How To Tell When Meat is Done
Oh, there's such negativity and defeatism in the blogosphere when it comes to cooking. Got a comment on my Top Seven Cuts of Meat That You Can't Screw Up On the Grill saying "...I reckon you can screw up all of these as it's the skill of the cook that counts in recognising whether or not the meat is done." Ok, fine. I partly agree with that. Just don't take yourself, or myself so seriously. Screwed up is quite the fluid term when it comes to grilling. Personally, I like beef to be completely done; no pink inside. In some circles, that is considered blasphemy and "screwed up."
It is the skill of the cook when it comes to screwing up grilled food. But that doesn't mean you can't learn. Just think about what you are doing and consider all that is involved. And pay attention. And quit being a defeatist.
On that note, there are three methods by which you can tell if your meat is done. Well, four methods, really, but BBQ intuition is something that is given to us by the gods.
1. Cut the Meat By far the easiest method of obtaining doneness is the cut method. Simple get a fork and a very sharp knife and cut into the thickest part fo the meat. Depending on how much it bleeds, you can determine your preference of doneness. If you are grilling chicken and it bleeds, you had better close the lid and let it cook some more. The drawback of cutting is that you risk loosing precious juices from your meat, plus a big slash in your juicy steak just isn't good for aesthetics. Plate it upside down.
2. Learning by Feel This is the method used by experienced grillers, but is easy to learn. It just takes a few times at the grill to master this skill. You might see on cooking shows celebrity chefs pressing their fingers on the meat while its cooking, perhaps rubbing it in a circle. They are testing how firm it has become under the heat of the grill. The softer and more squishy it feels, the more towards rare the meat is. If it's firm and tough, you have reached "well" done. Check out my post on the hand-test method to learn what feels like done and what feels like rare.
3. Use a Thermometer Don't be tempted to use one of those plastic grill forks that also double as a donenes testing implement. They don't work. You need a good instant-read thermometer or better yet, a digital probe thermometer. The digital thermometer gives a totally accurate measure, plus you can set it beep at you when the meat has reached your desired temperature. Here's a cool one that has a remote sensor. Just set it, then go inside with your remote.
Check out this cool chart from Ask The Meatman. Nice illustration of beef doneness levels.