Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Do it to Death! (literally, lol)

You learn by doing, doing, doing and then doing some more! Do something to death and then move on to something else, and do that to death!  I write about "Learn, practice train" in my book, "The Swing" and it applies to more than just kettlebells!  Learn a skill (cooking), practice that skill, and then train it!

There was a a time when I started to cook cuts of meat that I had never purchased before, much less prepared!  There is a certain amount of anxiety that comes with wanting not to serve, much less eat, over cooked, dried out meat, and also not wanting to die from salmonella poisoning!  I never thought I'd ever be able to remember the correct temperatures to cook various meat proteins, and I longed for the day that it would be a no-brainer.....well, that day has come, long ago, and what a relief, as well as giving me confidence and pride for the time, effort and patience (not to mention trust) of making that happen.  Practice makes perfect!

OK, so I'm and my instant-read thermometer! I'm not a professional, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I can't tell by "touching" a piece of meat whether or not it's done!  But I shouldn't have to apologize for not being a professional!  There may come a day, and I don't doubt it will come, that I will have so much practice that a simple nudge with my pointer finger into the side of a steak will indicate to me whether or not my meat is done!  But until then I've got my handy thermometer and I'm good to go!

Here is some information I found online for cooking meat to a correct and safe temperature:

When you overcook meat, the fibrous proteins in it become solid, dense, and dry. You need to find a happy compromise between getting the meat done and keeping it moist and tender.
We strongly suggest you invest in an instant-read thermometer, which will help you know when your meat is fully cooked. Meats will continue to cook after you remove them from the heat — small cuts like pork chops and hamburgers will rise an additional 5° or so while large roasts will rise 10° or so — so you should remove them shortly before they reach the desired temperature.

The US Department of Agriculture says the following temperatures will produce safely cooked, but still flavorful meats:
MeatInternal Temp.Centigrade
Fresh ground beef, veal, lamb, pork160°F71°C
Beef, veal, lamb roasts, steaks, chops: medium rare145°F63°C
Beef, veal, lamb roasts, steaks, chops: medium160°F71°C
Beef, veal, lamb roasts, steaks, chops: well done170°F77°C
Fresh pork roasts, steaks, chops: medium160°F71°C
Fresh pork roasts, steaks, chops: well done170°F77°C
Ham: cooked before eating160°F71°C
Ham: fully cooked, to reheat140°F60°C
Ground chicken/turkey165° F74°C
Whole chicken/turkey180° F82°C
Poultry breasts, roasts170° F77°C

Additionally, the USDA says the thighs and wings of poultry should be cooked "until the juices run clear." 


To be honest I pull meats 5-10 degrees before they reach the recommended temperatures based on experience.  I do a lot of stuff based on my own personal experience, and information that I've collected from cooks that I trust.

Learning how to feed yourself and you family only

comes with practice.  If you are a beginning cook don't apologize, or let yourself be intimidated by what you may not know yet.  Instead be proud of the time and effort you put into taking charge of your health.  Ask questions from cooks that you trust. And practice!

Or....cook cuts of meat that you can cook to a second death!  lol  Like chicken thighs!


guy said...

Very informative, I always cook meat med/well. If Grilling ever becomes an olympic sport champions will come out of my state, no doubt! Reminds me, what are your thoughts on BBQ Ma'am?

Tracy Reifkind said...


BBQ is fine, but you always have to remember what stuff is behind fancy names. BBQ in most parts of the country is defined by the sauce that meeats are slathered in!

Like marinades and dressings, sauces have salt and sugar, vinegar (acid) as flavorings. BBQ sauce has a smoke flavor as well. I don't count the calories of marinades but I do count the calories of dressings and sauces.