How do you know when Meatloaf is done (and other Meats)?

If you go to a restaurant and order a steak, they will ask you how you want your meat cooked. Some establishments will also do so for hamburgers. However, you’ll never hear any waiter say: “How do you want your chicken cooked?” It is the same for a meatloaf. You don’t want the minced beef to be raw, yet you don’t want it to be dry either. That is why this is such an important question when you cook meat.

Cooking and Baking with a Thermometer

When people ask how to tell if meatloaf is done, it is tempting to reply with “get a thermometer and you’ll end up with a meatloaf cooked to perfection.” Although it is true, most home chef prefer to cook the good old fashion way: By relying on their senses and their mother or grandmother’s methods. This article will therefore explain how to figure out if the meat is cooked to perfection, through other means than using a thermometer. Let’s examine the subject for each meat.

Hamburger meat

Ground meat has to be monitored carefully. If it isn’t cooked enough, you could suffer from symptoms caused by the E. coli bacteria. That is why it is quite rare these days to be asked if you want to eat your hamburger cooked medium. Most restaurants serve them well done to stay away from any potential contamination. So, how do you know when meatloaf is done? After all, the last thing you want is to serve a rare or medium meatloaf! You can apply a metal skewer or use a metal cake tester. It will cost you less than $2 and you’ll be reassured that it is not a danger, health wise. Cook burgers medium, only if you trust your meat supplier 100%. Otherwise, well done is the norm these days.


Rule number one in cooking: Never serve poultry meat that is not cooked through. However, it should still be juicy, which makes it tricky if you don’t want to overcook. The easiest way to tell is if you can wiggle the leg. If so, it normally means that the chicken is done and ready to be served. However, it is not the most scientific method!

When piercing the thickest part of the thigh with a paring knife, the juice that will come out should run clear. If there is no juice, you are probably over cooked. You also need to make sure that the stuffing (if you made any), is well done. To do so, enter a metal skewer all the way to the center of the chicken and leave it there a few seconds. If you take it out and it’s really hot, it means the stuffing is also ready to be served.

Roast Beef

Contrary to beef (and other meats) that is braised or stewed, the roast needs to be cooked attentively. Any method of cooking which involves a slow process, such as a beef stew or pot roast will never get over cooked. Providing you have the right meat, the longer it remains on the oven, the more tender it will get. A roast beef is quite different. If you keep it inside the oven too long, it will simply become hard and inedible. The other issue you may have, if you are sharing your meal with friends or family, is that people like their roast at different level of cooking. That is why you should always try to keep the center pink, for guests that enjoy their meat rare and serve both endings to those who like it well done.

Though there isn’t a universal agreement on the length of time a roast beef should stay in the oven, here is one of the ways most people agree on: Preheat the oven at 325°F, place the roast inside and leave it there for about 15 minutes per pound. When it comes out, it should be cooked medium to medium rare. If you want it well done, add two minutes per pound. One trick to keep the roast juicy, is to steer it first, on all sides, in a frying pan. There are variables that will affect the length of time of a roast beef, inside the oven. What is the cut you are using? Is it really fatty and does it come with a bone? You will learn to adapt to these questions, and you will get better every time you cook another one.

Other Pieces of Meat

We have used beef as the main example in this article, but it applies to other meats like lamb and pork. Now that trichinosis has become quite rare, you can serve pork at different level of cooking, just like beef. Be careful when you cook pork in the oven, as they tend to be less fatty than they previously were. Therefore, you need to remove it earlier from the oven, if you don’t want it to be completely hard and tasteless.


Mathilde P.

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