Internal meat temperatures can help absolute beginners know when their food is ready to come off the BBQ and is safe to eat. It can mean the difference between dry, overcooked food and succulent, moist food. By learning the recommended safe internal temperatures and removing your food when it reaches that point, you know that all bacteria has been destroyed but the meat is still tender and moist.
By using temperature probes, you no longer have to guess when your food is ready therefore allowing you to take it off the BBQ at the optimum time.
Food safety is a somewhat boring but highly important subject and is especially important when it comes to meat. There are many factors that can affect food safety such as the quality of your meat and how it is stored but for this tip we are going to talk about cooking meat and safe internal temperatures.
Meat is considered safe to eat when the internal temperature has risen to the point where harmful bacteria has been destroyed. These safe internal temperatures vary for different types of meat but a great general rule of thumb is to cook your food to an internal temperature of 75C. Cooking fresh, quality meat that has been stored properly to this internal temperatures will, in most cases, avoid the risk of food poisoning.
For a more detailed list of internal meat temperatures, there is an amazing article over on Amazing ribs which discusses the different temperatures at which meat is pasteurised and other factors to consider.
I would just like to debunk the myth that you are more at risk of food poisoning whilst cooking on a BBQ as opposed to in your kitchen. Providing that basic food hygiene rules are followed and you are checking your internal temperatures, there is no reason for food poisoning to be a bigger issue whilst cooking on your BBQ than in your kitchen. People will often overcook their food on a BBQ for fear of it being raw in the middle. By reading the internal temperatures of your meat, you will know when it is safe to eat and this doesn’t change when you step into the backyard.
Knowing when your food is ready to eat
Another important reason to read the internal temperatures of your food is to know when it is ready to eat. For a lot of meat this is simply when it has reached a safe internal temperature. For tougher cuts of meat, such as brisket and pork shoulder, you will need to take the internal temperature higher to break down the fats and connective tissues. On the other hand, leaner cuts of beef can be served rare meaning the internal temperature will be lower than the recommended 75C.
Experience will help you decide when something is cooked by look and feel but while you are learning different cooking techniques, internal temperatures are the perfect way to make sure your food turns out great every time. Pay attention to how your meat looks and feels at different internal temperatures and you will soon be able to tell what stage your food is at. You can then use internal temperatures as a final check before lifting your food off the BBQ.
Monitoring your food temperatures using a probe
So now that we’ve covered the reasons behind monitoring the internal temperature of your meat, let’s look at the different ways to take a reading using temperature probes.
There are 2 main types of temperature probes commonly used by the BBQ community. The first of these are instant read thermometers. They give you a quick reading of the internal temperature and will help you decide when your food is ready to come off the BBQ. If you want to monitor the temperature of your meat for the duration of the cook, you would need to use a wired thermometer.
Taking a reading with an instant read thermometer is simple. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat until the tip reaches the centre. Within a few seconds you should have an accurate reading of the internal temperature at the centre of the meat.
When checking meat that is being cooked on the bone, make sure the probe isn’t hitting the bone and it is situated within the meat. For something like a whole chicken, you would probe both breasts and both legs to ensure the chicken is cooked evenly all the way through.
Using a wired thermometer allows you to leave the probe in the meat as it cooks. It will continuously monitor the temperature and give you a reading on an external unit. A thermometer like this is great for monitoring how fast your food is cooking, when it might be time for the next stage of a cook e.g. wrapping, braising etc and also how long it may be before the cook is finished.
When using this style of thermometer, it is important to place the probe in the thickest part of the meat as this will tell you when the centre of the meat has reached an internal temperature. It’s always a good idea to check a few other parts of the meat with an instant read thermometer to make sure it is cooked evenly all the way through.
Internal temperatures may seem a little like ‘Cooking by numbers’, and I suppose it is, however it takes all the guesswork out of BBQ and will help you understand what happens to different cuts of meat at different temperatures.