There are many ways to check for doneness and your mileage may vary, but becoming proficient at doneness is a key to cooking success. Timing helps, but with all of the variability of cooking systems, you must rely on your own tests of doneness.


  • Jiggled brisket should jiggle like jello when done.
  • Pork and lamb shoulder blade bones should pull out easily when done.
  • If you can shred pork, chicken or mutton when doing a slow cook, it's done.
  • If you can pierce brisket or large slow cooked meat with the handle of a wooden spoon or a (gloved) finger, it's done.
  • Ribs should bend an break when done.
  • The meat on ribs should shrink when done. ¼ - ½ inches for baby back ribs, ½ - 1 inches for spare ribs and 1 - 1½ inches for beef back ribs.
  • Fish, such as salmon, should flake when pressed with a finger when done.
  • Potatoes, onions and similar vegetables can be tested with a skewer. They can also be squeezed.
  • Finger test of meat doneness is to use your finger to press a steak to check for doneness. Compare to the firmness of the flesh below your thumb on the palm of your hand. The flesh changes firmness from raw - open hand, well-done - thumb on pinkie, medium - thumb on ring finger, medium-rare - thumb on middle finger, rare - thumb on index finger. Photos are on a Simply Recipes web page about it.


Doneness Internal Temp Type of Meat
Rare (beef, lamb) 120°-125°F Reverse-seared steaks and tri-tip, prime rib, beef tenderloin
Medium-rare (beef, lamb) 130°-135°F Reverse-seared steaks and tri-tip, prime rib, beef tenderloin
Medium (seafood) 140°-145°F Fish, shellfish
Medium (beef, lamb, pork) 145°-150°F Beef, pork loin, chops, tenderloin, leg and rack of lamb
Medium (ground meat) 160°F Hamburgers, sausage, bratwurst, pork roast pork
Medium 165°F Chicken, turkey, duck, ground poultry (poultry, pork ribs)
Medium-well 170°-180°F Chicken, turkey, duck, goose, pork ribs (poultry, pork)
Well 195°-205°F Brisket, pork or lamb shoulder, any meat you plan to pull or shred


  • Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen

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