A handy guide to internal temperatures for cooking beef and lamb


| Tips & Tricks | Best internal temperatures for cooking beef and lamb

Best internal temperatures for cooking beef and lamb

Cooking beef or lamb? Perfecting these meats isn’t just about the marinade, seasoning, or the method of cooking. One of the critical factors that can make or break the quality of your dish is the internal temperature to which the meat is cooked. Whether you’re aiming for a melt-in-your-mouth lamb shoulder or a juicy steak, knowing the right temperature is key.


Beef: From Rare to Well-Done

When cooking beef, the desired doneness can range from a red, juicy centre in a rare steak to the consistent brown of a well-done one. Here's a breakdown of the internal temperatures to aim for:

  1. Rare: 120-125°F (49-52°C) - A cool red centre.
  2. Medium Rare: 130-135°F (54-57°C) - A warm red centre, which is soft and has a bit more give when pressed. Often considered the best doneness for steaks to maximise flavour and tenderness.
  3. Medium: 140-145°F (60-63°C) - A warm pink centre with a slightly firmer feel.
  4. Medium Well: 150-155°F (65-68°C) - Mostly brown with a hint of pink.
  5. Well Done: 160°F (71°C) and above - Uniformly brown or grey throughout.

Tip: When cooking steaks, it’s a good practice to remove them from the heat source about 5°F before the desired temperature. The residual heat will continue cooking the steak (a phenomenon known as carryover cooking).

Lamb: From Roasts to Chops

Lamb, a meat celebrated for its delicate flavour and tenderness, is often enjoyed a bit more on the rare side compared to beef, especially when it comes to cuts like chops.

Here's a guide:

  1. Rare: 115-120°F (46-49°C) - A soft, red centre. Ideal for those who appreciate the natural flavours of lamb.
  2. Medium Rare: 125-130°F (52-54°C) - The centre is warm and pink-red. This level of doneness is often recommended for lamb chops.
  3. Medium: 135-140°F (57-60°C) - Pink throughout the meat. A common preference for larger cuts like leg of lamb.
  4. Medium Well: 145-150°F (63-65°C) - Slight pink in the centre.
  5. Well Done: 155°F (68°C) and above - No pink left, uniformly brown.

Tip: Much like beef, lamb continues cooking even after being removed from the heat, so allow for some carryover cooking.


Why Use a Meat Thermometer?

Eyeballing doneness or using the “poke test” can be unreliable. A digital instant-read meat thermometer is a small investment that guarantees you're cooking your meat to perfection every time.

Resting: The Unsung Hero

After achieving the desired internal temperature, allow your beef or lamb to rest for several minutes before slicing. This step ensures juices redistribute, keeping the meat moist.


Achieving the perfect doneness for beef and lamb is an aspiration, and it's one that requires precision. By understanding and utilising these temperature guides, you’ll ensure that every bite is a testament to your culinary power. The next time you have these meats on the menu, remember: it's all about the degrees!


Posted by Beef + Lamb New Zealand