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Extension > Food > Food Safety > Preserving and Preparing > Meat and Fish > Know the Correct Numbers When Cooking Poultry

Meat and Fish

Know the Correct Numbers When Cooking Poultry

By Roselyn Biermaier, Extension Educator — Food Safety

Revised 2015 by Kathy Brandt, 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 recommended for all poultry including chicken, turkey, duck, pheasant 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 at least two locations; for example, if roasting a turkey, check the innermost part between the thigh and wing as well as 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. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook your poultry to higher temperatures making it more visually appealing and easier to carve. 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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