Is it Done Yet?

Or Testing For Doneness.

Besides lighting the grill, telling when the food is “done” much less perfectly prepared makes many of us otherwise confident hostesses, quiver in our proverbial boots. Not to worry, arm yourself with two tools:

  • A timer

  • An instant-read meat thermometer

Both are inexpensive and worth every penny! Set the timer for the number of minutes that you think the food will need before turning, etc. Base this estimate on the recipe or your past experience. Then use your instant-read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature to see if your timing is correct. Remember, grilling is much more of an art than a science and the cooking times will vary slightly based on many factors including wind, thickness of food, starting temperature of food (refrigerator cold vs. room temperature) preheating the grill and the cooking temperature. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize that the mystery is part of the game of grilling and what makes it so much fun!

In my cooking classes, the number-one problem that students have when they cook—indoors or outdoors—is telling when something is done and remembering the correct end temperatures. My personal theory is that we’ve made it as confusing as possible with pages and pages of charts listed by all the butcher cuts. When I created my Glow-in-the Dark Thermometer, the space on the face of the thermometer was small, and I realized that all roasts are medium rare at 145°F, regardless of animal (beef, lamb, veal). So, I grouped the numbers we need to know by the end temperatures instead of the food. Because this is a different way to look at end temperatures, I include a magnet for easy reference with every thermometer. But the great thing about this rule-of-thumb is that everyone can remember 4 temperatures! So, it really takes the confusion out of the game!

Many home cooks and restaurants chefs prepare food a little rarer than recommended by the USDA, but for safety’s sake, I refer to USDA recommended end temperatures.

To make it easy for you, we’ve compiled a cooking chart based on UDSA recommended end temperatures. Use it for your internal temperature guideline. And, remember, the USDA recommends that all ground meat including hamburger, veal, pork poultry and lamb be cooked until no longer pink.