When grilling meat - how do you measure the temperature?
June 20, 2016 4:23 PM   Subscribe

When you're grilling a good size piece of meat (a large steak, a pork tenderloin) - how are you supposed to measure the temperature? I have a good thermometer (http://www.thermoworks.com/Thermapen-Mk4), but the issue is that different parts of the meat will be wildly different. E.g., with a tenderloin - the narrow ends will be 140° while the thick center is less than 100°. When a recipe calls for 140°, for example - how do you decide when that is? When the coolest part is that temperature? When the average of several different spots is that temp?
posted by stuehler to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When the center of the thickest piece is 140F. This is a pretty good article about it. The entire thing has to reach 140F, and some parts cook slower than others due to thickness.

If you have significantly thinner portions, you either accept that they will be cooked more, trim them off ahead of time, or can sort of shield them with foil after they reach the right temperature. I am not an expert, so maybe someone else has a better technique.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:30 PM on June 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

The thickest part. There's two things you're taking the temperature for - food safety and texture/doneness. Some foods like pork and chicken should be cooked to a kill point throughout the entire piece, so you're looking for the spot that will be the lowest to ensure it's safe. Things like beef generally only need to hit the kill point on the outside (ground beef being an exception), so you're measuring for a level of doneness rather than safety.

If it's something like a pork tenderloin that it needs to be evenly cooked to the kill point and I'm worried about overcooking parts of it, I'll butterfly it or the like to ensure that it can cook fairly evenly. Beef is less important if there's less cooker portions on the inside, so I figure people that want it rare will have the thicker pieces and people that want it more well done will have the outside.

Don't forget that meat will continue to rise in heat after being removed from the source, so if you're shooting for exactly 140 degrees F, you'll want to remove it when it's ~135, with the exact temperature depending on how you're cooking it.
posted by Candleman at 4:35 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Better technique is to either bank your coals to one side or only use one burner. Slow cook the meat on the cool side to an even 130 with a closed lid, then sear that up over the high heat.
posted by bfranklin at 4:35 PM on June 20, 2016

If you're looking for minimum temperature-gradient (difference in doneness between edges vs. center vs. different sections), this is where sous-vide cooking excels.

Otherwise, the thickest portion is what you want to measure, since it's usually seen as worse when something is underdone in spots.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:50 PM on June 20, 2016

Take the temp at the thickest part and be sure to let it rest 5-10 minutes before cutting into it. Some parts will be more done than others and that's fine. If you wanted it cooked perfectly evenly all the way through you could look into sous vide.
posted by STFUDonnie at 4:50 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

If your grill puts out heat unevenly (mine does) put the thickest part of the meat over the hottest part of the grill. Beef I pull off about 10 degrees below the fully cooked temperature. Pork and chicken I pull off around five degrees below. Many restaurants don't cook meat to the fully recommended temperature, as it starts losing flavor and tenderness. Cover with foil and let the meat rest 5 minutes before cutting.

The other thing I do is learn how long things take by trial and error. On my grill, a thick (1") New York takes 7-7.5 minutes total. Over eight minutes is a little overdone.
posted by cnc at 12:17 PM on June 21, 2016

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