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Safe meat temperatures is the USDA right?

Discussion in 'Food Safety' started by tank, Oct 25, 2010.

  1. tank

    tank Smoke Blower

    Well title says it all.  For most things(ground beef/poultry) I have found temps on here to go well with the USDA.  My question comes in with roasts and pork loin.  The USDA says 145 for beef to be rare and 160 for medium rare.  These numbers seem high to me and are high when compared to most of the posts I see here.  Also with pork they say to 160 which around here some say they pull their loins off at 145-150.  Also what would you do for steaks?  I am new to the game and am always worried about getting people sick.  I want to know that the food I serve is safe but I also want it to taste good aka a beef roast a nice medium rare.  Any thoughts and insights would  be great.  I have searched around but couldn't find a good thread that really covered this.  Thanks in advance.
  2. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Hi Tank,

    I'm sure somebody will give you a better explanation than this, but the temps listed in the USDA are the "Safe" temps. Many of us, including me, don't like things done that well, so we go lower. We may be taking chances when we do that, but we take chances every day. I wouldn't want to stray too much below their guide lines. I take my beef to 137˚---coasting to 142˚, and I do take my pork to at least 160˚.

  3. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    I agree with Bear for I don't like my beef doen that much but I do take mine to 135°ish. We like our more on the rare side and the same with our pork maybe a 160° There's nothing wrong with a little pink in my pork.
  4. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member


    If you are serving to the public there are rules to follow.  You need to establish special, approved, procedures if you are serving at lower then recommended temps to the general public.  I believe each state has it's own rules but you can be sure that they closely follow USDA.  You have a lot more latitude if serving to family and friends. 

    Remember that the cleaner and safer the meat before you prepare it the better chance you have of producing safe food for your family.  There is a time vs temp scale for food safety.  In other words, you can generally cook to a lower temp if you keep the product at that temp for a longer period of time. 

    Generally if it's a quick cook item like burgers they need to be brought to a higher temperature.  Burgers are particularly dangerous because of the grinding and mixing of different cuts of meat and the amount of food surface exposed to possible infection.  Whole cuts of meat can generally be cooked to a lower temperature because if properly handled there is less risk of the meat carrying the bad bugs.  I would think that if you buy whole cuts, grind them at home, using proper food safety guidelines (keeping the meat cool and work surfaces clean) and cook it right away, you can serve your burgers at a lower temperature. 

    Chicken and other poultry are a different story.  Kind of like teaching in a kindergarten.  No matter how careful you are you will still be carrying the bad bugs home with you.  The overriding advice I have gotten from my readings is to always cook fowl to the safe recommended temperatures and clean all work surfaces and utensils with a disinfectant.

    Most people that contribute reliable information to this forum can be more flexible in final cooking temperatures because they have taken steps to insure the safety of the product they begin with.

    Pm me if you want me to try and find the pdf files of the guidelines, I think they are still on a disk somewhere.

  5. pit 4 brains

    pit 4 brains Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    On most menus around here there is a warning statement about consuming raw or undercooked food to protect the establishment in the case that you order food med rare, sunyside up, etc. Some places will not serve a burger that is pink in the middle..
  6. tank

    tank Smoke Blower

    Thanks for the advice guys.  Right now I am only serving family and friends but with little ones I want to be safe without them growing up thinking everything has to be "brown" to eat.  Also for some reason most of my extended family likes to boil chicken then cook it and I hate this, not worth eating.  I want to serve chicken that is cooked properly and if there is a "little pink" by the bone who cares it has gone above 165.  Anyways I was mostly wandering about cuts like prime rib, roast beef, and pork loin.  These are all things I want to try but want to make sure they are "safe" but yet good.  I have read a lot of threads and it varies based on the chef so I wanted to get an idea of what is right and what isn't.  I guess to be "totally" safe take it to USDA temp?
  7. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member


    I would never eat "pink" chicken.  Smoking will produce a pinkish color on the outside of the meat but if it's pink (with blood) by the bone it's probably not finished cooking.
  8. tank

    tank Smoke Blower

    Yeah but my family if there is any color at all other than white then it isn't done.
  9. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    I know a family from Pittsburgh that only eats "Well Done" too.

    Is that a Pittsburgh thing?

    LOL---My father-in-law likes well done too, and only eats Black Hotdogs! [​IMG]

    But who am I to argue----The guy just turned 90 this month!
  10. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    Beef other than ground i will eat rare if i prepare it or know the person cooking it.

     Pork and poultry will be cooked to safe temps around here.
  11. scarbelly

    scarbelly Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member

    I am a rare beef guy. I tend to grind my own burger meat so I can eat them on the med rare side as well. I cook chicken to 160 then let it rest and it usually ends up at 165. The key to any poultry is are the juices running clear at least that is the guideline I use for my family.  When we are teaching the 4H kids they all get a copy of the USDA guidelines and we cook to those in class but we explain that if meat is handled properly you can cook it to rare end enjoy it. We do everything to health department standards during the class and you should see how many hand washings they get during the first few classes from hands in their hair or scratching an itchy nose.  
  12. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Dang I just got a chill down my back. I'm with Al on this one.

    Whole muscle meat you can do rarer then ground, and knowing the people that processed the meat before you also helps take the fear factor out of the equation


    Case in point: At a store I use to go to, I saw an employee find a packaged steak in the cereal isle that someone must have changed there mind on buying, and then toss it back into the meat cooler. when I asked the manager and the employee if they knew the temp of that piece of meat or how long it sat on the cereal shelf they looked at me like I was a nut case. I don't go there anymore. Know your butcher! You can do everything by the book only to find out the guy before you screwed up and made ya sick.
  13. The USDA is mostly  gonna err on the high side.....

    Pork is "safe" anywhere North of 137*.....145* Seems perfect for me

    Poultry is "safe" at 165*  Some may want it a little hotter in the thigh ...You will find numerous "charts" for cooking beef....Personally I don't want any piece of beef over 145*...Except Hamburger... I want it at 165*

  14. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Sorry Corncob to disagree but making a general statement like that is dangerous.  Pork is "not safe" at 137 degrees if improperly handled by the slaughter house, the packager, the high school guy at the meat counter or your wife if she throws it on the countertop at 8 in the morning to be cooked at 7 that night.  Salmonella requires 150 degrees to inactivate but the toxins will not be affected.  Clostridium will deactivate at 140 if kept at temp for an extended period of time but requires 165 if cooked rapidly and Listeria requires 170 degrees to deactivate.

    USDA guidelines may be high but not all people have perfect health and are able to fight bacterial infections.
  15. Thanks for that....I never knew I was "at risk" cooking/eating pork tenderloin, loins, p-chops etc to "medium" 140*

  16. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Corncob you said 137 in your post for pork.  I'm not the temperature police, just letting you know that bad guys like Listeria need 170 degrees for deactivation.  If you are not cooking infected meat you can eat it raw and be perfectly safe.  A blanket statement that 137 is safe for pork is just not true.  If you cook it for an extended time at 140 you do kill Clostridium, a common pathogen.

    If you buy your meat on the hoof from local farmers, bypassing inspectors, you definetly need to cook to proper temps.

  17. tank

    tank Smoke Blower

    This is the type of chart that confuses me.  Almost everything on here is below the USDA especially beef steaks/roasts and pork.  Thoughts?  Suggestions?
  18. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    On this site we tell others to use the usda guidelines as they are a GREAT guide that w/ proper meat handling should keep folks from getting sick.

     Do i follow the guidelines all the time ? No.

    Will i advise someone else to not follow them ? NO.

    Will you get sick if you go to 159* instead of 160* I doubt it . at least not from the temps.

      There are folks on the site that have been smoking and cureing for longer than alot of us have been alive.These folks do some things their way .

    Not everyone here follows these guidelines. But i think that everyone here would recomend that a new smoker use these guidelines when learning.
  19. pineywoods

    pineywoods SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    What gets confusing to me with the guidelines at time is it will say go to X temperature but then you find out you can take it to a lower temperature if you hold it at that temperature for x amount of time. I usually go by their standards with temps or very close to them
  20. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    This is from the 2005 US Public Health   FDA food code

    Specifies oven temp for the following

    Beef, lamb, pork,and cured pork roasts such as ham shall be cooked:

    (1) In an oven that is preheated to the temperature specified for the roast's weight in the following chart and that is held at that temperature:

    Oven Temperature Based on Roast Weight

    Oven Type           Less than 4.5 kg (10 lbs)           4.5 kg (10 lbs) or More

    Still Dry                177oC (350oF) or more              121oC (250oF) or more

    Convection         163oC (325oF) or more              121oC (250oF) or more

    High Humidity1   121oC (250oF) or less                121oC (250oF) or less

    1 Relative humidity greater than 90% for at least 1 hour as measured in the cooking chamber or exit of the oven; or in a moisture-impermeable bag that provides 100% humidity.

    And then specifies the amount of time the entire cut of meat must be at this temperature

    ; and

    (2) As specified in the following chart, to heat all parts of the

    FOOD to a temperature and for the holding time that corresponds

    to that temperature:

    Temperature°C (°F)  Time1 in  Minutes   Temperature°C (°F)Time1 in Seconds

    54.4 (130)                          112                      63.9 (147)                      134

    55.0 (131)                            89                      65.0 (149)                        85

    56.1 (133)                            56                       66.1 (151)                        54

    57.2 (135)                            36                       67.2 (153)                       34

    57.8 (136)                            28                       68.3 (155)                       22

    58.9 (138)                            18                       69.4 (157)                      14

    60.0 (140)                            12                       70.0 (158)                       0

    61.1 (142)                              8

    62.2 (144)                              5

    62.8 (145)                              4

    1Holding time may include postoven heat rise

    But there are accomodations for serving raw or undercooked meat to the public


    (C) A raw or undercooked WHOLE-MUSCLE, INTACT BEEF steak may be served or offered for sale in a READY-TO-EAT form if:

    (1) The FOOD ESTABLISHMENT serves a population that is not a HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE POPULATION,

    (2) The steak is labeled to indicate that it meets the definitionof "WHOLE-MUSCLE, INTACT BEEF" as specified under

    ¶ 3-201.11(E), and

    (3) The steak is cooked on both the top and bottom to a surface temperature of 63oC (145oF) or above and a cookedcolor change is achieved on all external surfaces