Like anything in the kitchen, learning to cook meat to the correct “doneness” comes with time and practice; however, if you are new to cooking, or even just new to a particular cut of meat, achieving the perfect internal temperature feels more like a gamble than a good time. Especially considering the way meat looks on the outside doesn’t indicate how well it’s cooked on the inside. So, here are a few handy tips to help you impress at your next dinner party.
To start, we’d like to introduce you to your new best friend, the thermometer (and other testing techniques), as well as help you avoid common mistakes.
Thermometers are the most consistent and safest way to test internal temperatures. Just remember to sanitize it before and after use. Raw meat may contain bacteria, and you don’t want to risk spreading it around.
Of course it’s not just what you use, but also how you use it that’s important. To properly use a thermometer, always insert it into the center of the thickest part of your meat, avoiding fat and bone. To help prevent the thermometer from pushing all the way through to the cavity or to the pan, try inserting it through the side, so the sensor part lands in the center. Also, when cooking a whole bird, always insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.
Of course, nothing is perfect, and if you’re making a casserole or meatloaf, you could potentially run the risk of uneven cooking temperatures throughout the different layers of meat and eggs, so insert the thermometer in the center of the dish. To be extra safe, for anything with ground meat or poultry, check in several different areas. Better to be safe than sick.
When testing the temperature, remember that the following numbers refer to the temperature before you let the meat rest. Below is a helpful chart provided by the Government of Canada for safe internal cooking temperatures: