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Safe Food Preparation Temperatures and Practices

Don’t Go Inside the Food Danger Zone. The best home remedy for safe food handling

and food poisoning prevention or illness is to keep foods at the proper cooking and storage temperatures at all times.

Apply the Heat Chart
There is a text-based heat chart at the bottom of this article

Fish is properly cooked when it flakes easily with a fork

It’s important to keep food below or above the danger zone, the temperatures at which bacteria can grow. This is usually between 40° and 140° F (4° and 60° C). Some pathogenic bacteria can grow at 32° F (0° C), the temperature at which water freezes. So remember the 2-Hour Rule: Discard any perishable foods left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. When temperatures are above 90° F (32°C), discard food after 1 hour!

The temperatures shown in the chart at right are recommended for consumer cooking. They are not intended for processing, institutional, or foodservice preparation.

Putting the 2-Hour Rule into Action

HOT FOODS: When you purchase hot cooked food, keep it hot. Eat and enjoy your food within 2 hours to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying.

If you’re not eating a food within 2 hours — and you want to keep it hot — keep the food in the oven with the temperature set at or above 140° F (60° C). Use a food thermometer to check the temperature. Side dishes, like stuffing, must also stay hot in the oven. Covering food will help keep it moist.

COLD FOODS should be eaten within 2 hours of preparation, or refrigerated or frozen for eating at another time.

Food Safety Bloopers Caught on Tape

Many foodborne illnesses probably occur at home. To test this theory, the Food and Drug Administration funded a survey in which scientists videotaped families preparing food in their kitchens. The 100 families initially thought they were being taped on how to make a specific recipe, and they also thought their kitchens were relatively “food-safe.” What scientists discovered suggests why foodborne illness hits home for so many Americans.

Here are some eye-opening mistakes that were caught on tape:

  • One woman handled raw chicken and then fixed a baby’s bottle without washing her hands.
  • Dozens of people dried their hands with the same dish towel they used to clean up raw meat juices.
  • One person dropped a baby’s bottle in raw eggs and neglected to use soap when they rinsed the bottle off.
  • Only 45% of the people washed their hands before working in the kitchen and 16% of those who washed didn’t use soap.
  • 30% did not wash the lettuce they used, and some placed salad ingredients in raw-meat- contaminated containers.
  • 25% of the people didn’t know how to tell if chicken was cooked to a safe internal temperature, so they undercooked it.

Don’t Get Caught!

If your food preparation and handling practices were “captured on tape,” how well would you do?

Heat Chart in Text Format:

Apply the Heat!

Cooking food-especially raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs-to the proper
temperature kills harmful bacteria. Thoroughly cook food as follows*:

Raw Food
Internal Temperature

Ground Products
Beef, veal, lamb, pork 160°F
Chicken, turkey 165°F

Beef, Veal, Lamb Roasts & steaks

medium-rare 145°F
medium 160°F
well-done 170°F


Chops, roast, ribs
     medium 160°F
     well-done 170°F
Ham, fully cooked 140°F
Ham, fresh 160°F
Sausage, fresh 160°F

Poultry (Turkey & Chicken)

Whole bird 180°F
Breast 170°F
Legs & thighs 180°F
Stuffing (cooked separately) 165°F


Fried, poached yolk & white are firm
Casseroles 160°F
Sauces, custards 160°F

flakes with a fork

*This chart provides guidance for cooking foods at home.

See also: An Ounce Of Prevention: Keep The Germs Away, Stopping Germs at Home, Work and School, , Know the Food Service Safety Code.

Used with permission of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
FDA Hypertext updated by kwg/dms 2001-SEP-09

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