Beef Cooking Temperature

Written by Heather Vecchioni

Beef cooking temperature helps everyone from at-home cooks to executive chefs determine when their cut of beef is “done.” Whether you desire your beef to be rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well or well-done, checking the temperature of the meat will help you to know if you have cooked the beef to its desired level of doneness.

Beef has many different cuts in which it is available. From ground beef to pot roast, each has a certain temperature level it reaches before it is considered safe to eat. A high quality meat thermometer, available from a chef’s tools supply store is the fool-proof way to check the internal temperature of every cut of beef. Typically, anything that is less than rare has the potential to carry a food-borne illness. Rare and medium-rare cuts of beef are very pink—sometimes red—in the center and are slightly brown towards the exterior. Medium beef is pink in the center and is brown towards the outside. Well-done beef shows no sign of pink in the center and is brown throughout.

Fresh ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160-degrees Fahrenheit. This will produce beef that is no longer pink and is not releasing pink juices. Roasts are considered medium rare when they reach 145-degrees Fahrenheit and are medium at 160-degrees. The beef cooking temperature for most cuts of steak is 145-degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare, 160-degrees for medium and 170-degrees for well-done.

A trick that many chefs use to tell the level of doneness for their steaks is by touching the meat and observing how firm it feels compared to their own hand. A rare steak will feel the same way as the muscle underneath your thumb feels when your pointer-finger and thumb touch. Medium-rare steaks are as firm as that meaty part of your hand when your thumb and middle finger touch. Medium feels the same way as when your ring finger and thumb meet and well-done is similar to how firm that part of your hand is when your thumb and pinky finger.

Use an instant-read thermometer to determine the temperature of your beef. A digital probe meat thermometer is easy to use and gives a quick reading. The beef cooking temperature of a smaller cut, such as a hamburger, will rise an additional five-degrees after you remove them from the heat; stop the cooking process a few minutes before the meats reach the desired internal temperatures.

To many, the worst thing one can do in the culinary world is to overcook a piece of meat. While the chances of contracting an illness from meat that is thoroughly done are almost none, the chance you will eat a chewy, tough, unflavored piece of beef is pretty much guaranteed. Beef purists typically only eat their meat rare, with medium-rare the highest they will go. The proteins in the beef become solid, dense and dry when overcooked, resulting in an unpleasant and unappetizing dining experience. In order to get the most tender and juicy cut of meat, the beef cooking temperature of your meat should be on the low side.