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Chef Valentine Warner's thoughts on what he calls The Wand of Hope:
"As a visceral and tactile cook, I've spent the majority of my career squeezing or prodding cuts of meat to gauge its doneness. Most of the time this was precise for the sheer volume that saw me master such touch. Especially inconvenient at busy events and occasional bad judgement and subsequent rawness only declared meaty prodding not the most reliable way to gauge readiness. Underdone was, I guess, easily rectified but overdone would mean a few inconsolable days as such avoidable lack of caution throws me down the perfectionist's well of doom.
Once upon a time a beloved friend tossed me a box saying present. It was a meat thermometer, a gadget I’d previously snarled at and made fun of. It’s since revolutionised my cooking to the point that any overcooking to date can only mean I wasn’t concentrating. I must state clearly here that oven temps and timings have never been a good way to get the best results given that one woman’s oven is another man’s incinerator. Cautious increments of time and a visit with a thermometer are wise tactics; oven and pan cooking times are but a guideline and no more. A digital reading is a near enough fact.
Discussing cooking temperatures for low & slow and fast & furious is convoluted as it so depends on beast, cut or joint and density of the meat.
What is so often overlooked is that meat almost certainly needs removing from the oven or grill at a lower temperature than the desired target. This is because until the outside of the meat is cooled it will still be pushing heat towards the core meaning that the internal temperature will remain on the rise for a while after removal from the heat source. Therefore if one wanted to achieve the faintest pinkness within a joint of pork and while 60°C would be the aim the joint would be best removed at 57°C give or take and then well rested.
A deliciously thick Swaledale cote de boeuf eaten at medium-rare (54-55°C) would be best removed from the oven at say 52-53°C remembering it is a thinner cut than a joint of pork and will cool faster as it rests.
Caution also has to be observed that the needle of the probe, especially on thin cuts, not be pushed too far through the meat as the tip will be simply sitting tight next to the heat on the other side so giving a bad reading.
You may not think it necessary to take a reading of say a bavette or skirt steak given their thinness but the fibrous nature can often see you far further away from ready than you thought. Neither cut are good when eaten rare or even medium-rare, medium being a much better result that one is relieved of chewy rawness.
Overall and to give temperatures as a general is most unwise. For example, artisan steaks as mentioned above or those such as the spider steak all have their specific peccadillos, the spider steak requiring its noticeable web of collagen be melted properly so that its brilliance be discovered.
Note too that on larger cuts like rib of beef, the needle needs to have passed through any thick fat that it can read the temperature of the muscle meat.
If cooking meat very slowly, that pinkness is tender and giving, then as said before the thermostat on an oven is most unreliable. A chicken put in an oven to cook slowly at 70°C (until all comes up to the same temperature) will need a thermometer so that the last blast to crisp it up and finish the cooking can be done at exactly the right time without ruining the low and slow care taken beforehand.
There is so much to write but it would mean a chart that demands every single cut have its own advisory timings. So I leave you my belief that a digital thermometer is perhaps one of the most important kitchen utensils for good meat to be cooked as perfectly as possible. Surprisingly few cook books, even more recent ones, discuss internal temperatures preferring to concentrate on oven temperatures and timings. There is a lot of information online though, which of course you have to pick and choose through but you will get the hang of it. I will however endeavour to keep up with advisory timings within my recipes.
A while back a perplexed, young helper couldn’t understand why he’d overcooked some meat even after careful thermometer visits and readings. Beloved nit wit, he was using a heat gun (outside temp only). Needless to say I sent him home at the end of the job with The Wand of Hope!"
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