Want juicy, tender meat that isn't tough or overdone? The key is the "two Ts"—temperature and your thermometer.
Credit: Bryan Gardner

The grill is a fast way to make dinner, but it can also also ruin a steak in just a few minutes. That's what happens when fear of ending up with undercooked meat causes you to overcook dinner on the grill. Kitchen Conundrums host Thomas Joseph, vice president and culinary director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is here to help. Follow his tips to make sure the meat is evenly grilled at your next cookout.

Temperature Control

Keeping an eye on the grill temperature is key. On a gas grill, setting an area to a specific intensity should produce the same heat each time. On a charcoal grill, check the built-in gauge, or place an oven thermometer on a rack above the grates in an indirect heat zone. To create indirect heat in a gas grill-good for reheating or toasting buns, for example-preheat the grill over high, then reduce one area to medium-low or off; in a charcoal grill, leave one side free of coals. Joseph recommends cooking steak or larger cuts of meat over direct heat then moving the meat to indirect heat if the outside is charring before the meat is cooked through.

How to Check Temperatures

Checking the internal temperature of meat is much better than guessing if steak is done-and the easiest and safest way to do so is with a meat thermometer, Joseph says. To tell when meat has reached the right temperature, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the flesh, avoiding bones. Each kind of meat has different guidelines for internal temperatures-for some cuts, the United States Department of Agriculture says you'll need to grill the meat to a higher temperature, especially if you're cooking for those with weakened immune systems or pregnant women.

Temperatures to Remember

For medium-rare, beef should have a temperature of 130 degrees. For a medium steak, aim for 140 degrees, and for a medium burger, the patty should register 160 degrees. Those who prefer well-done steak should aim for an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Poultry needs to be cooked thoroughly; both chicken and turkey should reach at least 165 degrees on the grill in order to avoid risk of foodborne illness. Pork should be cooked to medium, which results in a tender soft-pink interior that isn't chewy or dry. For a chop, medium would be 140 degrees and for a pork burger or slider 160 degrees. Note that pork should not be cooked to a temperature higher than 160 degrees or it will become dried out.

Whatever type of meat you're grilling, give it time to rest after cooking: 10 minutes is the average time needed. This can save a piece of meat from becoming overly dry, Joseph says, and it also allows temperatures to be even across the board.


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