As all raw meats can carry harmful bacteria on the outside, it is important to cook all meat properly to kill the bacteria that can cause food poisoning. This section advises you on how to handle and cook meat, and how to check that your meat is fully cooked and safe to eat.
Which meats must be cooked all the way through?
Poultry, pork, rolled joints, burgers, sausages, chicken nuggets, kebabs, kidneys, liver and other types of offal, and any meat or fish that has been minced or skewered. The reason is that with whole cuts of meat, any harmful bacteria will live on the outside only. But if meat has been minced or chopped up, the bacteria get moved around.
How should I cook these meats?
- Select a temperature that is hot enough to cook the meat, but not so hot that the outside will burn before the inside has had a chance to cook
- If you are cooking a number of small pieces of meat such as sausages, move them around and turn them regularly so that each piece cooks evenly
- Temperature and cooking times will vary depending on the type of cut of meat and the method of cooking. All meat should be checked visually to see if it is cooked thoroughly.
How do I check these meats are properly cooked?
- When you pierce the thickest part of the meat with a fork or skewer, the juices should run clear. For a whole chicken or other bird, the thickest part is the leg between the drumstick and the breast
- Cut the meat open with a clean knife to check it is piping hot all the way through – it should be steaming
- Meat changes colour when it is cooked. Make sure there is no pink meat left
- If you're cooking a very large dish, such as a lasagne, check it in a few places, because some parts of the dish may be less hot than others
An alternative to the above checks would be to use a meat thermometer.
How to use a meat thermometer?
A meat thermometer measures the internal temperature of your cooked meat and poultry, or any casseroles, to assure that a safe temperature has been reached and that harmful bacteria have been destroyed.
Poultry and pork products; minced meat or any type of product made from minced meat (e.g. sausages, burgers); and meats which have been rolled or de-boned or composed of reformed meat pieces, must be cooked to a core temperature of at least 70°C for 2 minutes or equivalent (75°C instantaneously i.e. the immediate temperature reading obtained on inserting a temperature probe into the centre of the food).
Whole fish may be cooked to preference, but products made of minced fish (e.g. fish cakes) should always be cooked to a core temperature of at least 70°C for 2 minutes or equivalent (75°C instantaneously).
Where to insert the meat thermometer:
- Poultry: Into the inner thigh area near the breast of the chicken or turkey but not touching the bone. If stuffed, stuffing temperature must reach 75°C. Do this near and at the end of the stand time.
- Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal, Ham, Roasts, Steaks or Chops: Into the center of the thickest part, away from bone, fat and gristle.
- Minced Meat and Poultry: In the thickest area of ground meat or poultry dishes like meatloaf. The thermometer may be inserted sideways in thin items such as burgers.
- Casseroles: Into the thickest portion.
After each use, always wash the stem section of the meat thermometer thoroughly in hot, soapy water.
Which meats can be eaten rare?
Beef steaks, whole joints of beef, lamb chops, whole joints of lamb.
These can be eaten rare in the middle because harmful bacteria can only be on the outside. Vulnerable people, including elderly people, babies and toddlers, pregnant women and people who are unwell, should avoid eating lamb or beef that is rare or pink.
How should I cook these meats?
When you are cooking steaks, or whole joints of beef or lamb, pink or rare, use a high temperature to seal the meat and kill any bacteria that might be on the outside
You can tell a piece of meat has been properly sealed because all the outside will have changed colour
Is there anything else I should do when handling meat?
Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat. This prevents the spread of bacteria.
Use separate utensils for raw or partially cooked meat and cooked meat.