best way to make sure meat and poultry are juicy and delicious is to cook them to the proper doneness. When you overcook meat and poultry they dry out and become tough—but you don’t want to undercook them either. The most foolproof way to tell when meat is done, whether you’re roasting, grilling or sautéing, is to use an instant-read thermometer. Insert the thermometer about 2 inches into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone. The temperature should register within about 15 seconds (the thermometers are not designed to stay in the food while it’s cooking). Look for them at supermarkets or kitchenware shops.
Why You Should Let Your Cooked Meat and Poultry Rest
The purpose of allowing meat to rest (that is, sit off the heat after cooking) is to let the juices inside redistribute before you cut into it. This makes the meat more juicy and tender when you eat it. The other thing that happens during resting is that the internal temperature of the cooked meat rises as it rests. How much depends on the size of the meat, how long it rests and the temperature at which it was cooked. One rule of thumb is that the temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees per 10 minutes of resting. We recommend that larger roasts or whole birds should rest longer than smaller pieces of meat. For example, a whole turkey should rest for about half an hour, while a grilled steak should rest for 5 or 10 minutes.
EatingWell Recommended Internal Temperatures*
Beef & Lamb
Medium- rare: 140°F
Chicken & Turkey
*The USDA conservatively recommends cooking beef, pork and lamb to higher temperatures; we find this usually yields overdone results, so we offer a lower target. Whole poultry should cook to 165°F. We make an exception for boneless duck breast, which tastes better cooked to medium (150°F). People who are very young, very old or who have compromised immune systems should stick to the USDA recommendations (for more information, call the USDA Meat & Poultry hotline, 1-888-674-6854).