There is quite a science behind the degrees of doneness of meat and it all comes down to internal temperature. That is the beauty of the meat thermometer as it is an accurate way of measuring that internal temperature of the meat during cooking.
How to tell when your beef, lamb, veal or goat is done
When your meat is done (be it a steak or a roast), the internal temperature of the meat will be:
- Rare 60ºC
- Medium rare 60-65ºC
- Medium 65-70ºC
- Medium well done 70ºC
- Well done 75ºC
Check the temperature of the beef or lamb just before the estimated cooking time is up. For the juiciest result, take your roasts out of the oven and steak off the grill just short of the temperature goal as the internal temperature of the meat can rise as it rests.
Types of meat thermometers and how to use them
- Ovenproof leave-in style thermometers are inserted into the thickest part of the roast and remain in the meat during cooking. The probe shouldn’t touch bone or fatty areas (which hold more heat). These inexpensive meat thermometers are available from supermarkets and kitchenware shops.
- Instant-read thermometers are lightweight and have a thin probe. Do not leave these thermometers in the meat for more than 30 or 40 seconds (some are only heat resistant). Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat (avoiding bone) and wait 30 seconds for it to register accurately. If the beef or lamb is within 5 to 10 degrees of your aim, begin checking it around every 5 minutes.
- Digital probe thermometers have a thin sensor that probes the beef or lamb and remains in the roast during cooking. The sensor is attached to a wire that runs out of the oven door to a small unit that gives constant updates on the internal temperature of the meat. The obvious benefit of this is that the oven door can remain closed ensuring no heat is lost during cooking.
Tips for using a meat thermometer when cooking
- With a roast - place the thermometer in the roast before cooking. The end of the thermometer should be inserted into thickest part of the roast away from any bone and rest half way into the thickness of the meat.
- With steaks (or smaller cuts of meat) – as with the roast, the end of the thermometer should be inserted into thickest part of the roast away from any bone and rest half way into the thickness of the meat. As steaks are thin in comparison with roasting cuts, be careful not to put the thermometer right through the steak and onto the hot cooking surface…or your rare lamb cutlet may well read as overly well done.
- It can be difficult to judge the doneness of odd-shaped meats as the heat doesn't reach all areas at the same time. If necessary take two readings of the beef or lamb in different places with a meat thermometer.
- Stuffed and rolled meats require longer roasting times as they have more layers for the heat to penetrate. These are best cooked to well done. The internal temperature of the meat should be taken in two different places.