Basically I am wondering if all the pink being cooked out is a guarantee that the meat has hit a safe temperature.

I understand that you should always use a meat thermometer, but I'm asking from an academic/theoretical sense, what is the temperature at which a specific section of meat turns from pink to non-pink, and is that temperature above or below the safe guidelines for specific meat temperatures.

Given as an example, is there any type of meat that could be cooked in a slow cooker for a long time, such that it reaches a homogeneous temperature that removes all the pink, but still hasn't reached a safe temperature?

Maybe high pressure can affect this (i.e. pressure cooker)?

I also don't really understand what causes the meat to change color (I assume something about proteins breaking down) but maybe I could be pointed in the right direction by looking up how specific meat proteins react to specific temperatures, and what temperatures certain bacteria can survive. I wasn't really sure how to approach finding that information though.

  • 1
    This seems to ba a 'fear-based' question. Beef & lamb are often served pink. Beef sometimes raw [tartar]. What definitive point do you qualify as 'safe'? A rump steak cooked to non-pink right through will hurt your teeth. You can see the pain in the waiter's eyes every time someone asks for it 'well done'. Some restaurants actually put written warnings on the menu if they have a lot of customers who want well done, so they can't send it back for being tough.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 19:53
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    And you should note that food safety / destroying pathogens is a function of temperature and time. The “safe” temperature that’s usually published by the health authorities is a consumer-friendly simplification because at that temperature the time required to kill all pathogens is near zero. Longer time at lower temperatures will also result in a safe product.
    – Stephie
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 20:53
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    (And forget about the pressure cooker - it operates at temperatures way beyond both food safety threshold temperatures and protein denaturation.)
    – Stephie
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 20:56
  • An extra point: jurisdiction. Depending on where in the world you are both the official recommendations for safe temperatures and the way the meat is treated from farm to supermarket changes. In general the official recommendation apply to meat treated according to the regulations of that jurisdiction but are not necessarily useful across jurisdictions.
    – quarague
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 7:15

1 Answer 1


TLDR: no, color and texture are indicators, but the "academic" answer is to use a thermometer and use meat from a source you trust.

The simple answer to your question is that there is no such thing as a "guarantee" when it comes to food, only best practices. If you are smoking the meat, there will always be pink around the edges (the smoke ring). Additionally, you can cook meat to the correct temperature, but if the meat is of low quality and was stored incorrectly, that won't matter. This is because the byproducts of bacteria that is present on bad or expired meat form compounds that can be hazardous or even deadly and will never be killed by normal cooking methods. "Sell by" dates are also no guarantee, as that assumes proper storage has been followed before you bought it -- I have opened packages of meat days before their "sell by" or "best by" dates that have definitely not passed the smell test.

All that being said, even though color is not a guarantee, assuming good quality properly stored meat the change in color generally means you are going to be OK. But for many things (pork, some types of beef) at that point you have already significantly lowered the quality of the result, unless you like dry hockey-puck meat.

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