When is the right time to stop cooking meats, chicken, or fish so you can serve the perfect meal every time? I’ve compiled a list of general guidelines for using internal food temperatures and carryover cooking to gauge the doneness of your protein.
Preparing a delicious meal is both art and science. I was taught in culinary school to actively use your five senses to gauge how the cooking process is going. Paying attention to the sights and sounds in the kitchen not only makes you more engaged but will develop your instincts.
With enough practice, you’ll begin to recognize early on the doneness of food by how the smells, colors, textures, and flavors change, but it’s highly recommended that you use a meat thermometer to check internal temperatures. Keeping in mind proper resting and carryover cooking, you’ll then reach the desired final serving temperature.
Recommended Temperature Doneness
|INGREDIENT||STOP COOKING WHEN TEMPERATURE REACHES||FINAL SERVING TEMPERATURE|
|BEEF & LAMB|
|Rare||115 – 120°F||120 – 125°F (after resting)|
|Medium-Rare||120 – 125°F||125 – 130°F (after resting)|
|Medium||130 – 135°F||135 – 140°F (after resting)|
|Medium-Well||140 – 145°F||145 – 150°F (after resting)|
|Well-Done||150 – 155°F||150 – 160°F (after resting)|
|Medium||140 – 145°F||145 – 150°F (after resting)|
|Well-Done||150 – 155°F||155 – 160°F (after resting)|
|Rare||110°F (for tuna only)||110°F|
|Medium-Rare||125°F (for tuna or salmon)||125°F|
|Medium||140°F (for white-fleshed fish)||140°F|
What is Carryover Cooking?
The desired doneness is based on the center internal temperature of the food because that’s the best gauge of when the entire item is done cooking. The outside food is always hotter than the inside, and heat slowly transfers inward, continuing to cook the food even after it has been removed from the heat source, hence carryover cooking.
This effect happens with beef, lamb, and pork, specifically large roasts, steaks, and chops. The higher the cooking temperature and increased thickness of the meat, the more the internal temperature will continue to rise.
There are a couple of exceptions to the rule of carryover cooking. For fish and poultry, carryover cooking does not apply because they don’t retain heat as well compared to meat due to the difference in muscle structures and the presence of bone cavities. Stop cooking chicken and fish at the target serving temperatures.
What Resting Your Meat Does
Allowing your meat to rest for 10 to 15 minutes tends to increase the internal temperature about 5 to 10 degrees. If you want something like a flat-iron steak that is rare, the final temperature in the center of the food should be around 125°F after it has rested, so you stop cooking the meat when the center reaches 115-120°F to account for the carryover cooking.