Meats fall into a couple of basic groups.
Red meats: beef, lamb, goat, etc. can all be eaten rare, even raw with a little care.
White meats: Pork in particular, rabbit, etc., should not be eaten rare as there is an issue with bacterial contamination. Poultry should also not be eaten rare.
Most people will know their preference for how they like their meat cooked – rare, medium rare, medium or well done. This is largely a visual response and a blindfolded subject will most often prefer a rarer sample to what they would normally order.
Some individuals get quite upset if their meat is not prepared how they like it and of course, we all know that you can over cook the roast beef to a point where it is so dry as to be inedible and we all know girls who turned a funny greenish grey colour and become vegetarians at the slightest sign that the chicken is "pink" in the middle.
So how do we make sure the chicken is no longer pink on the inside without over cooking it, or how to know that the rare roast beef (or steak) is actually rare on the inside?
We could use one of those guesstimation chants – you know the kind – “half an hour for every kilo of meat and an extra half hour if it is the third Thursday of the month”. While this gives a rough guide, every oven, cook and BBQ is different and the ‘time’ will vary considerably.
Luckily science (lovely science) has a simple answer – every state of the cooking process has its own internal temperature regardless of the external or oven temperature!
So here is a basic chart of the internal temperatures for common meats :
- Beef, Veal & steaks
Rare 49-52°C (120°-125°F)
Medium-Rare 55°-57°C (130°-135°F)
Medium 60°-63°C (140°-145°F)
Medium Well 66°-68°C (150°-155°F)
71°C + (160 °F +)
Rare 57°C (135°F)
Medium 60°-66°C (140°-150°F)
Well-Done 71°C (160 °F)
Well-Done 74°C + (165 °F +)
Pork – Chops, Roast, Ribs
Medium 71°C (160°F)
Well-Done 77°C (170°F)
Ham, fully cooked and reheated
Poultry (Turkey & Chicken)
Legs & thighs
Minced Meat :
Beef, veal, lamb, pork
So; whip down to the BBQ shop or kitchen shop and get a good digital temperature probe. There are two kinds, digital and analogue (with a dial and pointer). The digital ones are more accurate and quicker to read, whatever you get don’t get one with words like “medium” or “well done” on them, this kind of temperature information is useless. If you get one that doubles as a BBQ fork, make sure the prongs are thin enough to go inside the meat!
When you test the temperature make sure you are in the centre of the meat, not touching the bone or grill.
Now cook a piece of beef or lamb or something to your liking, checking the internal temperature before you start and every 10 minutes (or every beer) until it is done. Write all this down on a chart. Do the same thing next week, checking every 20 minutes (this will take a little less time as you are not letting the heat out all the time). Write this down! Keep going like this and soon you will have a chart of how long your BBQ or over takes to cook any given cut of meat. The next time someone asks “when will the roast be ready?” you can quickly check the temperature and know that your BBQ will take seven minutes and 40 seconds to finish the roast to the “doneness” (technical term) you like! Add this to the minimum 15 minutes to ½ hour resting time and you’ll know exactly when dinner will be served.
Always rest the meat before carving, wrap it in foil and keep it warm with a towel (for a roast, rest at least 20 min, steak at least 5 min) – this is vitally important as it allows the meat to re-incorporate the juices and relax a little. This will ensure you meat it as tender as it can be, if you wanted to you could move the cooked meat from one house to another in this time by wrapping it in towels and putting it in an esky (ice chest).
There is more to it than just this of course, but a basic understanding of internal temperature will serve you well.
Rule No 13 of great BBQ
Check the internal temperature!