Recommended and Safe Meat Cooking Temperatures for Perfect Meat and Fish

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For most people, getting the proper temperature is the most difficult part of cooking meat. Overcooking leads to dried out meat and disappointing results. And undercooking can cause foodborne illness.

The best way to ensure that you get perfect results is to buy a good thermometer. I  recommend buying an instant-read version for the most reliable results.

I have listed the USDA safe minimum internal temperature and the temperature that the Food Network recommends for beef, veal and lamb cooked for personal preference.

I recommend that you print out this chart, put it in a plastic sheet protector and keep it in your kitchen for reference.

Some of the digital thermometers I recommend are here:

Digital Meat Thermometer with Instant Read – Thin Stainless Steel Probe for Cooking and Grilling Food to Perfection

Category Food USDA SAFE Temperature (°F)  Food Network Rest Time 
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160 None
Turkey, Chicken 165
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb Steaks, roasts, chops 145 Rare 125 3 minutes
  Medium Rare

130-135

3 minutes
  Medium 135-140
  Medium Well 145 3 minutes
Poultry
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165 None
Pork and Ham Fresh pork 145 3 minutes
Fresh ham (raw) 145 3 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat) Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140 °F and all others to 165 °F None
Eggs & Egg Dishes Eggs Cook until yolk and white are firm None
Egg dishes 160 None
Leftovers & Casseroles 165 None
Seafood Fin Fish 145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. 130-135 None
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En Papillote White Fish with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers

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This recipe delivers intense flavor and elegant results. And, it requires almost no effort; everything is cooked together in one packet or papillote.

En Papillote is a French cooking method that means to cook “in paper.” The food is baked in a folded parchment paper packet, which seals in the moisture and allows the flavors to blend while the ingredients steam and cook.

And if you don’t want to do the fish in packets, you can follow the prep instructions but put the fish in a glass baking dish and cover tightly with foil.

Make Ahead Tip: If using a glass baking dish, this can be made ahead, covered tightly and placed in the refrigerator until ready to put in the oven. The cooking time will be a minute or two longer because the dish and ingredients will start out chilled. If making papillote, you can make the vegetable topping ahead of time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

Parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a 13 x 9 glass baking dish

4 sole, cod or tilapia fillets, 6-8 ounces each

2 Tbsp olive oil

6 cloves garlic, minced finely

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

4 tbsp capers, drained

16 large pitted Kalamata olives halved

½ tsp kosher salt

Pepper to taste

8 tsp dry white wine (I like to use an inexpensive sauvignon blanc)

8 fresh thyme sprigs, optional

Cooking Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

 2. In a skillet or pan, add olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Warm gently over medium heat for a minute or two until the garlic just starts to get slightly golden brown. Turn off the heat and let it sit. Watch carefully, do not let it burn or cook too much.  Stir in tomatoes, capers and olives.

3. Cut four 15 inch squares round pieces of parchment paper. Fold the square in half, draw half a large half heart shape, cut along the lines and open.

4. Spray the parchment rounds with non-stick cooking spray.

5. Place a fish fillet in the crease of each piece of parchment and season with salt and pepper. Place 1/4 of the tomato mixture on top of each fillet. Pour 2 tsp of white wine over each filet. Place a 2 thyme sprigs on top of the vegetables, if using.

6. Fold the other half of parchment over fish. Starting at the top of each paper half heart, make small, very tight overlapping folds along the outside edge to seal the packet. Twist tail ends tightly to seal. You really want to force these creases to be hard folds, applied with pressure. You don’t want these top open up and leak all over the place, while they bake.

7. Carefully place the papillotes on a baking sheet with edges (just in case one does break or leak) and bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Check doneness by carefully opening (so as not to get burned by the steam) the papillotes and checking the temperature with a digital meat thermometer. The USDA says the safe temperature 145, although some people prefer the taste and texture of fish cooked to 130-135. Or if you do not have a meat thermometer, cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.

8. To serve, place a parchment pouch on each plate and slice open the top with a sharp knife or scissors, fold back the paper

NOTE: If you can’t find parchment paper, you can substitute aluminum foil bags.

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Seven Tips for Focusing on Form

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#1.  Learn it Right

Consistently performing sloppy reps doesn’t stimulate muscles effectively and doesn’t yield optimal results.  Spend time reading about new exercises and seeing them properly demonstrated. Check out my YouTube Channel here for exercise demonstrations. Make sure you understand what muscle groups the exercise is supposed to target to help you feel if you’re on the right track. Better yet, hire a personal trainer to instruct you.

#2 Do it Light 

Always practice a new exercise with lighter weight than you think you should be using, especially the first time.  Test it out, feel how it works compared to other exercises for the same bodypart, do some higher rep sets to perfect the movement before you start trying to set Personal Records.  Be particularly conservative on poundage when learning compound movements like the squat, bench press, or deadlift.  Get your technique honed on these exercises and the results (and ability to handle heavier loads) will come over time. 

#3 Check Yourself Out

The mirrors are there for you to check yourself out so don’t be afraid to get “caught” looking at yourself.  Watch the targeted muscle group working, monitor your rep speed, make sure you aren’t slouching or allowing other body parts to take over.

#4  Ask for the Check  

If something continues feeling awkward or you just want to make sure you’re on the right path, ask your trainer for a quick form check.  Don’t waste hours in the gym doing things wrong or risk permanent injury by getting into the habit of performing an exercise wrong just because you never confirmed you were doing it right.

#5  Picking Pounds

This is a critical component of bodybuilding success that is greatly misunderstood.  Generally women go too light and men go too heavy for their body to see continuous improvement.

Heavy, moderate, and light poundage: First, remember these terms are relative to you alone.  You may be stronger walking into a gym than you realize or have a muscle group that simply lags behind the rest of your body that requires a different size dumbbell that your buddy. You cannot continuously shape and improve your aesthetics only by lifting light weights and you cannot continuously make strength and size gains by only lifting the heaviest load possible for 3 reps. 

The last few reps of any set should be a struggle, regardless of which rep range you are utilizing.  All rep ranges should produce some sort of stimulation be it burning, a pump, or total heart pounding exertion.  When you find you are exceeding the rep range you are targeting on a particular exercise, it’s time to switch it up, pick up the next size and face a new challenge.  

#6.  Train hard and be patient  

Be competitive, push yourself but above all, be patient. The ability to handle progressively larger dumbbells will come through the use of proper form and persistent, progressive training.

#7.  Varying Your Workouts = Continual Progress

Be sure to use a variety of exercises to achieve your goals. As Charles Poliquin says, “A training system is only as good as the time it takes you to adapt to it.” Your body will adapt to the rigors of the routine you are doing and stop making progress.

If you need any help with learning how to correctly execute a weight training program, or varying your routine, let me know. I’d love to help.

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