Most recipes instruct the home cook to roast meat and poultry for a specific amount of time. However, there are a number of factors that render a time-based recipe unreliable. For example, you may program your oven to 350 ℉, but unless you’ve calibrated your oven or are using an accurate oven thermometer, your oven’s temperature may not actually be 350 ℉.
Also, the actual shape of the roast and how much it’s marbled with fat and connective tissue will affect how long it should cook to desired doneness. A recipe’s cooking time should really be considered an approximation, and the only reliable method for knowing when meat and poultry are done is by using one of our recommended meat thermometers.
USDA recommended temperatures
The USDA recommends internal temperatures for cooked meat and poultry that ensure food safety. These high temperatures, however, will almost always give you dry, overcooked and tasteless meat. The chance of meat-borne pathogens in steaks and roast is low since only the surface of the meat could come in contact with bacteria.
However, ground meats — especially store-bought — carry a higher risk of contamination, since they are composed of trimmings and fat from many cuts of meat that have been exposed to air-borne bacteria in different areas of the processing plant.
The USDA’s temperature recommendation for burgers is 160℉ (71 ℃), which will give you a safe-to-eat but well-done burger. If you enjoy burgers cooked on your charcoal or gas grill, it’s best to grind the meat yourself (easy in a food processor) from a chuck roast or brisket, so you can cook the freshly ground burger to your preferred doneness.
Resting meat & carryover cooking
Remember that any meat should rest when it’s removed from the oven or grill to allow juices to be reabsorbed into the meat. During this resting time, the meat will continue to cook — known as “carryover cooking” — and its internal temperature will rise.
Resting time can range from 10–45 minutes — or even 1 hour for a roast turkey — and depends on the meat’s cut and weight. While the meat is resting, you should measure its temperature with your meat thermometer two or three times so you’ll know exactly when it hits the temperature for your preferred doneness.
The following chart gives you the internal temperatures of stages of doneness for meats and poultry.
Meat temperature chart
|Type/Cut of Meat||Doneness||Remove From Oven/Grill||Resting Time (Tented)||Temperature After Resting||USDA Recommendation|
|Beef roast||Rare||110℉-115℉||20 minutes||125℉-130℉||None|
|Beef steak||Rare||120℉-125℉||10 minutes||125℉-130℉||145℉|
|Beef roast||Medium-Rare||120℉-125℉||20-25 minutes||130℉-135℉||145℉|
|Beef steak||Medium-Rare||125℉-130℉||10 minutes||130℉-135℉||145℉|
|Beef roast||Medium||130℉-135℉||25-30 minutes||140℉-145℉||None|
|Beef steak||Medium||130℉-135℉||10 minutes||140℉-145℉||145℉|
|Beef roast||Well-Done||140℉-145℉||30-45 minutes||150℉-145℉||None|
|Beef steak||Well-Done||140℉-145℉||10 minutes||150℉-145℉||None|
|Pork roast/chops||Medium||135℉-140℉||Chops: 5-10 minutes; Roast: 30-45 minutes||140℉-150℉||145℉|
|Pork roast||Medium-Well||145℉-150℉||30-45 minutes||150℉-160℉||None|
|Lamb roast||Medium-Rare||120℉-125℉||20 minutes||130℉-135℉||145℉|
|Lamb roast||Medium||125℉-130℉||20 minutes||140℉-145℉||145℉|
|Lamb chops||Medium-Rare||120℉-125℉||5 minutes||130℉-135℉||145℉|
|Lamb chops||Medium||125℉-130℉||5 minutes||140℉-145℉||145℉|
|Whole Chicken||N/A||145℉-150℉||30 minutes||160℉-165℉||165℉|
|Chicken thighs||N/A||160℉-165℉||20 minutes||170℉-175℉||165℉|
|Chicken breasts||N/A||150℉-155℉||20 minutes||160℉-165℉||165℉|
|Whole Turkey||N/A||150℉-155℉||45 minutes-1 hour||160℉-165℉||165℉|
|Veal roast||Medium-Rare||120℉-125℉||15-20 minutes||130℉-135℉||145℉|
|Veal roast||Medium||130℉-135℉||15-20 minutes||140℉-145℉||145℉|
|Veal chops||Medium-Rare||125℉-130℉||5-10 minutes||130℉-135℉||145℉|
|Veal chops||Medium||130℉-135℉||5-10 minutes||140℉-145℉||145℉|