Properly cooked meat is a matter not just of personal taste but also safety. While connoisseurs may prefer their steaks ‘blue’ or even raw as in the case of steak tartare, meats such as chicken must be thoroughly cooked through to avoid causing serious illness.
Do you need a meat thermometer?
There are many cooks who are confident in cooking their meat perfectly without the aid of a thermometer. While a meat thermometer is not so necessary with smaller pieces of meat like chicken fillets, large cuts such as a roast joint can be harder to judge without the aid of this handy gadget.
With chicken and turkey, for example, the rule tends to be that the meat is cooked when the juices run clear if a skewer is poked into the deepest part of the meat. However it can take some experience to get right, as cook just a little too long and your meat will be dry. Beef and lamb dishes in particular can benefit from the use of cooking thermometers to reach the desirable point of rareness.
Bear in mind that roast meat should be allowed to rest out of the oven for a while before serving and during this time the internal temperature can rise by a few degrees, so for a suitably juicy roast it’s worthwhile removing your meat well ahead of time.
How to use a meat thermometer
There are various kinds of cooking thermometers available so make sure the one you buy is suitable for use with meats and poultry rather than sugar, for example.
Some thermometers have a useful temperature guide that will alert you if different kinds of meat have reached the correct temperature. Always use the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat but make sure the probe is not touching bone. Consider also that uneven shaped joints of meat may not cook evenly throughout, so always use your thermometer in two different places to gauge an average.
Using cooking times as a guide, inserting a meat thermometer just before the end of the programmed cooking time will tell you if your meat has reached the desired internal temperature, which for beef and lamb is as follows: well done is 75ºC, about 60ºC for medium and 50-55ºC for rare.
Poultry needs to reach an internal temperature of 80ºC and if it is stuffed the stuffing must also reach this temperature. A meat thermometer can also be used to determine that reheated food has reached a sufficient temperature.