Nothing ruins a cookout like an overcooked piece of meat, and chances are, this season you’ll be dining at a few backyard gatherings where dry meat is on the menu.
Rather than spend another summer choking down dry, flavorless burgers, steaks and chicken breasts, pass these three tips on to your friends and neighbors so the outdoor fare will be up to snuff when you come ready to eat:
Tip #1: Get a Meat Thermometer
Ask any grilling guru and they’ll tell you their number one secret to winning at the highest level is to use an instant-read thermometer! Feeling for doneness with your finger will always leave you wondering how red the center of the meat really is; and, cutting into a steak, burger, or chicken breast to confirm doneness opens up the flood gates for those precious juices. If your friends and neighbors have any hope of serving up perfectly cooked food at their next backyard shindig then they’re going to need to get a meat thermometer.
Lower cost digital pocket thermometers are a perfect place to start for beginners. Thermometers like the RT301WA and RT600C are fast (5 to 6 second temperature readings), accurate (±0.9°F), and just like their name suggests, fit comfortably in your pocket. The heavy-duty stainless steel probe can navigate any piece of meat, and with it’s reduced tip it won’t leave a gaping hole when they probe meat to check for doneness.
When they’re really ready to grill like the pros, it’ll be time to introduce them to the Super-Fast Thermapen. Faster and more accurate than the low cost digital thermometers they started with, the Thermapen will teach them more about the food they’re cooking than they ever thought possible. Near instantaneous temperature readings will show them that the food they’re cooking is in constant temperature fluctuation, and lab-grade accuracy will give them confidence that what they’re serving up is – in fact – perfect!
Tip #2: Know How to Temp Your Meat
With new thermometers in-hand, your friends and neighbors will be ready to start temping their meat. The reduced-tip probes on the Thermapen and lower cost digital pocket thermometers are perfect for navigating smaller cuts like chops, burgers, steaks and chicken breasts. And, with only a few seconds to get an accurate reading they won’t be under the grill hood long before they know where they stand in the cooking process.
To begin temping, have them use a sturdy pair of tongs to lift the meat off the grates. Whatever they do, don’t let them use a fork to lift, or flip their meat. Puncturing the surface of the meat with the sharp, fat prongs of a fork will allow valuable juices to flow out of the meat and straight into the fire. Using tongs will preserve the integrity of the outer layer and keep the moisture where it belongs – in the meat.
When they’re ready to check for doneness, have them probe the meat from the side making sure to get as close to the center as possible. Doneness should always be gauged from the hottest temperature in the center of the cut. Probing from the side will ensure that the temperature won’t be thrown off by hotter surface temperatures that are in direct contact with the heat. Be mindful that the Thermapen sensor and sensors in the lower cost models are located at the very tip of the probe, so they won’t have to penetrate the meat far to get to the center.
Tip #3: Let Your Meat Rest
One of the most important steps in the cooking process – and don’t let your neighbors forget this one – is letting the meat rest after they’ve pulled it off the heat. The high heat of the grill stresses the proteins causing them to repel moisture. A 10 to 20 minute rest (depending on the size of the meat) will relax the proteins and help them retain moisture so their meat is juicy and delicious.
During the resting period, they’ll also notice that the internal temperature of the meat increases. That’s because the residual heat from the surface continues to move towards the center as the meat sits. Make sure they’re considering this residual heat rise prior to taking the meat off the heat.
For example, if they remove a chicken breast from the grill at exactly 165°F, chances are the temp will inch closer to 170°F during the rise – resulting in overcooked meat. Instead, anticipate this residual heat rise and remove the bird a few degrees below your target internal temperature so it’ll be perfect when everyone is ready to eat. Have them follow this list of chef-recommended temperatures to make sure their meat is just right.
Armed with these three temperature tips, your friends and neighbors will be able to crank out mouth-watering chops, steaks, and burgers in no time. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re free to enjoy the party. Keep an eye on that grill with a cold beverage in your hand and a Super-Fast Thermapen in your pocket. You know – just in case.