A Starter’s Guide to Meat Temperatures

How Would You Like That Cooked?

Have you ever bitten into a perfectly cooked steak? If so, you’re familiar with one of life’s greatest joys.

Even before that first bite, you can feel there’s something special happening by the way your knife glides through the beef. From firmness to texture to juiciness, it’s then you know that the meat stars have aligned.

What if we told you that perfectly cooked meat doesn’t require a stroke of luck? That every time you fire up your Nexgrill, you could grill your food just as you intended—be it rare, well-done, or something in between?

Well, we have good news. That’s the purpose of this post! From steaks to burgers to lamb roasts, this easy guide will teach you the ideal temperatures for a variety of cuts. Fire up the Nexgrill and grab your digital meat thermometer. It’s time to talk meat temperatures.

Why is it Important to Monitor Meat Temperatures?

1. So It’s Safe To Eat

The USDA lists the safest minimum internal cooking temperature for various grilled meats. It’s worth noting that it’s perfectly acceptable (and common) to grill up meat below these recommended temperatures to achieve a rarer finish. Just make sure you and your guests are fully aware of the health risks associated with consuming raw or undercooked beef, pork, and poultry.

2. So It’s Cooked to Your Liking

Just like coffee orders at Starbucks, everyone likes their food prepared a certain way, and you can be the one to give it to them. Many beginning grillers make the mistake of checking the doneness of their meats while they’re still on the grill. Cutting into your meat to check its color releases the juices that make your food flavorful. So, put that steak knife away until your meat is fully rested and ready to be eaten!

With a tool as simple as a digital meat thermometer, you can make sure your meat comes off the grill just how you and your guests like it.

Let’s Go Meat-By-Meat!

Whole Beef (Steak)

mushroom merlot tri tip medium rare recipe

USDA Recommends: 145°F + 3 minutes rest

  • Rare: 125°F
  • Medium-Rare: 130°F
  • Medium: 140°F
  • Medium-Well: 150°F
  • Well-Done: 160°F

To check the temperature of whole beef, insert your digital meat thermometer into the thickest part of the cut, making sure to avoid the bone if one is present. It’s always better to remove your meat sooner rather than later, considering meat will continue to cook even after it comes off the grill.

Practice makes perfect. Try out this recipe for medium-rare Mushroom Merlot Tri-Tip.

Ground Beef (Burgers)

ground beef cooking temperature

USDA Recommends: 160°F

  • Medium-Rare: 125°F
  • Medium: 130°F
  • Medium-Well: 140°F
  • Well-Done: 160°F

The USDA recommends a slightly higher minimum internal cooking temperature for ground beef because ground meats are more likely to be contaminated with food-borne pathogens. Better be safe than sorry and cook your burgers until your thermometer reads an even 160°F.

Ready for a juicy burger? Try out this recipe for grilled Porto’ Burgers.

Pork (Roast, Chops)

grilled pork chops with grilled apple jalapeño

USDA Recommends: 145°F + 3 minutes rest

  • Medium: 150°F
  • Medium-Well: 155°F
  • Well-Done: 160°F

When it comes to grilling ham, pork roasts, and pork chops, the USDA recommends sticking to medium doneness and up. 145°F is the magic number for pork, plus 3 minutes of rest after it comes off the grill. Just like with beef, insert your digital meat thermometer half an inch into the thickest part of the cut to get an accurate read on temp.

Brush up on your pork-grilling precision with this recipe for Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Apple & Jalapeño.

Lamb (Roast, Chops)

how to cook your lamb chops to temp

USDA Recommends: 145°F + 3 minutes rest

  • Rare: 125°F
  • Medium-Rare: 130°F
  • Medium: 140°F
  • Medium-Well: 150°F
  • Well-Done: 160°F

We’ll treat lamb the same as we would whole beef, since both are considered “red meats” and cook similarly. It’s true! Beef and lamb contain similar amounts of myoglobin, the protein in muscle that turns red when combined with oxygen.

Veal

veal chops cooked

USDA Recommends: 145°F + 3 minutes rest

  • Rare: 125°F
  • Medium-Rare: 130°F
  • Medium: 140°F
  • Medium-Well: 150°F
  • Well-Done: 160°F

Veal’s on that same myoglobin train, so we’ll treat it as such. Once again, 145°F is the magic number here. Then be sure to let your veal rest for a few minutes before chowing down.

Poultry (Chicken, Turkey)

recommended cooking temp for grilled chicken

USDA Recommends: 165°F

There are no levels of doneness when it comes to chicken. According to the USDA, chicken becomes safe to eat at 165°F, but if you keep poultry on the grill for much longer, it will dry out and lose flavor. If chicken’s on the menu, be diligent with your meat thermometer and remove it from the grill as soon as, if not slightly before, it reads 165°F.

Hungry for tender, juicy chicken? Try out this recipe for Maple Butter Chicken!

Fish & Shellfish

grilled trout usda temp recommendations

USDA Recommends: 145°F

Once fish and shellfish hit 145°F, they become safe to eat, according to the USDA. Like chicken, fish will dry out quickly if left on the grill for too long, so keep your eye on that dial!

In the mood for seafood? Give this recipe for Miso Honey Salmon a spin.

Now you’re equipped to grill consistently juicy, consistently tasty cuts of meats at whatever doneness you prefer! Don’t forget to share your creations using #HungryForDifferent.

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