You often hear it said that cooking is an art whereas baking is more of a science. I would have to agree with the statement to some extent and it would follow that I consider myself an artist rather than a scientist. However there is plenty of room for science in meat cookery. TV cooks and their casual vernacular have given rise to plenty of confusion that would have Mrs Beeton or any of the great French chefs spinning in their graves. They use slugs of this, glugs of that, drizzles, and wine glasses in place of proper scientific measurements. I also hear references to large X and medium Y, such as onions or carrots, when small medium and large are comparative terms. It’s not surprising that people have had disasters in the kitchen attempting to copy some of these TV endeavours.
While I can’t help you with a slug, a glug or a drizzle, the other constant debate is how to tell if meat is cooked. At this time of year with communions and barbecues in full swing, party buffets and grills mean joints of ham, turkey and beef are being cooked while steaks, sausages and kebabs are being roasted over the coals. Unless you are using professional caterers there is plenty of anxiety around the roast and turkey cooking. For some it will bring back memories of Christmas. I have two words to quell the anxious; meat thermometer.
Thermometers are indispensable in a kitchen. They measure the internal temperature of your cooked meat, poultry, or casseroles and therefore take the guesswork out of cooking as you can be sure a safe temperature has been reached, any harmful bacteria have been destroyed, and your food is cooked perfectly. Of course a thermometer can be used for all foods and not just meat and you should get into the habit of using one. It would certainly stop the dreaded but common barbecue barbarism of cremated flesh on the outside and dangerously pink on the inside. How many of us have stuck with the salads at a barbecue for fear of the pink centred chicken? Temperature is the only way to gauge whether food is sufficiently cooked.
If you don’t already have one, you will be faced with several types to choose from. The old fashioned stainless steel, inexpensive model is fine but if you want real accuracy then modern digital thermometers are a good choice. The main thing is to make sure it is a meat and poultry thermometer as opposed to one designed for sugar or jam. To use a meat thermometer just insert it through the fat side of the meat. If you are cooking a joint on the bone be careful not to touch the bone as this conducts heat faster and you will get a false reading. I suggest immersing the probe part of the thermometer about 2 inches into the meat. For poultry I recommend that the best place is the inner thigh area, near the breast of the bird but, again, not touching the bone. For red meat, roasts, steaks or chops go to the thickest part away from the bone. If you are cooking a meat loaf I would suggest placing it in the thickest area of the loaf or for thinner items, go in from the side. Finally for casseroles, stews or pies insert into the centre. And remember to wash the probe after each use. Below is a table of meat temperatures for you to cut out and keep handy.
While on the subject and as I mentioned it earlier a sugar thermometer is really important when making jam or sweets. Just like meat it is the most accurate way of testing the temperature.
|Rare||130° F / 54° C|
|Medium||160˚F / 71˚C|
|Well||175˚F / 79˚C|
|Medium||145˚F / 63˚C min. safe temperature|
|Well||160˚F / 71˚C|
|Rare||Pork is not suited to being served rare|
|Medium||155˚F / 66˚C min. safe temperature|
|Well||160˚F / 71˚C|
|Rare||140˚F / 60˚C|
|Medium||145˚F / 63˚C|
|Well||165˚F / 74˚C|
|Rare||Poultry is not suited to being served rare.|
|Medium||165˚-170˚F / 74˚-77˚ C|
|Well||N/A over 170˚F will result in being too dry!|
Of course you could eliminate all the anxiety of party food by checking out the catering packages at James Whelan Butchers. Drop by the shop or check out the website today. I welcome your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers