How well you cook your meat will always be a question for debate. Some worry about parasites and harmful bacteria and choose to cook their meat well done, whereas others are more concerned with the taste and the texture of the meat and take a more liberal approach. It’s simply a matter of personal preference. No matter how well you choose to cook your meat, there are a few things to take into consideration.
Using a Thermometer
It’s always a good idea to measure the temperature with a thermometer so you can make an educated decision about how well you want to cook your meat. Thermometers are exact and will give you a precise measurement, as opposed to looking at the color of the meat and trying to decipher whether or not it's done. Try placing the thermometer in the middle of your piece, remember the surface will certainly be of a higher temperature than the inner parts.
The cut matters
In addition to the temperature of your meat, you might want to take the cut of the meat into consideration. For example, if the meat is ground, there will be a much higher chance of bacteria distributing from the grinding process and as a result you might want to cook your ground meat more thoroughly. Alternative, you can grind/chop your own selected meat without those worries. Also, if the cut of the meat comes from within a protected area of the animal, such as a beef tenderloin, the meat will more likely be safer to cook to a lesser degree. In general, it is probably a safe bet to say that the least your meat has been touched by other sources, the safer it is.
Don't ignore cross contamination
What people probably overlook the most is cross contamination. It doesn’t matter how well you cook your meat if your vegetables were contaminated by a dirty knife or cutting board. This is the one area that people can control completely, so always clean your tools after using them and use different cutting boards for different ingredients.
Growing bacteria are usually on the surface of the meat. If you are choosing to cook your meat to a lesser degree, then it might be a good idea to control the surface of the meat before cooking. If you are cooking pork, then a salty brine will not only kill harmful bacteria, it will also make your meat more tender. If you are cooking beef, then a spicy salty rub will kill bacteria as well as concentrate the flavors of your meat.
Carry over heat
Don't forget the concept of carry over heat. Meat will continue to cook once it's out of the oven or out of the pan. Depending on the size of your piece, the meat will need a resting period. During this time the temperature will rise an additional 5–10°F. So if you wish to accomplish a certain final temperature, be sure to remove your meat from your cooking process slightly before it's done.
Here is a chart from the FDA of recommended cooking temperatures for different kinds of meat:
|Ground Products|| |
| Beef, veal, lamb, pork|| 160°F (71°C)|
| Chicken, turkey|| 165°F (74°C) |
|Beef, Veal, Lamb Roasts & steaks || |
| medium-rare|| 145°F (63°C)|
| medium|| 160°F (71°C) |
| well-done|| 170°F (77°C) |
|Pork || |
| Chops, roast, ribs|| |
| medium || 160°F (71°C)|
| well-done||170°F (77°C) |
| fully cooked ||140°F (60°C)|
| fresh ||160°F (71°C)|
|Sausage || |
|Poultry (Turkey & Chicken) || |
| Whole bird||180°F (82°C) |
| Breast ||170°F (77°C)|
| Legs & thighs||180°F (82°C) |
The FDA takes a very conservative approach to cooking meat. For example, it is broadly considered that medium-rare beef is achieved by 130° - 135°F, although the FDA considers medium-rare to be achieved at 145°F.