At What Temperature is Ground Beef Done? A Guide to Safe Minimum Internal Temps

Ground beef is a versatile ingredient used in many delicious dishes from burgers to meatballs to chili. However, safely cooking ground beef is critical to avoid foodborne illness. Unlike whole cuts of muscle meat, ground beef can potentially contain harmful bacteria distributed throughout that must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. This article will provide a guide to determining when ground beef is fully cooked and safe to eat.

Why Temperature Matters with Ground Beef

Ground beef is made by taking trimmings and smaller cuts of beef and mechanically chopping, grinding, or “mincing” them into smaller pieces. This process distributes any bacteria that may have been present on the surface of the meat throughout the ground product.

Whole cuts of beef like steaks and roasts only have bacteria on the exterior surfaces. By searing the outside of these cuts, the bacteria are killed while the interior can be cooked to lower done-ness temperatures for desired doneness levels like rare or medium-rare.

But with ground beef, bacteria mixed within the meat must be cooked to a high enough temperature to ensure they are fully destroyed. That means ground beef should always be cooked to a minimum safe temperature rather than visually judging color and doneness.

USDA Recommended Minimum Internal Temp for Ground Beef

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets standards and guidelines for safe minimum internal cooking temperatures for meat.

According to the USDA, ground beef and other ground meats must reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) throughout to be considered safe to eat.

At 160°F, bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and other pathogens are quickly destroyed. Cooking ground beef to at least 160°F (71°C) is the only reliable way to ensure any bacteria mixed within is eliminated.

Why 160°F for Ground Beef?

You may see guides suggesting ground beef can be safely cooked to lower temperatures like 155°F (68°C) or even 150°F (65°C). However, the USDA recommends the 160°F (71°C) threshold for several important reasons:

  • Provides a wide safety margin – kills bacteria quickly and thoroughly
  • Accounts for inconsistencies in meat thickness and cooking methods
  • Allows for some expected carryover cooking after removing from heat
  • Provides a foolproof benchmark for all cooks from beginners to experts

Reaching 160°F (71°C) rapidly kills bacteria with a large buffer ensuring ground beef is safe for all people including those with compromised immune systems.

While advanced cooks using accurate thermometers may be able to safely cook certain ground meat to slightly lower temps, the 160°F (71°C) guideline provides a safe target for all home cooks.

Checking Temperatures of Ground Beef

A food thermometer is essential for accurately determining the internal temperature of ground beef and other meats. Thermometers remove the guesswork and assure doneness temperatures are met. These are the best practices for effectively using thermometers with ground beef:

  • Use an instant-read digital thermometer like the Thermapen Mk4 or Thermapen ONE for quick precision.

  • Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat, away from any bones.

  • Take temperatures in several locations since ground beef cooks unevenly.

  • Check larger recipes like meatloaf in multiple spots.

  • Always wash thermometer probes before re-use to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Rely on thermometer readings, not visual cues like color, to determine doneness.

  • Hit the USDA minimum of 160°F (71°C) in all measured areas before serving.

  • For safety, take temps before removing from heat due to carryover cooking.

Following these steps will allow you to accurately gauge the internal temperature of ground beef and determine if it has reached the safe USDA recommended minimum.

Effect of Fat Percentage on Ground Beef Temps

The fat content or “leanness” of ground beef can impact the temperature it should be cooked to. Fattier ground beef must generally be cooked to a higher final internal temperature than leaner meat.

This is because fat inhibits heat penetration. The more fat in ground beef, the less quickly heat can penetrate to the center to kill bacteria.

For example, 80/20 ground beef with 20% fat content should be cooked to 165°F (74°C) minimum internal temperature to compensate for this insulating effect.

Here are the adjusted done temperatures for different fat percentages:

  • 80/20 (20% fat): Cook to 165°F (74°C) minimum
  • 85/15 (15% fat): Cook to 160°F (71°C) minimum
  • 90/10 (10% fat): Cook to 155°F (68°C) minimum
  • 95/5 (5% fat): Cook to 150°F (65°C) minimum

The temperatures are adjusted down slightly for leaner ground beef. But for food safety, sticking to the standard 160°F (71°C) USDA guideline is recommended for most home cooks when cooking store-bought ground meat.

Large Cuts and Whole Ground Beef Roasts

Larger cuts and whole roasts made from ground beef also require checking temperatures in multiple locations with a food thermometer.

Since heat penetrates unevenly, you must verify the coolest parts in the center have reached the minimum safe internal temp. Check temps in several spots to be thorough.

For items like meatloaf and meatballs, use an instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen or Thermopop to take quick temperature readings throughout the dish. Oven-safe probes like the ChefAlarm or DOT can monitor roasts over time.

Again, all ground beef should hit the 160°F (71°C) USDA recommended minimum temperature during cooking for safety.

Is Temperature Alone Enough for Safety?

Reaching the proper internal temperature is critical for eliminating bacteria in ground beef. However, both temperature and time impact food safety when cooking ground meats.

In some cases, holding lower temperatures for longer periods of time can achieve a similar pasteurization effect. But the USDA guidelines assume relatively short cooking times for most recipes made in a home kitchen.

To ensure safety for all home cooks in all scenarios, the 160°F (71°C) temperature guideline is recommended as a foolproof standard for ground beef doneness.

Allowing for Carryover Cooking

After removing ground beef from the cooking source, its internal temperature will continue rising for a period due to carryover cooking.

To account for this, ground beef should be cooked to 155°F (68°C) before taking it off the grill, stove, or oven if aiming for a final internal temp of 160°F (71°C).

The residual heat will bring the center up to the safe 160°F (71°C) mark after you pull it. Always double check with a thermometer before serving or consuming.

Summary of USDA Minimum Internal Temps

To summarize, the USDA recommends cooking all types of ground beef to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to ensure safety. Key takeaways:

  • Cook ground beef to 160°F (71°C) minimum internal temperature
  • Use a thermometer to accurately check temperature
  • Account for carryover cooking and pull at 155°F (68°C)
  • Check temps in multiple spots on large roasts
  • Allow extra time for fattier ground beef
  • 160°F (71°C) minimum provides a safety margin for all

Following these guidelines along with good thermometer technique will ensure your recipes with ground beef reach a safe minimum doneness temperature throughout.

Cooking 101: Proper cooking Temperatures to Ensure Safe Food – White Apron Catering, Lake Worth, Fl


What temperature should ground beef be cooked at?

Cooking of Ground Beef The FDA Food Code says that restaurants should cook ground beef to 155°F for 15 seconds. But CDC and USDA say that consumers should cook ground beef to 160°F.

Is 145 degrees safe for burger?

Medium: 140-145 F. Medium-Well: 150-155 F. Well-Done: 160-165 F.

Can you eat ground beef at 135 degrees?

Then bring the internal temperature up to 120-125°F (rare), 125-130°F (medium rare), or 135-140°F. To safely eat ground beef, an internal temperature of 160°F must be reached.

Can you eat ground beef 145?

Note: There are three important temperatures to remember when cooking meat or eggs at home: Eggs and all ground meats must be cooked to 160°F; poultry and fowl to 165°F; and fresh meat steaks, chops and roasts to 145°F. Use a thermometer to check temperatures.

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