Whether you prefer juicy and tender or crispy and firm, using a meat thermometer is a 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 from the heat 4 to 10 degrees below the final temperatures.
Tender. Juicy, pinkish center.
Firm. Light tan with slightly pink juices.
Dense. Uniform tan with dark edges.
Medium (160°F), Well Done (170°F)
The key to ultra juicy meat is to let it rest before serving. Cover with foil and set aside 5 to 10 minutes for chops and up to 30 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.
Fearing trichinosis, many people tend to overcook pork. Yet trichinae die at temperatures even lower than 150 degrees, when the meat is still mouthwateringly juicy and tender.
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.
* This guide applies to chops, cutlets, and roasts. For safe cooking temperatures using ground meat, please refer to a recipe.