Whole pieces of meat, such as steak, beef, pork and lamb, can be cooked to taste (rare, medium-rare and well done) as long as the outside of the meat is fully cooked to kill external bacteria. Meats that are mechanically tenderized, marinated and moisture enhanced are an exception as bacteria can be introduced into the meat during the processing and they should be treated as stuffed, rolled or minced meats.
Always cook chicken, rolled and stuffed meats, tenderized, marinated and moisture enhanced meats, sausages and minced meat, such as hamburger patties and sausages, so that in the centre of the thickest part the temperature reaches 75°C. This is because food poisoning bacteria can be present all the way through these types of meat products as well as on the surface and only thorough cooking will kill them. See more details on safe cooking temperatures.
To check whether these foods have been sufficiently cooked to 75°C you need to use a meat thermometer.
Meat thermometers are available from good kitchen shops and some electrical stores ranging in price from between $12 to $40 or more. In the upper price range, digital thermometers can be easier to read and those with fine sensitive tips can be more accurate. Using a thermometer to test when food is cooked not only ensures safe food, it also avoids guessing and ensures you cook your food to perfection every time.
To test the temperature the thermometer probe should be inserted in the thickest part of the meat, such as the thigh on poultry, not touching bone or gristle which can give a false reading. Poultry, sausages, hamburgers, tenderized, marinated and moisture enhanced meats and rolled roast meat should reach an internal temperature of 75°C to ensure all food poisoning bacteria are killed.
Meat thermometers that are to be left in the oven or hooded BBQ while the meat is cooking have to be heat resistant. Two examples are:
The oven proof
This should be inserted into the meat before it is placed in the oven or cooked, with the dial facing forward so it can easily be read.
The probe is placed in the meat and the wire run between the oven door seals to the digital read out which sits outside the oven.
There are also:
- Digital thermometers that can be set up and linked to a phone app so you can monitor cooking temperature remotely
- Instant read thermometers that aren’t oven proof but can be briefly inserted into the meat outside the oven for a few minutes to give a read out
- Pop up thermometers which are often purchased in packaged poultry or roasts and pop up when done – note these are not as accurate as other types of meat thermometer
- Special microwave meat thermometers.
Always carefully read the instructions before using a meat thermometer.
Meat thermometer probes should be thoroughly cleaned each time they are used to check the temperature while cooking so as not to transfer contamination, after use and before storage.
Watch our video on how to use meat thermometers and cooking temperatures