Whether you prefer juicy and red or crispy and dark, using a meat thermometer is the surefire way to cook chops and roasts* to perfection. Place thermometer into the thickest part of the cut (avoid touching bone or gristle). Off the heat, the temperature will rise and finish the cooking, so remove cuts from the heat 4 to 10 degrees below the final temperatures.
Soft. Juicy, red center.
Tender. Juicy, dark pink center.
Chewy. Tan to light pink center.
Firm. Light brown with a hint of pinkness.
Dense. Uniform light brown with dark edges.
Medium Rare (145°F), Medium (160°F), Well Done (170°F)
The key to ultra juicy meat is to let it rest before serving. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes for chops and cutlets and up to 15 minutes for large roasts. Resting allows the juices to redistribute, giving succulence to every bite.
Instant-read thermometers are fast and leave a smaller puncture. Oven-proof thermometers can stay in the meat while it cooks. Use an oven-proof thermometer only for larger cuts.
If you can't find your thermometer, don't be afraid to make a small cut into the center of a chop or cutlet to check the color. When it looks almost ready, to the doneness you prefer, remove it from the heat, let it rest, and serve it cut side down.
To check doneness for slow-cooked braises and stews, insert a two-pronged fork into the meat. If it grips your fork, return it to the heat. If it slides off easily, it's time to eat.
Small, tender stir-fry strips and kabobs cook so quickly, it doesn't make sense to use a thermometer. Rapidly sear these delicate cuts over very high heat for incredibly juicy and flavorful meals. Ensure you season them before cooking.
* This guide applies to chops, cutlets, shanks, and roasts. For safe cooking temperatures using ground meat, please refer to a recipe.