Cooking temperatures

If you have a kitchen thermometer, you need to know this

Feb 11, 2019
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Once upon a time I studied culinary courses and naturally, like a true nerd, I didn’t only watch others cook and wrote notes, but also did my homework. One of the most voluminous topics was the preparation of animal protein; if you are a vegetarian - see you in the next post, as we are going to talk about meat, poultry and fish.

A brave new world opened up to me during the course… It turned out, for example, that baking a whole chicken is quick and easy and cooking a steak at home is elementary; what is more, it turned out that I almost never ate fish and chicken cooked to the "ideal" internal temperature. And that’s exactly what I’m going to talk about.

Based on scientific research, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has published a Safe Food Handling describing the internal temperature at which animal products become safe to eat. By the way, this temperature is much lower than the one we usually use for cooking.

If you have a thermometer, remember the basic rules:

  • beware of "dangerous" temperatures (below 60ºC),
  • place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food,
  • in order not to spoil the appearance of your product, insert the thermometer sideways,
  • don’t forget to wash the thermometer after each use.

Types of thermometers:

  • analog thermometer, the main problem is either in the scale or in the measuring range; when the range is too narrow, the thermometer is only suitable for a limited set of purposes, when it’s too wide, the scale becomes difficult to read; such thermometers are usually cheaper, and you’re not afraid of washing them, because they don’t have an electronic part,
  • a digital thermometer, there are many options; it can be a probe thermometer (the thermometer probe is attached to the main unit showing the temperature), with an external probe (a probe that is attached to the body through a special cable), infrared (the temperature is measured at a distance).
I'm a fan of digital probe thermometers with an external probe because I'm lazy and don't want to open the oven multiple times to check readiness. Many models of such thermometers have default programs, as a result, the process looks like this: put the meat with a thermometer in the oven and leave, the thermometer will beep when everything is ready :)

Internal temperature guidelines for home cooking are the following:

Product Internal Temperature (°C)
Fish 63ºC
Ground meat, sausages, meatballs 71-74ºC
Beef (including steaks) and veal
- rare 49-51ºC - дать "отдохнуть" минимум 3 минуты
- medium rare 55-60ºC - дать "отдохнуть" минимум 3 минуты
- medium 60-65ºC
- well-done 70ºC
Lamb
- rare 60-65ºC
- medium rare 65-70ºC
- medium 70ºC
- well-done 75ºC
Pork 63ºC and higher
Chicken, goose, duck (whole and separate parts) 74ºC
- duck breast minimum temperature 58ºC - similar to a medium rare steak

What if you don't have a thermometer?

If you are roasting the whole chicken, you can make an incision between the breast and the thigh in order to check doneness: if the juices run clear, not red, then the bird is done. If you are baking chicken thighs or legs, then you can stick a toothpick into the thickest part, to the bone, if the juices run clear - the meat is ready.

Why else do you need a thermometer?

When reheating soup or broth, check that the temperature in the center reached 74ºC.

You can check the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer, the ideal refrigerator temperature is 4ºC or lower, and for the freezer it is -18ºC or lower.

The thermometer is also used for "advanced" baking, for example, to check the temperature of the liquid that will be used to breed the yeast, by the way, it depends on the temperature of the flour and the environment. The yeast is extremely sensitive to temperature, if it is too low, less than 35ºC, it will "work" too slowly; and if the temperature is too high, more than 58ºC, the yeast will die. By the way, you can also check this temperature by touching the liquid with your hand - it should be lukewarm.