USDA updates meat safety cooking temperatures

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – In updating its recommendation for safely cooking pork, steaks, roasts and chops, the US Department of Agriculture recommends cooking all whole cuts of meat to 145° F as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allowing the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming.

Ground beef, veal, lamb and pork should be cooked to 160° F and do not require a rest time. The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey, remains 165° F.

"With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform three- minute stand time, we believe it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation," said Elisabeth Hagen, Under Secretary. "Now there will only be three numbers to remember: 145° for whole meats, 160° for ground meats and 165 for all poultry."

USDA is lowering the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160° F to 145° F and adding a three-minute rest time. The safe temperature for cuts of beef, veal and lamb remains 145° F, but the department is adding a three-minute rest time as part of its cooking recommendations. Cooking raw pork, steaks, roasts, and chops to 145° F with the addition of a three-minute rest time will result in a product that is both microbiologically safe and at its best quality.

A "rest time" is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature after it has been removed from a grill, oven or other heat source. During this time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has determined it is just as safe to cook cuts of pork to 145° F with a three-minute rest time as it is to cook them to 160° F, the previously recommended temperature, with no rest time. The new cooking suggestions reflect the same standards that the agency uses for cooked meat products produced in federally inspected meat establishments, which rely on the rest time of three minutes to achieve safe pathogen reduction.

Historically, consumers have viewed the color pink in pork to be a sign of undercooked meat. If raw pork is cooked to 145° F and allowed to rest for three minutes, it may still be pink but is safe to eat. The pink color can be due to the cooking method, added ingredients or other factors. Cured pork (e.g., cured ham and cured pork chops) will remain pink after cooking.

Only by using a food thermometer can consumers determine if meat has reached a sufficient temperature to destroy pathogens of public health concern, USDA said. Any cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.
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