Internal Meat Temperatures

Want to know when your meat is done?

Internal Meat Temperatures are directly linked to the degree of doneness. The easiest way to measure this accurately is to insert a meat thermometer into the centre of the thickest part. The thicker the meat is the easier the thermometer is to use which goes without saying that the thinner the meat is the more difficult it becomes.

Here are some internal meat temperatures:
  • Beef: Rare 140F/60C : Medium 160F/70C : Well Done 175F/80C

  • Pork: 160F/70C

  • Poultry: 175F/80C

Unless your patties are quite thick and pretty stable you run the risk of breaking up the patty when you insert the thermometer so you have to be careful.

When it comes to grilling thinner burgers or cuts of meat my personal opinion is that using a thermometer becomes less practical.

It is difficult to find the centre in thinnish meat and this is exactly where the tip of the thermometer must be to give an accurate reading. The margin for error here is much less than in thick cuts.

I read somewhere that to overcome this obstacle one should insert the thermometer into the edge of the burger or whatever you are grilling, and push it in parallel to the cooking surface, until the point reaches the centre. If you do try this method I strongly recommend the use of heat-resistant gloves, and with burgers, I urge you to say a prayer to the Almighty to help the burger stay in one piece.

Here is the primitive and, I must add, less hazardous way of determining internal meat temperatures, especially with burgers.

The theory behind the method I am about to explain is this: meat is like a sponge. When it is saturated with water it is soft to the touch. The drier it becomes the firmer it gets. When the sponge is completely dry it is hard.

During the cooking process, as the juices evaporate or are expelled by the heat, the meat slowly becomes drier and firmer, like the sponge.

So the trick is to 'feel' the centre or the thickest part of the meat regularly to determine what the degree of firmness is, which, in turn, is directly related to the degree of doneness. That's all there is to it.

Here are some useful guidelines for determining the internal meat temperatures without a thermometer:

  • Rare: you can just detect the slightest amount of firmness.

  • Medium-to-rare: the meat starts to firm up but no juices appear on the surface.

  • Medium: the meat is firmer and becomes a little springy at the touch. Juices begin to appear on the surface.

  • Medium-to-well: the meat becomes quite firm and springy to the touch. Juices start to clear.

  • Well done: the juices are clear, the meat is firm and not springy anymore.
Don't press down hard on the patty with the spatula when testing the firmness, you will lose juices and flavor unnecessarily.

This method works really well and before long you will easily master the technique.


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