Using a Food Thermometer

Cooking Thermometers
Diana Rattray

A food thermometer is an essential tool in any kitchen. A food thermometer not only prevents undercooking of meat, poultry, and egg dishes, it prevents overcooking.

Meat, poultry, and egg dishes must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that might be in the food. 

Where to Insert a Thermometer

  • Poultry: Insert the thermometer in the inner thigh area, near the breast and not touching bone.
  • Red meat, steaks, roasts, etc.: Insert the thermometer in the center of the thickest part, not near the bone or fat/gristle.
  • Ground meat and poultry: Insert it in the thickest part of meatloaf or insert sideways in thin items like burgers or patties.
  • Egg dishes and casseroles: Insert the thermometer in the center or the thickest part of the dish.

Make sure your thermometer is designed for meat and poultry, not for candy or appliances. There are several types of food thermometers available in stores.

Most meat thermometers are accurate to within plus or minus 1 to 2° F. Always insert it in several places to ensure food safety.

Item Minimum Internal Temperature
Red Meat: Steaks, Chops, Roasts 145 °F (62.8 °C) (allow 3-minute rest)
Ground Meat 160 °F (71.1 °C)
Ham, Uncooked 145 °F (62.8 °C) (allow 3-minute rest)
Reheat Fully Cooked Ham 140 °F (60 °C) *
Item Minimum Internal Temperature
Poultry, Including Stuffing in Bird 165 °F (73.9 °C)
Eggs 160 °F (71.1 °C)
Fish & Shellfish 145 °F (62.8 °C)
Leftovers and Casseroles 165 °F (73.9 °C)

*If the fully cooked ham was not processed in a USDA-inspected plant, the USDA recommends a minimum temperature of 165 F (73.9 C).

Safe Cooking Tips

  • When working with food, wash your hands and clean surfaces frequently.
  • Keep raw meat separate from other foods.
  • Always cook to the safe minimum temperature.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly.