Overcooked meat

By using a thermometer to check the internal temperatures on meat you can avoid guessing which can often mean a disaster for dinner.

You’ve decided what to make for dinner. You’ve shopped, chopped, cooked, cleaned, and placed a gorgeous meal on the table. You take your first bite and start chewing and chewing and chewing it’s tough, it’s dry, it’s over cooked. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there!

Cooking meat can be tricky. You want to cook it long enough so that it’s safe to consume, but not so long that it becomes tough and unappetizing. Sometimes there is a very fine line between the two. Even worse, overcooking some types of meat can create carcinogens. Lucky for you, the Dinner Diva is here to save the day. Here are a few tips to help you avoid overcooking meat.

When grilling meat, be sure to grill slowly over low heat. This will help reduce charring, which poses a cancer risk. If you do end up with black areas on your grilled meat, scrape them off before serving. Marinating meat before cooking can help avoid overcooking as well.

A digital probe thermometer is an excellent tool to help you discern the level of doneness when cooking meat. You insert the probe end of the thermometer into the meat and the readout end rests outside of your oven, Some models are wireless whereas others use a thin wire that doesn’t prevent the oven door from being closed. This enables you to check the meat’s internal temperature without opening the oven door and letting heat escape. Some can even be programmed to beep once a particular temperature is reached. Here are a few internal temperature guidelines for cooking different types of meat:

• Beef Roast: 145º F with a three-minute rest time

• Ground Beef: 160º F

• Pork Roast: 145º F with a three-minute rest time

• Ham: 145º F with a three-minute rest time

• Lamb: 145º F with a three-minute rest time

• Veal Chops: 145º F with a three-minute rest time

• Whole Chicken or Turkey: 165º F

By using a thermometer to check the internal temperatures you will avoid guessing which can often mean a disaster for dinner. How many times have you cut into your turkey to find it is not done, so you put it back in the oven only to remove it later and its turkey leather? With a thermometer you can avoid that and with so many varieties on the market you are sure to find one that works for you. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food. It should not touch bone, fat, or gristle. Start checking the temperature toward the end of cooking, but before you expect it to be done. Be sure to clean your food thermometer with hot soapy water before and after each use.

Leanne Ely is a New York Times bestselling author and the creator of SavingDinner.com, the original menu planning website, bringing families back to the dinner table for over 15 years.

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