Cooking and Smoking Internal Temperatures

Have you ever been cooking dinner and wondered, when is it done, how do I know the meat is safe to eat? Well, the "government" has developed a guide for determining minimum internal temperatures for cooking meat to ensure food safety.  These temperatures are based on the MINIMUM (sometimes too high in my book) temperature needed to kill harmful germs.

This guide is different from what is needed for smoking meats.  During the "low and slow" cooking process you are using low temperatures for an extended period of time to break down the connective tissue and fat while imparting a smoke flavor to the meat.  If you attempted to cook a brisket to a 185 degree internal temperature on a 400 degree grill in an hour, you would have a 12lb hunk of burnt rubber...... It would also most likely be cooked very uneven due to the mass of the meat.  

I will first lay out the internal temps for cooking and follow it up with internal temps for smoking meat.

Poultry (Chicken, Duck, Goose, and Turkey)- 165 

Pork (Fresh Chops/Hams/Etc...)- 145 (Yes it can be pink!!!) but if you must cook it all the way, no more than 160....

Beef (Steaks)- 125 Rare, 135 Medium Rare, 140 Medium, 145 Medium Well, 155 Burnt.. I mean Well Done...

Beef (Hamburger)- 160 is what is recommended, and I would agree if it is store bought, but if you grind your own, I recommend 135 to 140 for a slightly under medium burger.

50/50 burger- (half bacon/beef) 160

Beef Pot Roasts- 180 to 200 to ensure full breakdown of the connective tissue

Lamb (roast/chops)- 125 Rare, 135 Medium Rare, 145 Medium, 150 Medium Well, 155 Shoe leather...I mean, Well Done...

Now for smoked meats.  The internal temperature for smoked meat will be much higher than that of cooked meats (with the exception of a roast) so that all of the connective tissue starts to break down.  This is what gives you that fall apart pork shoulder and tender brisket.

Brisket- 180-190 (some will go to 200 but that is pushing it) internal temperature smoked at 225 degrees.

Pork Shoulder/Butt- 180-190 internal temp at 225 degrees.

Pork Ribs- 180 internal temp at 225 degrees. Most people like fall of the bone, it won't pass for competition, but to get fall of the bone you can leave them wrapped at 180 for 30 or so minutes and the bones will fall out...  Just don't dry them out.

Chicken- 165 internal temperature, but pull off the smoker at 155/160 to prevent over cooking them.

Lamb- I have smoked lamb, and I have grilled lamb over a wood fire.  I prefer the latter and cooked it to 135 leaving it tender and imparting smokiness.  I think 155 or higher just kills the texture and flavor of lamb.

Sausages- 160

That should cover all of the major groups of meat, if I have forgotten something please let me know and I will gladly cook it and eat it in order to give you an accurate cooking/smoking temperature.

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