Humans have been cooking meat since we were cavemen, and despite all the ways we’ve evolved, the essential means of cooking meat have hardly changed. Throw it over an open flame and you’ve got yourself a meal. But, as simple as that may sound, it remains easy to mess up.
No one wants to bite into a piece of less than perfectly cooked meat. So we’ve outlined the below common mistakes to avoid and provided simple solutions for ensuring you serve up some delicious meaty goodness.
1. Cooking cold meat
You don’t want meat going straight from the refrigerator onto the grill, in the oven or into the pan. Rather, let it sit out at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before you start cooking. This way it’ll cook more evenly and you’ll avoid the possibility of a dish that’s overcooked on the outside but undercooked in the center.
While this is less of an issue with smaller cuts, it is still helpful to allow a piece of any size to rest at room temperature before cooking. Plus, this allows for extra time to get your cooking surface nice and hot, which is essential for getting a good crust on the outside and preventing meat from sticking to the surface.
2. Turning food too often
Now that the cooking is underway, the most important ingredient is patience. Resist the temptation of constantly turning your food because allowing it to rest undisturbed is the most effective way to develop a nice outer crust. Once it’s ready, slide a spatula underneath and the meat should release.
3. Not checking the temperature
Even more important than properly cooked meat is safely cooked meat. Avoid uncertainty by sticking in a thermometer and ensuring your meal has reached the desired temperature. After all, looks can be deceiving, but meat thermometers don’t lie.
4. Not letting meat rest after cooking
Even though you’re finished cooking, it’s not yet time to eat. After pulling the meat off the heat, let it rest so that the juices can distribute evenly throughout. In order to keep it warm, loosely cover the meat with foil. Just like cooking, resting times vary depending on size, so know beforehand that the larger the piece, the more your patience will be tested.
5. Proper slicing
You’ve prepped the meat, cooked it, checked its temperature and let it rest. After all that work, you want the end product to be as tender as possible. To help the cause, determine the direction of the meat’s grain (its muscle fibers) and cut across it, rather than with it. This way, when you’re eating, the meat is not as chewy because most of the work of breaking up the muscle fibers has already been taken care of.