Meat is part of our daily diet and that’s why it’s so important that we don’t fail when it comes to cooking it. Whether you’re cooking pork, chicken, beef, or any other meat, you should know how to cook it right, so you can have tasty meals all the time. To help you out, here are the common mistakes you might be making when cooking meat and how to stop doing it again:
1 You move it around too much.
When you first place your meat in a hot pan, you might move it around to even it out on the pan. That’s okay. However, if you keep moving it too much, you might not be able to get enough “browning,” which means flavor. If you’re going to deglaze the pan, those flavorful browned parts are even more important to developing flavor in your overall dish.
2 Your heat is too low.
Another factor why your meat might not be browning is your heat. Your pan may not be hot enough. If your meat sticks to the pan and doesn’t release, it might also be because your heat is too low. Make sure that your pan is hot enough when you add your meat.
3 Your heat is too high.
If you’re slow cooking or braising your meat, the key is to keep it simmering but not boiling. A gentler heat will keep the meat juicy and will help your flavors meld and develop better.
4 You skip the meat thermometer.
If you’re cooking a pork belly roast, beef wellington, a thick steak, or other big chunks of meat, you’ll want to use a meat thermometer. If you’re finding it hard to get all the redness out of fried chicken, this tip might also be helpful.
Here’s how to do it right: Poke the thermometer in the center part and the temperature for pork or beef should be at least 145 degrees F (63 degrees C), while chicken should reach at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C)—this will guarantee that your meat is cooked to food safety standards.
5 You don’t let it rest.
One reason meat becomes too dry is that you didn’t let your meat rest before cutting. Give your meat time to rest after cooking, about 5 to 15 minutes depending on how thick your meat is. Even just a 5-minute rest is better than no rest at all!
That’s because immediately after cooking, the meat fibers constrict and all the juices in the meat are pulled into the center of the meat, away from the high outer heat. During the rest, the internal temperature evens out with the external temperature, allowing the meat fibers to relax and thus, the juices are released from its confinement in the center and are redistributed throughout the meat from where it was originally. That’s why when you cut freshly cooked meat too soon, all those juices are still in the process of redistributing themselves and results in the juices flowing out of your meat. Resting allows these juices to get into position first so when you cut into it only the minimal amount of juices will leak out, resulting in juicy bites of meat.
6 You cook it straight from the freezer.
When you don’t thaw your meat before cooking, the outside of the meat will cook much faster than the inside. You might overcook the outside or still have an icy or cold center. To thaw your meat safely, you have three choices: use a microwave (This is the fastest method but might result in unevenly cooked meat.), place it in the refrigerator for a day, or seal it in a plastic bag and keep massaging it under running water (This takes a few minutes up to an hour, depending on the size of the meat.).
7 You don’t season enough.
If you’re handling fresh meat (meat that hasn’t been frozen), season your meat with salt an hour at least before cooking. You can even season it days before. This will give the salt enough time to go into the meat and draw out the water, allowing you to create a fantastic surface to sear. (Moisture is, after all, the enemy of browning.)
If you are using previously frozen meat, you should still season your meat before cooking—though not as far in advance.
The best tip for seasoning meat is to season in stages. Sprinkle enough salt while the meat is raw or use a seasoned brine or marinade, then use a seasoned coating or seasoned breading. This will help layer flavors so no bite is left unseasoned.
8 You don’t talk to your butcher.
If you want the freshest cut, you can request your butcher for fresh cuts. You can also consult your butcher about the best cut of meat for certain dishes. After all, the meat you cook is only as good as the meat you get.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be mastering meat in no time. You’ll find that all your dishes will have meatier, juicier, and tastier meat cuts.