How to Ensure Meat Doneness Every Time

How to Ensure Meat Doneness Every Time

Cooking the perfect piece of meat can be challenging, especially for those new to the culinary world. From juicy steaks to tender poultry, determining when your meat is cooked to perfection requires more than just timing—it requires precision.

Why Cooking Times Can Deceive

While many of us rely on cooking times or visual cues to assess doneness, these methods can often lead to inaccuracies. 
Variables like the thickness of the meat, the initial temperature, and the cooking method can all influence the required time. That said, relying solely on time might lead to an overcooked steak or an undercooked chicken thigh. And nothing ruins dinner faster than slicing into meat only to find that your food is overcooked!

The Game Changer: Meat Thermometers

Enter the meat thermometer. Devices like the CHEF iQ wireless smart meat thermometer have revolutionized how we cook meat. These gadgets offer a precise temperature reading, removing the guesswork from the cooking process. Whether you're grilling, pan-frying, or roasting, this tool can be your guide, ensuring safety and culinary excellence.

Ensuring Perfect Doneness

To make the most of your meat thermometer, always place the probe into the thickest part of your meat, avoiding any bones or fat pockets. This is crucial as different parts of the meat might register different temperatures. Typically, a minimum of a 1/2-inch insertion is required for most thermometers to get an accurate reading. For thicker cuts, delve deeper to reach the very center.

Steak Doneness and Temperatures

Steaks are a favorite for many, but they also have varied preferences regarding doneness. Here's a guide to achieving each level of steak perfection:

Characterized by its vivid red-pink hue, a rare steak provides a distinct meaty flavor. When aiming for this doneness, aim for an internal temperature of 125°F-130°F. Typically, a rare steak would take about 8 minutes of grilling, turning midway.

Medium Rare
This is a common choice for many steak lovers. With a charred exterior and pink center, it strikes a balance. Target an internal temperature of 130°F-135°F, usually achieved in roughly 9 minutes on the grill.

Medium steak is slightly pink and well-cooked but not dry. Aim for an internal temperature of 135°F-140°F, which can be achieved in approximately 10 minutes.

Approaching the FDA's recommended steak temperature of 145ºF, a medium-well steak has minimal pinkness. Typically, this requires about 11 minutes of cooking time.

For those who prefer their steak fully cooked, well-done is the choice. The steak is charred outside with a slight hint of pink inside. Aim for an internal temperature of 155°F or higher, which can take 12 minutes or more.

Tips for Each Doneness Level

While we did mention earlier that going solely by cooking times can be deceiving, we're going to go ahead and provide very general cooking times to provide a fundamental understanding of, on average, the differences in cooking times between different preferences.

For a Rare Steak, grill it for about 5 minutes on one side, flip, rotate, and continue for another 3 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

A Medium-Rare Steak needs approximately 5 minutes on one side and 4 minutes after flipping and rotating. Ensure it rests for 5 minutes before slicing.

For a Medium Steak, grill for 4 minutes, flip, rotate, and continue for another 4 minutes. A further 2 minutes of cooking, followed by a resting period, will seal the deal.

Medium-Well Steak requires an initial 4 minutes, followed by another 4 minutes after flipping and rotating. An added 3 minutes will get it to the desired temperature.

Finally, cook for 4 minutes for a Well-Done Steak, flip, rotate, and repeat. An additional 4 minutes ensures thorough cooking. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

If you're grilling chicken pieces and would like to gauge doneness without necessarily whipping out a meat thermometer, you can take a few pieces away from the heat course and press down on it with the flat side of the fork. You would want to ensure that the liquids from it run clear. If the fluid is cloudy or pink, back into the heat it goes!

All your meals can be a culinary masterpiece with the right tools, like the CHEF iQ Smart Thermometer, and a clear understanding of temperatures. That's especially true if you check out the tried-and-tested recipes on our app for hundreds of delicious guided cooking recipes.