Meat cooking temperatures and tips

It is important that foods is cooked to a time and temperature combination that will reduce bacteria to a safe level for human consumption. During the cooking process, energy transfers into the food through heat, breaks down proteins and kills the bacteria. It’s this process which changes the colour from pink to white/brown.

Bacteria usually grow in the ‘Danger Zone’ between 8°C and 60°C. This is why it’s important to store food in fridges under Below 8°C as growth of the bacteria is stopped/slowed down. Above 60°C the bacteria will start to die. Some foods, such as meat, require extra care and diligence when cooking in order to be consumed safely. You should always check the advice on food packaging and follow the cooking instructions provided however there are industry standards which you can follow. 

Cooking temperatures UK

The following time and temperature combinations have been scientifically proven to reduce bacteria to a safe level. These combinations rely on staff checking that the whole of the product has been cooked thoroughly throughout the food at the required temperature for the required time. The figures below are minimum time/temperature combinations. I.e. Critical limits, longer periods or higher temperatures represent good practice. 

  • 60°C for 45 minutes
  • 65°C for 10 minutes
  • 70°C for 2 minutes
  • 75°C for 30 seconds
  • 80°C for 6 seconds

It is good practice to always preheat ovens, ranges, grills, griddles, fryers and any other hot equipment before use. Manufacturer’s instructions may be affected when equipment has not been previously pre-heated effectively. 

If using a deep fat fryer, ensure the fat has reached the correct temperature prior to cooking, if the oil temperature is too high the danger is that foods will cook very quickly on the outside and the inside will not cook properly. The danger from oil that is at too low of a temperature is that the food will absorb excessive levels of fats making the food unpalatable and spoiling the quality. 

Ensure all foods are thoroughly defrosted before cooking takes place unless manufacturer’s instructions state otherwise that they can be cooked from frozen safely. The food may not reach the correct cooking temperature to destroy bacteria to a safe level if the food is still frozen in parts. 

Cooking meat

Whole cuts or joints of meat including beef and lamb must be fully sealed on the outside. These foods can be served rare as long as the surface has been sealed because generally with these foods the internal tissues should be free from bacterial contamination. Always ensure that these cuts of meat are supplied by approved reputable suppliers to ensure food safety consistency through the food chain. 

It is really important that rolled joints of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey are thoroughly cooked completely through the product until juices run clear. This should be verified by probing the food with a food temperature probe.  During processing, bacteria will have transferred from the outside to the inside which will subsequently contaminate the whole product. These products are also more susceptible to anaerobic organisms contaminating, multiplying and surviving in the food. 

All minced and processed meats such as minced meat products, sausages, burgers and any similar foods must be thoroughly cooked throughout the product. Mincing and processing allows bacteria from the outer surfaces of the product to move into the inside of the product, these products will hold significant bacterial levels throughout the product, therefore they must be cooked thoroughly right through the product, this must be verified by probing the food with a clean disinfected food probe to ensure that correct temperatures have been reached. 

Cooking chicken livers

Chicken livers are particularly prone to causing food poisoning when served undercooked: 

  • Do not offer cooking options on chicken livers.
  • Sauté livers in small batches to allow for effective cooking.
  • Sauté livers for a minimum time of 5 minutes or until an internal temperature greater than 70°c has been reached and maintained for a minimum time of 2 minutes, longer if possible.
  • Use a disinfected food probe to check the internal temperature of the largest liver in the batch. 

Chicken livers must always be cooked until they are no longer bloody at the core. Colour is not always a good indicator of effective cooking. Studies have shown that liver tissue can remain pink after it has reached a safe temperature, always ensure that no pink remains to verify that the product has been cooked effectively. 

Ensure that juices from uncooked chicken livers does not leak, drip or contaminate other products, surfaces or equipment. Scrub cutting boards, knives and other utensils that have come into contact with raw livers using hot water and detergent, followed by washing and disinfection through the dishwasher, then allowed to air dry. Preferably use separate boards and utensils for the preparation of poultry products. 

Cooking chicken and poultry

All poultry including chicken, turkey and other game birds must always be cooked thoroughly, with no exceptions. Meat must not be pink, and juices must always run clear every time.  A bacteria campylobacter jejuni is found at relatively high levels in poultry, especially in chicken but also in turkey and other game birds which can cause serious food borne illness and death in some circumstances.

Cooking burgers

Burgers must always be cooked fully completely through; no pink tissue must be visible and juices must run clear with no blood or pinkness seen. Burgers must be probed to ensure a minimum temperature of 75°c for 30 seconds has been achieved. Burgers prepared in house have a maximum shelf life of three days including the day of preparation. 

The above safety points must be followed strictly as e. Coli o157 is a bacterium present in minced products especially minced beef products, the toxin of this bacteria can cause serious health problems and even death. 

All food that has not reached a safe temperature must be cooked further until a safe temperature and time combination is reached. Use alternative equipment or divide food up into smaller portions to speed up the cooking process.  

Cooked food temperature record sheet

Random temperatures should be taken during each food service period and recorded in your Pilla Management Diary or equivalent food safety monitoring sheets. You should also record any instances when cooking equipment breaks down, the corrective actions taken and the alternative methods used.