How to Cook High Quality
Beef, Pork & Chicken
Tips from the Olde Towne Butcher
You are not a lesser person for using a thermometer, no matter what your friends say! Cooking is an art that relies on science.
Safe Cooking Temperatures
Temperature guidelines from the US Dept of Agriculture:
Most beef should be rested after cooking and before eating (exceptions might be stir fry or tacos). Always carve/slice across the grain of the meat!
Burgers: Smash them before cooking. Not during. Good ground beef can be seasoned with a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Cook them hot – when they start to sweat on top, flip them and add cheese if desired. Give them a couple of more minutes and they will be done. They shouldn’t need to be flipped more than once. (If you’re making burgers that are really thick or you don’t like “pink” you may need indirect heat for a few minutes to finish them.)
Steaks: Like burgers, cook them hot. Flip them twice and make awesome crossed grill marks (if you are grilling) and this will allow the heat to penetrate a thicker steak. Thin steaks are very hard to cook because your window for pulling them off the heat is very short (like seconds)! Cook thicker steaks and share them if that is too much food for you. If you use your instant-read thermometer, you will never be wrong. Pull the steaks off 5 degrees before the desired internal temperature and let them rest for 5-10 minutes. The heat will continue to penetrate.
Caveat: When your steak becomes thick enough that it might be a roast, a “post sear” works wonderfully. “Bake” your steak (indirect heat) at 250° for about 20 minutes before you sear it (get the internal temp up to about 120°). That will allow the heat to begin penetrating without overcooking the outside. Then sear it to caramelize the outside, pull it and rest it.
Great, premium steaks don’t need more than kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Any more than that and you are making a recipe (and that is ok too!).
Roasts: Classic roast beef - rub kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and garlic powder generously on the outside. Get your pan hot and sear all sides with a splash of oil. Cook it at 350° with indirect heat (bake it) until the internal temp is between 125° and 130° then pull it and rest it for at least 20 minutes. If you use a thermometer probe with an alarm, you can’t go wrong!
Braising, Pot Roasts, Smoking: Wars have started over lesser things, but here are some basics… The goal is to cook low and slow to break down fat and connective tissue, which is extremely flavorful, but tough to eat. The bigger the roast, the longer it takes. Particularly for dry cooking (not cooking in liquid), resting your roast is as important as the cook! (I’ve rested briskets as long as 6 hours.) I’m happy to share more, but never in writing – too controversial!
Bone-In Chops: Bone-in chops should be cooked like a steak. You want to caramelize the outside without overcooking the inside. I like to use a solid cooking surface whether on the grill or stovetop (like cast iron). The chop will “fry” in its own fat with this method so don’t trim too much off. Pork chops have less fat throughout the muscle so will dry out and get tough if they are overcooked so be sure to use your thermometer and pull them around 140° before a 5–10-minute rest.
Center Cut Chops: Center-cut chops typically have less fat to work with than their bone-in siblings and can be cooked like the bone in but can also be baked in the oven. To avoid drying them out, consider tossing them in a seasoning and bread crumb blend (gallon size zipper bags work great). Use your thermometer and pull them at 140° and let them rest.
Roasts: A pork roast or tenderloin is a fantastic piece of meat and is best baked to an internal temperature of 140°, then pulled and rested. Try seasoning with rosemary, pineapple, apple, or honey prior to cooking.
A word about pineapple – Pineapple has enzymes that will break down proteins very rapidly. Don’t leave meats sitting in pineapple too long or they will get pasty!
Butts/Shoulders, Ribs: See “Braising, Pot Roasts, Smoking” above. Fun fact: A pork butt is a pork shoulder. Back in “the day” pork shoulders, we stored in large barrels called “butts.” The rest is history.
Sausages: Our sausages are all made fresh with natural casings. They can be grilled, fried, or baked. Typically, when you see them start to “pop” or see juices start to squirt out they are done. For the best texture, cook them hot or finish them on high heat to crisp up the outside.
Use your thermometer. Overcooked poultry can be dry and flavorless and undercooked poultry can make you sick.
Whole Birds: The easiest thing in the world to cook. One of my favorite ways to season it is to rub it with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. If you’re a fan of the music from Simon and Garfunkle there is no reason to ever forget this recipe! Pop it in the oven at 350° and start checking the internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat after about an hour (for a 3.5 lb chicken). Pull it out at 165° and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
Thighs and Wings (skin on): The fat in the dark meat will protect these pieces better than in a whole bird or plain breasts. Season any way you like and cook them at 425 for 30 -40 minutes and they will come out moist with crispy skin.
Breasts (boneless skinless): So versatile that it’s hard to give helpful hints. Just don’t overcook them or they will be tough and dry. Use some oil to caramelize the outside then put a lid on it to cook them through. Or, bread them and season them and cook them in the oven. Or… You get it.