10 Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Meat
When you’re hosting a barbecue, the meat is often the star of the show. Meat is often the featured dish in a holiday celebration, regardless of the season. When done right, it will be tender and delicious. But when you cook it incorrectly, it will turn chewy, flavorless, and even hazardous to your health! Whether you’re a professional chef, aspiring to be one, or you’re improving your home cooking abilities, these principles are universal. So, what makes the difference between a deliciously cooked piece of meat and a bland one? Let’s look at the top 10 tips you need to know how to cook meat properly.
Bring Meat To Room Temperature
The first thing you need to do is bring the meat to room temperature before cooking it. There are a few reasons why this is so important. First, it will allow the juices to get flowing through the meat, which will keep it tender while you cook it. Bringing the meat to room temperature also reduces cooking times.
Keep Meat On The Bone
Keeping meat on the bone when you’re cooking will keep the moisture locked in and enhance the flavor. When you slice the meat up, the juices will flow out.
Let The Meat Dry
The way that you prepare the meat will have a big impact on how it will taste. One of the most common mistakes is applying a rub when the meat is still wet. Don’t do this! If you start cooking the meat when it’s moist, it will make it harder to get a good caramelization going on the outside.
Also, note that the salt will draw moisture to the surface of the meat. Because of this, you might need to pat the meat dry to remove the excess moisture before you start cooking. If your rub does require some moisture for it to work, use olive oil, which will still help you produce a strong caramelized char on the outside of the meat.
Get Meat To A Uniform Thickness
Before you start preparing meat, check how thick it is. In some cuts, you’ll have one thick section and one thin section, which can pose big problems when you’re trying to cook it. The thinner portion will be tough, while the thicker parts will be underdone. Thankfully, this is an easy problem to solve — pound it until it’s the same thickness. A uniform measurement will ensure that it cooks evenly.
Check The Temperature
To decide when to stop cooking, many people will try to judge the meat’s outside appearance. This method can be deceptive. If you have a thick cut, the outside can appear well-cooked while the inside remains raw. Using a meat thermometer can help you here. The internal temperature will give you an accurate indication of how long you’ll need to stay cooking.
Another mistake is evaluating only one type of thermometer. There are a few you can choose. Analog devices utilize a needle, which you stick into the meat. The temperature needle will move, indicating how hot it is. In other cases, you will have digital devices. These calculate the temperature, then show it on a digital interface. For more information on the type of thermometers available and which one you should choose, check out this meat thermometers compilation.
Cook At Both High And Low Temperatures
One of the most common mistakes is to cook the meat at just one temperature. Instead, you want to start at a high temperature to sear the outside, ensuring you get a nice caramelization. Searing will also lock in all the juices for a tender piece of meat.
Once you’ve got a caramelized exterior, turn the heat down. Then, cook the meat more slowly. Though it will take a little more time, by the time you’re finished, you’ll have potent flavors. Remember, the thickness of the meat will determine how long you need to cook it.
Not All Meat Is Cooked The Same Way
The cut of meat you’re using will determine the way you should cook it. One of the most important things to consider is what part of the animal it came from. Meat that comes from an exposed part, like a shoulder or leg, tends to have many connective tissues. These tissues can get very hard and chewy if not cooked properly. Try to cook these cuts for a long time over slow heat. If you do that, you’ll be able to keep everything juicy and tender.
On the other hand, the meat might come from a part that doesn’t get much exercise, like the ribs. In these cases, the cooking method will be different because there won’t be much connective tissue to break down. You’ll be able to cook them quickly. As a result, these cuts will be best suited to the barbecue.
Remember also that various meats have different internal cooking temperatures. If you’re working in a restaurant, order throttling features can help you automatically “stagger” various meat cooking times so that they all finish simultaneously.
Meat Keeps Cooking
When using a meat thermometer, it’s easy to find the perfect temperature for the meat. However, you might still find that the meat is overcooked. This “overcooking” can happen because, as you’re resting the meat, it continues cooking on the tray. To prevent this, you’ll need to remove the heat just before it reaches the ideal internal temperature to ensure that it’s perfectly cooked at serving time.
Leave The Meat To Rest
Once you’ve finished cooking, you’ll need to leave the meat to rest. This resting period will have a big impact on the flavor. More specifically, it will influence how the juices flow through the meat. When you rest the meat, the juices will settle. You’ll be able to get a more tender cut of meat. How long you’ll need to leave the meat to rest can vary. For example, if you have a thin steak, you might only need to rest it for three to five minutes. However, if you have a thick cut, like a leg of lamb or turkey, it might require 15 to 30 minutes.
Pick The Right Knife
After you’ve gone through the effort of preparing, cooking, and resting the meat, it’s finally time to serve. But you want to be careful about what knife you use. You’ll want to get something sharp, preferably one you’ve sharpened yourself. A sharp blade will help you knife glide through the meat, rather than tearing it apart. These cits will ensure that the meat stays tender and juicy when you eat it. When you are ready to start eating, slice against the grain, which will break down the meat, making it softer and more tender.
How to Cook Meat — Conclusion
When cooked correctly, the meat will be juicy and delicious. It will “melt in your mouth,” slowly releasing its delicious flavors. Hopefully, now that you know some of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them, you can serve the perfect cut of meat at your next party.
Want to Learn More about Becoming a Chef? Read our guide!
About the Author
Nathan Bowers was born in Brisbane, Australia. Since then, he’s moved to Toowoomba where he works as a freelance writer.