The Right Temperature for 20 Kinds of Meat and Poultry

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Beef, ground
> Internal temperature: 160º

Some people like their burgers rare or medium-rare, but food safety advocates stress that this simply isn’t safe, though the risk is reduced if you grind your own beef shortly before cooking or buy it from a trusted local source. Some experts believe that 155º is a safe internal temperature for ground beef, but most authorities agree on 160º. Either, though, will result in well-done meat. If you’re living dangerously, 140º will yield medium, 130º medium-rare.

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Beef steaks, chops, roasts
> Internal temperature: 145º (rest for 3 minutes)

Government agencies recommend only one temperature for cooking whole pieces of meat, failing to mention that an internal temperature of 145º equates to medium-well. Since the warnings about not eating rare ground meat don’t apply to steaks, chops, and roasts, bear in mind that 135º to 140º means medium, 130º to 135º is medium-rare, and 125º plus a three-minute rest period after cooking will give you rare.

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Chicken, ground
> Internal temperature: 165º

As chicken is particularly susceptible to bacterial contamination, it should be cooked to higher temperatures than red meat. While the USDA counsels 165º for ground chicken, testers in the Food Network Kitchen have found that 170º to 175º is preferable.

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Chicken, whole
> Internal temperature: 165º

There is little disagreement among experts that this is the correct internal temperature for whole chicken.

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Duck, whole
> Internal temperature: 165º

As with chicken, a temperature of 165º is considered standard for cooking whole ducks, though because duck is not a common carrier of salmonella and its dark red meat resembles that of beef or lamb more than chicken, some cooks roast it to a few degrees less. (Duck breasts cooked separately may be brought to a lower temperature; see below.)