Whether you’re grilling steak or searing chops in a cast iron skillet in your kitchen, you need to know the ways of checking meat for doneness. To many people, meat is one of the most challenging foods to cook correctly, despite having various additives like rubs and sauces to pull off the perfect meal. It can worsen if you don’t trust your skills in gauging whether that delicious chicken, burger, pork, or turkey is ready to leave the pan or grill.
Here are some ways how to check if your meat is done perfectly.
Importance of Cooking Meat Properly
In its various forms, meat may contain harmful parasites and bacteria that could make you sick. Cooking it to perfection is the most dependable way of eliminating these disease-causing pathogens. Inadequate cooking of meat and most other foods is a common cause of food poisoning. That’s something you want to avoid whenever cooking. On the other hand, you don’t want to overcook your food as you could lose nutrients and juiciness.
This article is for you if you’re tired of under or over-estimating your meat cooking times. Keep reading to learn the ways of checking meat for doneness so you can nail those meat cooking skills.
A Meat Thermometer is Your Best Bet
Using a meat thermometer in checking your meat for doneness is the most accurate method. The tool gives you the actual temperature of the meat, especially if you like to strictly adhere to cooking temperatures. Here’s your guide to using a meat thermometer:
- Whole poultry: Check the temperature at part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. The recommended temperature by the US Department of Agriculture for poultry is 165℉.
- Parts of poultry: Insert the thermometer into pieces with the most meat, avoiding bony areas.
- Burgers, steaks, and chops: Insert the thermometer into the center in a horizontal position, avoiding the bone. The recommended temperature is 160℉.
- Beef, lamb, and pork roast: Check for the thickest part of the roast and insert the thermometer, avoiding the fatty and bony areas. Your meat is ready at 145℉.
Remove your meat from the heat 5-10 ℉ below the recommended temperature level, cover with aluminum foil, and leave to rest for 15 minutes. The temperature will rise to the recommended level for your meat to reach its final doneness. As you leave it to rest, the meat juices will also redistribute, making it easier to slice your steak.
The Finger Test
If you like your steak rare or medium, you can use the finger test if you don’t have a thermometer:
- Open your hand with the palm facing up
- Relax the palm and use the index finger to gently press the base of the thumb on the open palm. You can feel how soft and squishy it is.
- Touch press the meat with your index finger
- If it feels like the base of your thumb, it’s still raw inside
- A rare steak should feel firm with some tension
Factors That Affect How Meat Will Cook
As much as you want your meat to come out ideally, keep in mind that various factors affect the outcome, and you want to check that they’re right:
- The thickness and diameter of the meat: If the meat is too thick and has a small diameter, the heat won’t reach the center as fast as it would a thin piece with a large diameter.
- How much connective tissue and fat it contains: Too much fat and connective tissue take more time to melt and cook well.
- The cooking temperature you use: You must accurately measure and regulate the cooking temperature to get your meat done well.
- The weather and your smoker’s insulation: If the weather is windy and smoky outside, you need to allow your meat more time to cook as cold air and rain cool your cooker’s exterior, slowing down the cooking time.
- Humidity levels: A humid environment is oppressive to the cooking process. When humidity is high, moisture doesn’t evaporate off the meat’s surface, thus, maintaining high temperatures and speeding up cooking time. Low humidity levels slow down the cooking time.
- Whether the meat is boned or deboned: Bones are poor heat conductors, hence your meat will take longer to cook if boned.
- The type of grill or smoker you use: An electric cooker may perform faster than a charcoal smoker or stick burner.
Having the right tools and using the appropriate temperatures and environment can enhance the chances of cooking your meat perfectly.
Looking for More Cooking Tips or Cooking Products?
Checking meat for doneness starts by knowing what you must do and having the right equipment. BBQVille Canada is a valuable resource for your kitchen-related insights and accessories. Check out our BBQ tools, rubs and sauces catalog, or contact us with your queries.