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Marybeth here, from Alarm Clock Wars. I was making dinner last night, and had a bit of trouble. Can you help?

What do you think? Is this chicken breast cooked? I cooked it in some olive oil (and a little bit of bacon drippings… yum!) over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side.

chicken cooking

Looks pretty good, right? It has a beautiful golden brown color and it’s firm when I pressed it with my tongs. Before I turned off the heat, I checked it with my meat thermometer.

chicken with meat thermometer

Yikes! Only 116 degrees Fahrenheit! That is so not done!

You want your chicken breast to be 165 degrees F in the center of the thickest part to be sure that it is cooked through.

It turns out that you can’t tell when meats are cooked through just by looking at them. Leah over at Beyer Beware has some good tips for how to tell when a steak is cooked, but nothing really substitutes for a meat thermometer.

Okay. So chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees. But what about everything else? Different meats have different finished cooking temperatures. And it’s not always easy to remember them. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (a part of the United States Department of Agriculture) has some helpful information.

Minimum Internal Temperature

Any ground meat (beef, pork, turkey, sausage) should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beef, pork, veal, and lamb should all be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and then rested for 3-5 minutes. (This will give you a steak that is cooked to somewhere between medium-rare and medium.)

Any poultry (any part of the chicken, turkey, or duck) should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fish and shellfish should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Any casserole should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do you eat lots of leftovers in your house? We sure do. And you should reheat those to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before enjoying them.

Remember, these temperatures we’ve been talking about are the minimum recommended internal temperatures. To correctly check the temperature, you want to be sure to insert your thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, and try to get the tip of the thermometer into the center of the meat. The temperature can vary quite a bit from the surface to the middle, especially in a thick-cut steak, pork chop, or chicken breast.

Kill the Bacteria!

So what’s the big deal? These temperatures are high enough to kill any bacteria that might be present on your food. Refrigeration is great at slowing down bacterial growth, but it doesn’t completely stop the bacteria from growing and multiplying. Cooking food to the proper temperature will kill any bacteria that might be there, and will help keep your family safe while eating this yummy food!

Cooking foods to the proper temperature is only one food safety practice that you should be using in your home. Review some other at-home food safety techniques here on the Real Farmwives blog and on AgriCultured. Food safety doesn’t stop at home – how you handle, store, and prepare food is just as important as all the steps that happened before your food got to the grocery store!

What other questions do you have about food safety? Browse the resources here on the Real Farmwives website, and over on my other website AgriCultured. Leave your questions in the comments below, and I’ll answer them in a future blog post on one of these two sites!

Oh, do you want to see what I made with that chicken? (Once I got it fully cooked, of course!) Check out the recipe for Chicken-Bacon Melts!

Marybeth from Alarm Clock Wars

I am a large animal veterinarian, cow farmer, pet owner, grocery buyer, social media consultant, so very much not-a-morning-person. Every morning, I fight the good fight to stay in a warm bed with a