To bring out the best qualities of the meat, it's important to find the right cooking method for the cut and type of meat you are cooking. That's why it is so important to learn to properly cook and handle meat.
Meat Cooking Temperatures
Cooking meat is fairly easy to do well. It is important that you cook meat to the proper temperature to prevent foodborne illness while still allowing it to be at its most flavorul. Some basic temperatures for safety include:
- Ground meat (veal, pork, lamb, hamburger) should all be cooked to at least an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
- Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck) needs to reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.
- Roasts, steaks, and chops of beef, veal, and lamb need to be cooked to about 135 degrees for medium rare.
- Pork chops and roasts need to reach at least 140 to 145 degrees.
Cooking method plays an important role in just how palatable your meat is. For example, stew meat wouldn't be very good on the grill, but it is fantastic in a braise.
When you roast meat, you place it in a pan in the oven with aromatics and cook at the right temperature. Roasting is appropriate for many meats such as whole poultry, lamb, or beef and pork roasts.
Grilling usually takes place with the meat in direct contact with high heat, although you can use indirect grilling methods for more delicate proteins like fish. Grilling is great for steaks, poultry pieces, and small chunks of relatively tender meat.
Braising involves low and slow cooking in the oven or on the stove top with some type of moisture. When you braise meats, they need to be in a tightly covered pan. Many stews are braises, as are traditional recipes like Beef Burgundy and Coq au Vin. Braises work best for tough meats with a great deal of fat.
Smoking involves cooking meats low and slow with lots of wood smoke. This imparts spectacular flavor and can make meats incredibly tender. Smoking works well for a number of foods, including pork ribs.
This cooking method involves direct contact with the pan over high heat. It works well for meats that are already tender. For example, you can sauté a filet mignon to sear the outside and finish it in the oven. Sautéing creates a nice, flavorful, caramelized crust on a piece of meat. Sautéing is also wonderful if you want to finish your meat with a pan sauce.
Broiling is a simple, indirect way to cook meat. It works well for fairly tender pieces of meat like steak. You can also finish meat after roasting by broiling to crisp the outside.
Some cuts of meat, such as cube steak, lend themselves well to frying. For example, if you coat cube steak and fry it, it makes a delicious chicken fried steak. This method works best with meats that aren't terribly flavorful on their own.
Make Your Meats Come Alive
Each type of meat comes alive with the right cooking method and temperature. With just a little knowledge, you can create flavorful meat dishes that are sure to please any palate.