food-safety | 8 mins read

Safe Cooking Standards- A Handy Food Cooking Temperature Chart

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Archita Wagle

By Archita Wagle

Why Cooking Temperature Matters?

Has this ever happened to you? You order a well-done beef steak at a restaurant, only to find the centre raw and bloody? It's enough to make you lose your appetite. But if you went ahead and consumed it because you didn't want to kick up a fuss, you wouldn't just end up with a bad dining experience, but with a bad stomach. Undercooked food is one of the prime sources of food poisoning.

This is why it's vital to make sure foods meet their minimum cooking temperature. It ensures that disease-causing bacteria in the food are completely destroyed. To protect public heath, the U.S. government has set guidelines for minimum cooking temperatures for different foods.

According to statistics from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around one in six Americans fall sick, and 3,000 die from food-borne illnesses every year. Most of these illnesses are caused by foods that are not cooked or stored at the right temperature.

Restaurants have to therefore be very particular that foods cooked in their kitchens follow safe cooking temperature norms. They should also ensure that food, whether hot or refrigerated, is also stored at the required temperature.

Restaurant should observe three cardinal rules to meet food safety standards-

  • The internal temperature of cooked foods must meet the necessary food safety norms
  • The cooking temperatures should be consistent for a particular food type
  • The amount of time devoted to cooking a food, and the location where it is cooked, should follow safe food practices

A Food Cooking Temperature Chart Deconstructed

It's obvious that temperature plays a vital role in the storage and cooking of food. But it's crucial to know what that temperature should be. Just like foods are different, storage and cooking temperatures differ too. Uncooked food kept at its ideal storage temperature slows down the growth of bacteria present in the food. This in turn controls the growth of disease-causing pathogens. In the same way, maintaining the minimum cooking temperature or internal temperature of food eliminates bacteria and pathogens that make it unsafe for consumption.

A food's cooking temperature depends upon its type, cut, and method of processing. For instance, ground meat has to be cooked at a higher internal cooking temperature than a whole portion, as bacteria or parasites spread to the entire batch when meat is ground.

The best way to check if a food has been cooked to its safe minimum temperature is to insert a food thermometer into its thickest part. The U.S. government has made it easy for cooks to know what the minimum cooking temperatures for different foods should be by drawing up a handy temperature chart . This is part of its food safety guidelines.

Let's take a look at the optimum cooking temperatures or internal temperature for safe cooking of different food products.

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The Right Temperature for Cooking Meat

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In this section, we'll consider red meats like beef, mutton, pork, and venison, and white meats like veal and lamb. Meats come in several forms, including different cuts of steak, and ground meat products like meatballs, sausages, and patties. The internal temperature chart for cooking meat stipulates 145F or 65C for whole meats, and 160 to 165F or 70 to 75C for ground meats. The USFDA has recommended the minimum internal temperature for cooking meat as 140F.

The minimum cooking temperatures for meats are-

Ground beef and lamb products like sausages or burger patties 160F
Beef steak (perpendicular sliced cut of meat) or roast 145F
Rare beef steak (brown outside, soft inside) or roast 125-130F
Medium rare beef steak (firming up outside, tender at center)130-140F
Medium well done beef steak (primarily grey and only a sliver of pink)150-160F
Well done beef steak (grey throughout)
Veal 145F
Lamb chops 145F
Mutton 145F
Pork 145F
Ham 145F
Reheating precooked ham165F
Ground venison 160F
Venison steak or roast 145F

The Right Temperature for Cooking Poultry Well Done

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Poultry typically includes chicken, duck, goose, pheasant, quail and turkey. Poultry meat refers to the whole bird and parts of the bird like the wings, breast, thighs, legs, giblets and ground meat . Poultry meat is divided into dark and white meat.

White meat contains about 10% red fibre (muscle tissue) and is lean and mild in flavor. It dries out easily if overcooked. Dark meat has about 50% red fibre, and is more flavorful and juicy. Unlike white meat, it can be cooked longer. Ducks and geese have dark meat, while chicken turkey are a mix of white meat and dark meat.

But no matter what type of poultry meat it is, the internal temperature ought to be 165F or 75C when cooking. However, when cooking the whole bird the safe minimum cooking temperature is 180F or 82C.

The minimum cooking temperatures for poultry are-

White meat 165F
Dark meat 165F
Ground poultry meat165F
Whole bird 180F

What are the Internal Temperatures for Cooking Vegetables

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Unlike meats, vegetables can be eaten raw, served with dips, or cut and served as salads. While care should be taken to wash vegetables thoroughly before consuming them, the risk of contracting food poisoning from vegetables is quite low.

Vegetables can be boiled, steamed, sauteed, baked or roasted. But the longer you cook it, the higher the loss of nutrients. The best way to cook vegetables is to leave them looking bright, with a little crunch to them. The food safe cooking temperature for vegetables is 165F or 75C. But roasted vegetables need to hit around 400F or 204C. If you plan to store cooked vegetables, remember to cool them down within two hours and store them in a refrigerator. They should then be eaten within three days.

  • If you want to store cooked food, wait until the steam stops rising. Then cover the food and refrigerate it.
  • Food cools faster when you place it in shallow trays or divide it into smaller portions.
  • After cooking or cooling food, it is important to maintain Food Safety by keeping the food safe at a minimum internal temperature so that it can be preserved longer.
  • The cold holding temperature for foods should be 40F, while the holding temperature for hot foods is 135F or higher. You should check the holding internal temperature of food every four hours.

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The Right Temperature for Cooking Egg Dishes

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If your cooked food contains raw eggs, know that it still runs the risk of causing food poisoning. This can happen because of the bacteria contained in the eggs. When you work with egg dishes make sure the eggs are cooked until the yolk is solid, for only then will harmful pathogens be destroyed.

The safe cooking temperature for egg whites is 144 to 149F; egg yolk is 149 to 158 F, and the safe minimum internal temperature for whole eggs is 144 to 158F. The safe minimum cooking temperature for egg dishes like quiche and casseroles is 160F.

The minimum cooking temperatures for egg dishes are-

Egg white144-149F
Yolk 149-158F
Whole eggs 144-158F
Omelettes, Baked custards, quiches, casseroles or French toast160F
Scrambled eggs, fried eggs over easy, over hard, and basted 144-158F
Poached eggs 144-158F

What is Rest Time After Cooking Meat?

Once you're done cooking meat , don't immediately plate it. For the meat to be tender and juicy, it's important to allow it to rest. Rest time is the time required for the meat's juices to be reabsorbed. Resting a meat prevents its juices from leaking out when it's cut. If the juices leak out, the meat will lose much of its flavour.

Meat typically continues to cook even after it's taken off the fire or grill. A good way to help a meat rest is to wrap it in aluminium foil. The rest time of a meat can range from five to 10 minutes, depending on how thick and well done the cut is.

How Can You Tell if Your Internal Temperature of Food is Done Cooking?

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For much of humanity's cooking history, people have relied on the appearance and aroma of cooked food to tell if it's ready to be taken off the fire. And when these signs are hard to read, cooks simply rely on guesswork. However, a growing awareness of the causes of food-borne diseases has made people more cautious with their cooking. They want to know the safe minimum cooking temperatures for different foods to make sure the food is safe to serve.

Restaurants, in particular, have to be extra vigilant. One case of food poisoning from undercooked food is all it takes to shutter a business. That's why kitchens today are stocked with all the tools needed to meet food safety standards. One of these tools is the food thermometer or food temperature gauge.

A food thermometer is the best way to read the internal temperature of food. It helps reduce the risk of food poisoning from undercooked food. It also prevents food from being overcooked. In addition, the cooking standards for different foods can be met and their individual internal temperature effortlessly gauged with this device. To use it, one must simply insert thermometer into the thickest part of the item cooked. The food should meet the minimum cooking temperature for more than two minutes in the middle or thickest part.

A food thermometer many restaurants are turning to is ZipThermometer. This low-frequency Bluetooth thermometer probe is a sleek instrument that's sturdy, affordable, and easy to use. It can accurately read the temperature of every cooked food in a kitchen, and automatically transfer the reading to its associated ZipHACCP food safety app. ZipThermometer works in collaboration with the ZipHACCP app to make sure every food cooked meets the safe minimum cooking temperature stipulated by the temperature chart so that the risk of food poisoning is completely eliminated.

By taking the necessary steps to maintain the right cooking temperatures a restaurant does more than ensure food safety. It cuts down on wastage that comes from having to bin undercooked food. It also leads to inventory optimization. What's more, a restaurant's staff doesn't have to work twice to prepare the same dish all over again. This results in better workforce management. Ultimately, safe food leads to a great customer experience, which in turn leads to customer loyalty. And it all boils down to the right temperature.

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"Our customer's trust is what keeps us in business. They expect fresh tasting food with no threat of ill-born diseases. Zip HACCP keeps us compliant with HACCP and FDA regulations through its integrated temperature solutions, food safety assurance, and end-to-end task reporting. We also use Zip Inventory to save time on inventory counts and have much-needed predictability to our ordering process. The Hubworks business management apps are perfect for our restaurants."


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