Over the past few months, thanks to my schedule freeing up and other circumstances, I have been designated the family cook and have been cooking for my family a lot. It is an absolute joy for me to indulge my wanting mouth with a juicy, tender medium-rare steak for dinner. I may have nailed it a few times (on sheer luck), but most times, it just turns into a well-done situation or, worse, overdone and dry.
And believe me, I love following recipes, but I just cannot seem to perfect it. Recipes tell me to take the meat’s temperature, but I have observed that the temperature depends on where you stick the thermometer. So it is a different reading every time. I figured this might be the root cause of my gustatory predicament. So I looked into the Science of perfecting a steak, and a huge factor is the RIGHT way of using a meat thermometer.
Still don’t have a thermometer? Check out our guide to digital meat thermometers here.
Getting the Most Accurate Temperature for your Meat
Part of knowing the ideal measurement of heat is also knowing where to stick your thermometer. We aim for the coolest part of the meat, which, according to Science, is the center. But the principle is hard to apply if you are working with thinner cuts like chicken breasts, steaks, and/or pork chops because the center section is so slim.
The trick with thinner cuts is to target the general area, then push the thermometer through the meat until it emerges on the other side. If you are dealing with a whole turkey or a prime rib, push your thermometer all the way through until you hit bone.
Gently retract the thermometer, and you will observe an abrupt increase in the reading as the tip reenters the meat. Eventually, it will then drop as you get closer to the center. Notice that you will hit a low point, and then it will start to rise again since the tip of the thermometer is slowly resurfacing. That low point is the temperature you follow. Keep your eyes on the changes in your thermometer, or you might miss the coldest point of your meat.
How to use a meat thermometer to get the most accurate readings
Steaks, roasts and thick pork chops: The best way to use your meat thermometer to make sure you get an accurate reading for these cuts of meat is to insert the thermometer right into the center of the thickest part, but you need to stay away from the bone or excess fat.
Turkey or Chicken (or other whole poultry): Meat thermometers are best inserted directly into the inner thigh, close to the breast. You need to be sure you are not accidentally touching bone otherwise you won’t know when it is cooked.
Ground meat: Check the temperature near the thickest area to see if the meat is done. An instant read thermometer is ideal for this.
Thin pork chops or hamburgers: The correct way to use a meat thermometer here would be to insert the probe thermometer sideways into the piece of meat at it’s thickest point.
General Temperature Guides when using a meat thermometer
Steak: Don’t even get me started on the poke test to get the desired outcome for your steak. Use your meat thermometer to get a precise internal temperature. Steaks are mostly made of beef and pork but not always. Other possibilities include lamb, veal, venison, and goat. To achieve the desired kind of cook, hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit for rare and at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit for medium.
Poultry: When cooking roast chicken or turkey, we especially need to ensure the meat is cooked properly. Take note that the ideal temperature for white meat is around 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Dark meat like legs and drumstick, generally the legs of the bird is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whatever piece of meat you are cooking, be it on a grill or in the oven you will want to check the temperature at its thickest part.