Meat temperature guide: How to prepare your roast dinner safely this winter

Steak with roast vegetables
Whether you're whipping up a Sunday roast or celebrating a mid-year Christmas, here are some top tips to make sure you're roasting your meat safely. Photo credit: Getty Images

For the meat-eaters among us, there's little that can rival a delicious roast dinner during the chilly winter months. The juicy leftovers make the perfect sarnie the next day, roast potatoes are quite simply a work of art, and as my fellow Brits will attest, all is good when there's Yorkshire pud.

However, cooking a roast - particularly for a rookie or fledgling homecook - can be a tricky process. With several elements to prepare, it's all too easy to accidentally burn the gravy or stuff up the stuffing. And of course, cooking any meat to perfection is no easy feat.

To help homecooks get their roasts right and avoid any 'mi-steaks', Australia's Food Safety Information Council has this week shared its advice for preparing and cooking meats safely this winter. 

"Especially as meat is expensive these days, you want to not only make sure it is food safe, but also that it is cooked to the best quality," Council Chair Cathy Moir said on Tuesday.

"Whether you are holding a Christmas in July event or just enjoying a winter roast dinner, there are some safety tips you need to follow to make sure you and your family and friends don’t get sick."

To make roasting a chicken as easy as pie, the Council advises all homecooks to invest in a meat thermometer - used to measure the internal temperature of meat, especially roasts and steaks, and other cooked foods. 

Once you've got your thermometer, the Council recommends following their six tips to ensure perfectly cooked (and edible) meat is on the menu:

  • "Whole cuts of red meat such as beef, lamb or kangaroo (that have not been stuffed, rolled, mechanically tenderised or flavour infused) will only have bacteria on the outside, so can be cooked to your taste," Moir said. As a guide, well done is 77C, medium is 71C and medium rare is 63C. Make sure to leave the meat to rest for three to five minutes after cooking and before consuming. Eating these cuts of meat very rare (under 63C) or raw may put you at risk of parasitic infection, such as toxoplasmosis.
  • Minced meat, hamburgers, sausages, livers and offal, corned beef and roasts that are stuffed, rolled, flavour-infused or mechanically tenderised have higher risk, Moir said. These should always be cooked to 75C in the centre.
  • Poultry such as chicken, ducks, spatchcocks, capons or turkey (including their livers), either whole or minced, should also be cooked to 75C in the centre or in the thickest part of the leg if using a whole bird. "Cook any stuffing separately as it will slow the cooking and the inside of the bird might not be fully cooked," Moir said.
  • Pork in whole cuts, such as steaks, should be cooked to 70C, roasted between 70C and 75, and left to rest for three to five minutes, Moir advised.
  • Veggies, you are not forgotten! When preparing any vegetarian or vegan roast alternatives, follow the cooking instructions on the packaging - or if you make your own, cook to 75C in the centre. And for the pescetarians among us, any fish should be cooked to around 63C, Moir said - or when the flesh flakes easily.
  • "Finally, raw meat and poultry juices are a food poisoning risk, so always use a separate chopping board for raw meat and another for uncooked veggies and salad," Moir added. "Always wash your hands, chopping board and utensils after handling raw meat or poultry."