Many entrées have been ruined, or at least overcooked, by a hasty chef with a knife and the need to know if the meat’s fully ready. Nobody wants food poisoning, but nobody wants a dry steak or chicken breast either.
There is, of course, the meat thermometer — if you choose to go this route, make the switch to digital: for instance, at $13, Ikea’s FANTAST is a cheap and reliable option that boasts a heat-resistant cord so you can set it and forget it. And according to Health Canada, using a meat thermometer is still the perfered way to check a protein’s readiness to avoid harmful bacteria ending up in your gut.
“Some strains of E.coli are very, very heat-resistant and they can survive cooking in a burger to 71C,” food microbiologist Lynn McMullen told CTV. So knowing the suggested cooking temperatures for each type of meat is incredibly important.
But if you’re in a pinch and don’t have a thermometer on hand, there are a few tricks that can indicate your meat is ready to serve to hungry mouths, without cutting into it and compromising its taste and moisture.
Here’s how to make your meat magnifique and stop with the guessing game.
Use the hand poke method for steak
You know that soft, squishy part on the palm of the hand at the base of the thumb? That’s going to be what you use to measure the doneness of your steak. While relaxing your left hand, poke or pinch that bit of palm with your finger and/or thumb — that’s what a raw steak will feel like. To understand what rare meat feels like, bring the tip of your thumb to touch your index finger and poke your palm. For medium-rare, touch your thumb to middle finger before poking. For medium, touch your ring finger and thumb. And for well-done, touch your pinky and thumb together.
And a similar technique for lamb
Cooking times will vary depending on the size and cut of lamb, but you can use your finger to determine when it’s ready to eat. For well-done meat, the texture should feel firm, but have a little give when you press your finger into it. The more bounce, the more rare it is.
Poke your face
If the palm-poking method requires too much memory space for you when cooking steak, you might find the face-poking method a bit easier. Rare steak will feel like your cheeks, medium-rare will feel like your chin, medium-cooked steak will feel like the tip of your nose and well-done will feel like your forehead. So get poking!
Watch the juices in chicken
For lean meats like chicken, keep an eye on the leaking liquids. When you think your chicken breast is ready, pull it from the heat and use the flat side of a fork to press down on it. If the liquids run clear, dinner is served. But if liquids look cloudy or pink, pop it back in for a few more minutes and check again. The ideal temperature to cook chicken at, according to Health Canada, is 74C.
For fish, feel the heat
We all know that fish is cooked when it’s flaky and not rubbery. But who wants to butcher a perfect slice of fish by chopping it open with a knife each time to test it? Instead, insert a small metal skewer into the thickest part of the fish. Pull it out and then carefully touch it to your lips or tongue and test the temperature. If it’s anything but hot, it needs more time.