Have you ever spent a half hour decoding a weight and time chart that promise to help you perfectly roast that $100 prime rib, only to discover, a few hours later when guests arrive that the only person with teeth strong enough to cut through the dry, overcooked boulder in the kitchen is the family dog?
The problem is, the size and shape of the roast, the specific cooking
qualities of your oven, the temperature of your refrigerator, heck, even
the amount of fat in the meat can all affect the cooking time, making
those time vs. weight charts at best, an unreliable guide, and at worst,
The secret to perfectly cooked meat is internal
temperature. Cook a piece of beef–Any piece of beef, whether it’s a NY
strip steak, a cheap eye-round roast, or a premium Wagyu tenderloin–to
130 degrees, and you’ve hit medium rare, whether you’re cooking in your
modern convection oven, a skillet on the stovetop, or an open flame on a
So how do you guarantee that you’ve hit the
temperature sweet spot? There’s only one sure way: a meat thermometer.
are some basic tips on how to use them effectively:
- Always take
the temperature of your meat in the thickest part of the roast–the part
which heats up the slowest. For steaks and chops, it’s best to hold the
steak with a pair of tongs while inserting the meat thermometer from
the side, to ensure that the very center of the chop is registered.
Remember that meat will continue to cook after you remove it from the
heat source as it rests (you do rest your meat after cooking, right?).
For small steaks and chops, expect their internal temperature to rise by
about 5 degrees. For large roasts, expect a 10-15 degree temperature
- Avoid leave-in-the-meat remote probe thermometers. The
probes themselves can conduct heat to the center of the meat, giving you
a temperature reading that is higher than it should be.
- An analog
dial-faced thermometer or cheap digital thermometer like the CDN
Pro-accurate Quick Read Thermometer ($16.95) will work reasonably well,
but an instant-read thermometer, such as the Splash-Proof Super-Fast
Thermapen by Thermoworks ($96) gives fast, accurate readings in a matter of seconds, allowing you to
get in and out of the oven faster. At $96, they are not cheap, but it’s a
small price to pay to never eat an over-cooked roast again.
for thermometers with a wide temperature range for maximum versatility.
The Thermapen gives accurate measurements from -58 degrees Fahrenheit
all the way up to 572 degrees, which means that you can use it for
everything from checking if your cheesecake has set, to whether your oil
is hot enough to drop in your French fries.
- Avoid models that
have pre-set temperature alarms for different types of meats–these
settings are invariably too high, and will give you badly overcooked
results–precisely what a thermometer is designed to prevent!
- Check your thermometers calibration at least once a month by submerging it in a glass of ice water. If it doesn’t read close to 32 degrees, it needs to be recalibrated, following the manufacturer’s instructions.