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Meat and Fish

Know the Correct Numbers When Cooking Poultry

By Roselyn Biermaier, Extension Educator — Food Safety

Revised 2011 by LouAnn Jopp, Extension Educator — Food Safety.

You can cook poultry on the grill, roast it in the oven, or deep-fry it. Poultry has long been a comfort food that reminds us of family dinners. To be sure that eating it remains a pleasant experience, you need to know two numbers for cooking poultry.

Internal Temperature

Cook poultry
to 165° F.

The internal temperature recommendation has changed. The new temperature to which consumers are told to cook chicken, turkey, duck, pheasants and other birds is 165 degrees F. Research has shown that this temperature kills the microorganisms usually associated with poultry such as Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni.

The only way to know if poultry is cooked to 165 degrees F is to use a food thermometer. The temperature should be taken in two parts of the bird. One place is between the innermost part of the thigh and the wing. The other is at the thickest part of the breast.

At 165 degrees F, some of the meat may still be pinkish but it is safe to eat according to tests conducted by USDA. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook your poultry to higher temperatures which may also make the poultry easier to carve. Don’t forget to let the cooked poultry rest for 20 to 30 minutes to improve the flavor as some of the juices are reabsorbed.

Oven Temperature

Another important number is the oven temperature – when roasting a large turkey. The ideal temperature is 325 degrees F for a tender, juicy bird. Do not set the oven to a lower temperature for food safety reasons.

For more information, call the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service at 888-674-6854.

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