One of the critical factors in controlling bacteria in food is controlling temperature. Pathogenic microorganisms grow very slowly at low temperatures, multiply rapidly in mid-range temperatures, and are killed at high temperatures. For safety, foods must be held at proper cold temperatures in refrigerators or freezers and they must be cooked thoroughly. It is essential to use a thermometer when cooking meat and poultry to prevent undercooking and, consequently, prevent foodborne illness.
Always Use a Thermometer
Using a thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine the ‘doneness’ of most foods. To be safe, a product must be cooked to an internal temperature high enough to destroy any harmful bacteria that may have been in the food.
Doneness refers to a food being cooked to the desired state, and indicates the sensory aspects of foods such as texture, appearance, and juiciness. Unlike the temperatures required for safety, these sensory aspects are subjective
Beef Cooking Chart:
(R) Rare, (M) Medium, (MR) Medium-rare, (W) Well done
* Meat thermometer registers 135ºF – 140ºF (R), 150ºF (M), 160ºF (W).
** Cut meat to test.
- Turn meat only once. (This changes direction of juices, as well as to prevent drying out on the underside.)
- If using frozen meat, thaw meat in refrigerator – allow meat to absorb marinade overnight if possible.
- Trim the excess fat and do not pierce it with a fork as the juices may run out.
- It is important not to overheat or cook too long as juices may dry out.
- Don’t salt meat before cooking as this draws out the natural juices and the meat will be dry again. (Unless incorporated into marinade)
- Don’t use very lean meat for it needs some fat for juiciness.
- For more imaginative burgers, put two patties together with a filling between them, i.e. bleu cheese, butter and sherry, garlic and parsley butter.
- Start with the best steak you can buy; consider USDA Prime cuts
- Look for bright red color and marbling.
- If not graded Prime, look for a good Choice cut.
- The most important element in grilling is thickness: at least 1in. – 1-1/2in thick.
- For tenderness select rib, strip, tenderloin cuts or filet mignon.
- The most flavorful cuts are ribeye, N.Y. strip, porterhouse and T-bone.
- Avoid lean beef, which is tough after grilling.
- Temperature: 550ºF – 550ºF.
- Grill should be as hot as possible. Be patient and wait until the grill is pre-heated.
- Meat should be at room temperature.
- Do not season until ready to cook.
- Cooking times will vary by the cut of beef, temperature of grill and degree of doneness desired.
- Based on 1in. – 1 1/2 in. thickness at an optimum temperature of 500ºF – 550ºF, the cooking time is 3 1/2 to 4 minutes on each side for medium rare. When cooking several steaks to various degrees of doneness, begin with well-done, then add medium and rare so that everything comes off the grill at the same time.
Use Your Palm To Read Your Steaks:
You can poke the meat and judge its degree of doneness by comparing it to the feel of a particular place on your palm.
- The pad at the base of the thumb is equivalent to a rare steak.
- The middle of the palm is equivalent to a medium steak.
- The base below the little finger is a signature for well-done. Don’t be afraid to poke your steak, and if still in doubt cut into it with a knife to visually check the degree of doneness.
- Cook the steak quickly to sear in maximum juices.
- The more the meat is handled the more the juices and flavor are lost.
- Do not use a fork; always use tongs to turn a steak.
- Do not turn more than once; cook one side at a time.
- Thicker cuts may need to be seared and then finished to desired degree of doneness using indirect heat.
When in doubt, cut into the meat to visually check the doneness. When it is almost, but not quite, done to your liking, pull it off the grill and let it sit for 2 – 3 minutes, it will continue cooking off the grill and be done to perfection. Trial and error is needed to be able to judge the timing for your perfect steak.
Lamb Cooking Chart:
(R) Rare; (M) Medium; (MR) Medium Rare; (W) Well Done
Poultry Cooking Chart:
* Insert thermometer in thickest part of thigh, not touching bone, fat or gristle.
** Be sure to remove all gizzards, bird is fully thawed, rinse and pat dry.
- White meat cooks quicker than dark meat. May be baked and smoked. Smoking firms the flesh and develops a beautiful flavor.
- Rotisserie may be used as a party attraction (use a drip tray to prevent flare-ups), this also aids in better smoking results.
- Barbecue wings – skewer them for easy turning.
- Test chicken for doneness between thigh and carcass.
Seafood Cooking Chart:
Fish is done when flakes easily when prodded with a fork or knife in the thickest part. Frozen fillets should not be thawed before grilling. Cooking times will be approximately double that of fresh fish.
* Rub whole fish inside and out with cooking oil and seasoning before grilling
** Place heavy-duty foil under large fillets instead of putting them directly on the grill.
*** Cook until shells pop open.
**** Grill shell side down, meat side up.
- Wrap in foil or use fish baskets for easier turning.
- Test for doneness – skin looks opaque, fish must flake easily. Shellfish must be firm and white.
Pork Cooking Chart:
* Meat thermometer registers 150ºF to 155ºF.
** Meat near bone is no longer pink.
Veggies, Sides & Deserts
Though its easy to see that grilling meats is more healthy than other methods of cooking – the excess fat drips off the meat and into the fire or drip pan – it may come as a surprise that grilling vegetables is a more healthier way to cook them than the traditional method of boiling. When boiled, the vegetable’s nutrients are lost into the water; grilled vegetables better retain their nutrients. For maximum nutrition, vegetables should not be peeled prior to grilling. While any vegetable – including lettuce – can be grilled, peppers, squash and eggplant are the easiest and best tasting of the bunch. Peppers should be seeded, brushed with oil and placed on the warming rack over direct heat, turning occasionally, until soft. They can also be placed directly on the grill surface until their skin blackens and blisters, then placed in a paper bag for 5 minutes. Peel off the skin and enjoy the roasted pepper. Squash and eggplants should be cut in inch thick slices, brushed with olive oil and grilled about 7 minutes per side. Wok toppers are great for cooking vegetables on the grill.