Safe Meat Temperatures – 5 Important Questions People Ask!

Reaching safe meat temperatures, when you are cooking different types of meat in your smoker, is vital to keeping you and anyone else who consumes the meat safe. Uncooked and undercooked meat has the potential to carry bacteria and germs which can cause illness such as food poisoning. However, reaching a safe meat temperature is absolutely necessary whether you cook using a smoker, grill or oven.

Smoked Brisket
Smoked Brisket

What Temperature Should I Set My Smoker at and How Long Does It Take?

Generally speaking, the temperature of smoked meat needs to be high enough and the meat must be cooked long enough so that any trace of bacteria, germs, or viruses are destroyed. Heat is an excellent way to kill these types of contaminants, but the temperature will need to be hot enough and the smoking time set long enough to do the job.

The following is a smoked meat temperature chart that provides recommended times and temperatures to guide you in planning your meal and operating your smoker based on the type of meat you plan to cook.

Type of Meat Cook Time Smoker Temperature
Beef Brisket 12 – 20 Hours
(Generally 1 Hr/Lb)
225°F – 250°F
Beef Spare Ribs 4 – 5 Hours 225°F – 250°F
Beef Short Ribs 6 – 8 Hours 225°F – 250°F
Beef Roast 8 – 10 Hours
(Generally 45 min – 1 Hr/Lb)
225°F – 250°F
Hamburger 1 Hour 225°F – 250°F
Pork Butt 12 – 14 Hours
(Generally 1 Hr/Lb)
225°F – 250°F
Baby Back Ribs 5 – 6 Hours 225°F – 250°F
Pork Spare Ribs 6 – 7 Hours 225°F – 250°F
Pork Loin 4 – 5 Hours 225°F – 250°F
Whole Chicken 3 – 4 Hours 250°F – 275°F
Chicken Legs 2 Hours 250°F – 275°F
Chicken Wings 1.5 – 2 Hours 250°F – 275°F
Chicken Breasts 2 – 3 Hours 250°F – 275°F
Whole Turkey
(10 – 12 Lb)
5 – 7 Hours 240°F
Turkey Breasts 3 – 4 Hours 240°F
Pheasant/Quail 1 Hour 225°F
Salmon 1 Hour 225°F
Trout 1 Hour 225°F
Tilapia 1 Hour 225°F
Shrimp 30 – 45 Minutes 225°F
Lobster 45 Minutes – 1 Hour 225°F
Scallops 45 Minutes – 1 Hour 225°F

Whether you have a digital electric smoker, an analog smoker or propane smoker from the Masterbuilt family of products, or you have another brand of smoker, this smoking meat temperature chart will be a helpful guide for you.

The length of cooking time will depend on how much meat you are smoking and the smoker temperature that is maintained. The times listed above are average smoking times and will vary based on the weight of the meat, number of meat pieces being smoked and the temperature setting inside the smoker.

For example, a whole chicken takes considerably longer than chicken wings, just as a pork butt takes far longer than pork ribs or pork loin. So, be sure to research the time for each specific type of meat being smoked and plan your meal accordingly.

The proper meat smoking times and temperatures should be included in the recipes you are using. If you are looking for recipe ideas, you can find a few smoker recipes, as well as a cookbook we recommend, on our Masterbuilt smoker recipes page.

Remember that the time suggested is just a guide and is not a true indicator of when meat is actually done. It is always more important to smoke and cook meats to their proper safe meat temperatures than to the time suggested.

Masterbuilt Bluetooth Controller
Masterbuilt Bluetooth Controller

What are the Safe Meat Temperatures for Cooking?

Whenever you are cooking or smoking meat, there is a general rule of three different internal temperatures that must be met in order for the meat to be considered safe to eat.

First, all ground meats must be cooked to 160°F; second, all poultry, fowl and gamebirds must be cooked to 165°F; and third, all fresh meat steaks, chops and roasts must be cooked to 145°F. Ground meats include beef, veal, lamb, pork, deer, moose, elk or caribou. Poultry, fowl and gamebirds include chicken, turkey, duck, goose, pheasant, or quail.

To learn more about the importance of food safety and safe minimum cooking temperatures, we recommend you check out, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

In order to be safe, you’ll want to ensure that the safe meat temperatures are reached for each of the meat types listed below.

Certain meats like beef brisket and pork butt need to be smoked to temperatures that are much higher than the safe meat temperatures to reach their tenderness. While others like pork loin, chicken and turkey will get dry and tough if they are smoked much beyond the safe minimum temperature.

The following safe meat temperature chart provides the safe minimum temperature for various meat types, along with the recommended finish temperature. The recommended finish temperature listed is the internal temperature needed for the meat to become tender.

Type of Meat Safe Minimum
Recommended Finish
Beef Brisket 145°F 195°F – 200°F
Beef Spare Ribs 145°F 185°F – 190°F
Beef Short Ribs 145°F 190°F – 200°F
Beef Chuck Roast 145°F 190°F – 200°F
Hamburger 160°F 160°F
Pork Butt 145°F 200°F
Pork Spare Ribs 145°F 185°F – 190°F
Baby Back Ribs 145°F 190°F – 195°F
Pork Loin 145°F 145°F
Whole Chicken 165°F 165°F
Chicken Legs 165°F 170°F – 175°F
Chicken Wings 165°F 170°F – 175°F
Chicken Breasts 165°F 165°F
Whole Turkey
(10 – 12 Lb)
165°F 165°F
Turkey Breasts 165°F 165°F
Pheasant/Quail 165°F 165°F
Salmon 145°F 145°F
Trout 145°F 145°F
Tilapia 145°F 145°F
Shrimp 145°F N/A
Lobster 145°F 145°F
Scallops 145°F 145°F

For delicate foods like fish and seafood, you should consider getting a fish and vegetable mat. This mat is a very useful item for smoking fish, seafood and vegetables, and you can find out more about it on our Masterbuilt smoker accessories page.

As another reminder, it is most important to focus on smoking meat to the desired temperature rather than to any suggested time.

Thermopro TP20 Remote Digital Thermometer
Thermopro TP20 Remote Digital Thermometer

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How Important is it to Have a Good Meat Thermometer?

Monitoring the internal temperature of meat during the smoking process is critical. In order to know the temperature of what you are cooking, a good meat thermometer for your smoker is a necessity.

Your smoker may already have a meat probe built-in that allows you to monitor the temperature of the meat, which is very helpful to have. But you may want to consider having a secondary thermometer if you don’t want to feel tied to your smoker or maybe just to use as a backup.

An instant read meat thermometer will let you know right away if the meat is too hot or not hot enough. These thermometers are especially good for getting a quick read on meat temperature as they allow you to get in and out of the smoker quickly, which helps reduce the amount of heat loss in your smoker. These thermometers are also good to use on smaller, more delicate types of food like fish and seafood.

A remote digital meat thermometer will let you check the temperature without opening the smoker door. Depending on the range of the thermometer, you may even be able to monitor the temperature while inside your home.

To learn more about some of the different thermometer options available, you can check out our page on meat thermometers for smokers.

How Long Can Cooked Meat Be Left Out Before Spoiling?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) refers to the “Danger Zone” which is the range of temperatures between 40°F – 140°F where bacteria grows most rapidly. They advise that cooked meat not be left out more than 2 hours before being refrigerated and if the temperature is above 90°F, the meat should be refrigerated within 1 hour.

Understanding safe meat temperatures will help you better prepare your meals and keep your family, friends, and guests safe from bacteria, germs, or viruses that can be found or can grow in meat or food.

To learn more about this, you can check out how temperatures affect food on the USDA website.

Food Safety

What Kind of Wood Chips Should I Use?

This is a great question and we get it quite often. Quite frankly, a lot of it really comes down to your own personal preference. However, if you are a beginner, you haven’t developed a preference yet so you’re looking for ideas.

Rather than go into great detail here, we recommend that you check out our page listing the 5 tips on selecting woods chips to get some ideas on which chips work best with particular types of meat.


Maintaining safe meat cooking temperatures when preparing food is a critical step to keeping people safe when they consume the meal your prepare.

All meat has a safe cooking temperature recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and it is important to always smoke or cook to the proper meat temperature rather than to the suggested time.

To be able to monitor things during the smoking process, it is also critical to have a smoker thermometer to help you reach the meat temperature needed.

Adopting these safe meat cooking temperatures into the smoking process, will help keep your family and friends safe and allow them to gain more enjoyment from the meals you prepare.