A hand(y) guide

Meat Temperatures

by Emily Portman

In 1964, the Joy of Cooking classified leg of lamb as “slightly rare” at 165°F. Thirty-three years later, the same book considered lamb “medium” between 135 and 145°F, signaling a major shift, not just in our recent sourcing and pairing of proteins, but in the fundamental ways that we prepare them.
Though we have always had conceptions about how meat should be cooked, the practice of measuring meat temperature has evolved rapidly in the past 20 years as we’ve learned more about the science of food-borne illnesses and the complexity of our tastes. Recently, with the renaissance of head-to-tail cooking, meat has become a trendy topic. How to raise and slaughter it, how to break it down, how to season it, and, especially, how to cook it. Each cut has a specific ideal temperature to best highlight the nuances of the meat.
The meat thermometer helped to usher in the trend of cooking meat to specific temperatures because it increased the ease with which cooks could control the process. With this scientifically calibrated instrument, cooks were liberated from worrying about whether the meat was underdone or overdone, safe but still tender.
As the sun lingers later and we melt into the summer months, cooking becomes all about the fire. Though the thermometer is still the most accurate choice, the hand test will certainly give you more grilling credibility.
From charcoal-coated burgers to blackand- blue steaks, all temperatures are welcome at the grill; it’s just a matter of knowing how it feels.