One of the gifts of food is being able to share it with others. The last thing we want to do is make our guests sick. That is why it is crucial to cook meat to a proper temperature that will kill all evil-minded bacteria and other nasty microorganisms who live to harm us.
While there are many folksy ways, passed down through generations, to tell when meat is done, there is only one tool to ensure your safety: the instant read thermometer. It is a must have for any home cook. Check that it is calibrated properly by testing a glass of ice water (32 degrees F) or a pot of boiling water (212 degrees F at sea level). When testing meat, always stick the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the food and avoid hitting bones or the sides of the pot.
Cooking meat to a proper temperature will kill most of the bad stuff however good food handling should always be considered. Be sure your meat is fresh and been held at a proper temperature (below 40 degrees F). Never cook spoiled meat and be careful of cross contaminating with other ingredients in your dish. Finally, cook fruits, vegetables, and grains to 135 degrees F to ensure that they are safe to eat.
Pork should always be cooked to 145 degrees F. However, ground pork and sausage are instead done at 155 degrees F. This will help you avoid the always nasty trichinosis. Take its temperature the next time you make our Wonton Soup with Char Su Spare Ribs.
Poultry poses the risk of salmonella. All poultry, including chicken and turkey, should be cooked to 165 degrees F. This means a whole bird, a cut, or ground poultry. Pull out your thermometer when you cook our Chicken Saltimbocca.
All fish, including shellfish, should be cooked to 145 degrees F. The one exception is ground fish which should be cooked to 155 degrees F. Use this knowledge the next time you make our Shrimp Scampi And Linguine.
The trickiest meat to discuss is beef. That is because, cooking it to its safest temperature means cooking it to “medium.” According to safety guidelines, whole beef cuts should be cooked to 145 degrees F while ground beef should have a final temperature of 155 degrees F. That being said, many prefer cuts of steak on the rarer side. This is a risk but it is one many take for a better tasting steak. Just be sure that you are sourcing quality meat and storing it correctly before cooking. For a rare steak, cook it to 120 degrees F. Medium-rare is closer to 130 degrees F. Medium-well to well-done is between 160- and 170-degrees F. Play around with the different temperatures when making our Thai Basil Beef.
When making stuffed dishes, we want to make sure the stuffing is just as cooked as its casing. Any dish stuffed with meat, like stuffed peppers, or any meat stuffed with other things, like beef braciole, should show an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Reheating Previously Cooked Dishes
Meal prepping is a great idea to mitigate the time-constraints of busy lives. However, any previously cooked meal that is reheated should be just as safe as the original dish. That is why, frozen or from the fridge, we want to reheat food to 165 degrees F. Pull out your thermometer when you reheat leftover Eggplant Parm.