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Old 01-02-2015, 09:12 AM   #1
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Meat temperature woes

Hi. I'm not sure the best category but I'm thinking this would be the one. I seem to always fight the problem of varying temperatures in my meats. Chicken, Steak, Fish being the main meats. I have a $100.00 thermometer and I will sometimes check it multiple times from the top and side, even turning it around. Sometimes I find it seems like it's done but then after I take it off and cut it, it's not. other times, while still in the pan, I find it is done in some areas, but not done in other areas. When this happens, of course I end up running into the meat being overdone. I think I have decent pans, some better then others. Maybe I should start baking more. I do a lot of frying and my gas stove does tend to give off high heat. I know I'm all over the place with this. Meat is tough to get a hang of. Most of the time I just wing it and I'd say most of the time things turn out good. I've tried the feel test for the steak but I'm not always good at it or don't trust myself. Fish is the hardest at times as I over cook it even though I try real hard not too. I wish I could at least rely on the thermometer but I'm feeling like it's more stressful using it then not. Especially with the problems I talked about at the beginning. I don't think it's a case of the thermometer not working, it's just that the food is getting cooked more in certain sections of the meat, making it hard for me to decide when to take it off. I wish it was more even cooking. any input? thanks so much!

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Old 01-02-2015, 09:32 AM   #2
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It's not a perfect world. Meats are all different shapes so often there are thicker and thinner parts. You can only come close.

With something like a whole chicken, you have to get the coldest part of the bird to the safe minimum temp. So you take readings in different parts; the thickest part of the breast, the joint of the thigh and the body to ensure all parts are done. It helps to put the bird into the oven feet first (the back of the oven is hotter than the front) so the thigh/body joints get done before the breast gets too hot.

With a roast beef you want it rare or medium rare, etc. You have to take a temp at the middle of the thickest part of the roast. If you tie your roast to give them a more uniform shape, they'll cook more evenly.

I doubt the thermometer's accuracy is a problem but it's easy to test. Measure the temp of a pot of boiling water and a bowl full of ice water to ensure it's accuracy.
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Old 01-02-2015, 11:38 AM   #3
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It's more when cooking individual size meats on the stove top. I will check to make sure the thermometer is correct.
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Old 01-02-2015, 12:12 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
It's not a perfect world. Meats are all different shapes so often there are thicker and thinner parts. You can only come close.

With something like a whole chicken, you have to get the coldest part of the bird to the safe minimum temp. So you take readings in different parts; the thickest part of the breast, the joint of the thigh and the body to ensure all parts are done. It helps to put the bird into the oven feet first (the back of the oven is hotter than the front) so the thigh/body joints get done before the breast gets too hot.

With a roast beef you want it rare or medium rare, etc. You have to take a temp at the middle of the thickest part of the roast. If you tie your roast to give them a more uniform shape, they'll cook more evenly.

I doubt the thermometer's accuracy is a problem but it's easy to test. Measure the temp of a pot of boiling water and a bowl full of ice water to ensure it's accuracy.
Andy, the boiling water is not a good calibration test unless he is at sea level, even differing barometric pressures can slightly affect the boiling point. In Denver water boils at 201.5°, not at 212°. The ice bath is the only certain test that can be done at home, and even that must be done correctly:

Making a proper ice bath

Scroll down to the chart on THIS page for nominal boiling points at altitude.
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Old 01-02-2015, 12:23 PM   #5
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What type and brand of pans do you have? I bought my All-Clad sauté pan after I had been cooking for 15 years or so with a cheap set of Farberware. I was amazed at the difference that made in my cooking. A fully clad 3-ply pan heats more evenly and holds heat better so it cooks more evenly. DH bought me a set of Calphalon cookware a few years later and they work just as well.
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Old 01-02-2015, 12:53 PM   #6
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It sounds like to me that your thermometer is working just fine. Why would you "fight" varying temperatures in your meats? That is the nature of cooking meats. There is never a uniform temperature in cooking meats. The temperature of the center of meats will continue to raise after the meat is removed from the heat source. I suggest you continue to probe all you want and understand the temps you are reading.


I remember when I first got my Thermapen thermometer and was taking the temperatures of pots of 2 gallons of milk. The temperature differences between the sides and top and bottom of the pot amazed me. I simply came to understand how foods stuffs heat up. The process is not uniform. In the case of milk, I could stir the milk to gain a uniform temperature. You can't do that with meat. Just keep checking the temperatures and experience will show you when your meats are done.
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Old 01-02-2015, 12:59 PM   #7
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While I think having and using a food thermometer is great, I can count on one hand the times I will use one during a calendar year.
For example.
I used one last Thanksgiving to check the turkey. There is a very good chance it will be next year before I need it again.
Glad to have one, but we all did fine long before instant reads were cool and a must have in every kitchen.
Come to think of it, I don't think my parents owned any type of food thermometer.
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Old 01-02-2015, 01:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RPCookin View Post
Andy, the boiling water is not a good calibration test unless he is at sea level, even differing barometric pressures can slightly affect the boiling point. In Denver water boils at 201.5°, not at 212°...

People who live in Denver (or elsewhere) have been making accommodations for their distance above sea level all along. I'd have to assume they'd know that the boiling point is where they live and measure th that number.

I can't imagine minor fluctuations due to barometric pressure variations would have a significant impact.
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Old 01-02-2015, 06:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
People who live in Denver (or elsewhere) have been making accommodations for their distance above sea level all along. I'd have to assume they'd know that the boiling point is where they live and measure th that number.

I can't imagine minor fluctuations due to barometric pressure variations would have a significant impact.
The OP is in NH, so he's not at sea level - there are quite a range of possible elevations he could live at there. All I was saying is that the ice bath method is the only "accredited" home method for checking a thermometer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roll_Bones View Post
While I think having and using a food thermometer is great, I can count on one hand the times I will use one during a calendar year.
For example.
I used one last Thanksgiving to check the turkey. There is a very good chance it will be next year before I need it again.
Glad to have one, but we all did fine long before instant reads were cool and a must have in every kitchen.
Come to think of it, I don't think my parents owned any type of food thermometer.
True, but I know my mother had an analog probe thermometer (oven safe to be left in the meat) for many years, and I also remember her planning the old 20 minutes per hour deal for a turkey, yet one year it's overcooked and the next it's under cooked. Or she waited for the silly little pop up indicator to pop without success, until the bird was almost jerky, out of fear of poisoning the family. I use both my probe and my Thermapen regularly, and I get more consistent results than I ever did with the poke and prod methods.
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Old 01-02-2015, 07:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RPCookin View Post
The OP is in NH, so he's not at sea level - there are quite a range of possible elevations he could live at there. All I was saying is that the ice bath method is the only "accredited" home method for checking a thermometer.



True, but I know my mother had an analog probe thermometer (oven safe to be left in the meat) for many years, and I also remember her planning the old 20 minutes per hour deal for a turkey, yet one year it's overcooked and the next it's under cooked. Or she waited for the silly little pop up indicator to pop without success, until the bird was almost jerky, out of fear of poisoning the family. I use both my probe and my Thermapen regularly, and I get more consistent results than I ever did with the poke and prod methods.
+1. Same here.
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