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Is Letting Meat Come to Room Temperature Safe?

A woman looks at a piece of raw meat in a kitchen.

When it comes to cooking meat—particularly steak—everyone seems to have their own special method. However, a common meat cooking hack involves bringing it to room temperature before cooking. But is that safe?

As it turns out, it’s fine to bring your meat to room temperature, but there are a few rules to follow. Plus, there’s the question of if it’s really even necessary.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, as long as meat or poultry doesn’t sit out at room temperature for more than two hours, it’s safe. Room temperature typically falls within the FDA’s danger zone—the temperatures between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit when bacteria can grow. Keep your meat for more than two hours, and you’ve got trouble.

So is this advice safe? Yes, as long as you monitor the meat. But is it necessary?

According to Bon Appetit, yes! While bringing thin cuts of meat to room temperature isn’t required, doing so for thicker cuts like pork chops, steaks, or whole chickens and turkeys is a good call. Why? The idea is to avoid overcooking.

Your meat needs to reach a particular internal temperature when being cooked. The colder the interior of the meat, the longer that’s going to take. When meat is at room temperature, you won’t need to cook quite as long to reach the needed internal temp. You’ve already raised it by allowing it to sit out. Ultimately, this helps create a more even cook throughout your meat.

How long should you let your meat sit out? If it has been refrigerated, allow it to sit for half an hour, anything beyond that could present a hazard. Also, be sure to wash your hands before and after handling the meat, and never use utensils that have touched the raw meat for other tasks without washing them first.

The next time you’re planning a great steak dinner or roasting a chicken, a little forethought to bring it to room temperature might make a major difference.

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