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There are a couple of physical and tactile tests that you can do to check if your expensive strip loin or fat, juicy lamb chop is done cooking and ready to eat.
By making the “okay sign” with your thumb and forefinger and using a finger on your opposite hand to press gently on the meaty part of the base of your thumb where it joins the palm, you can roughly estimate the degree of doneness by poking your protein with a finger.
For example, thumb and forefinger held together will give you a feel for what is rare. Thumb together with the middle finger is basically medium rare, while thumb and pinky tightens that part of your lower thumb which approximates a steak that is well done (and so sad). It’s a good estimation, but it is guess work.
It’s better to get yourself a thermometer.
A simple probe thermometer costs as little as $10 and gives you more accurate temperature readings for any kind of food. There are much more expensive and programmable probe thermometers that have alarms and bells and whistles and cost $25, but they aren’t necessary if you don’t want to spend the money. Some higher-end professional devices sell for $100 or more.
A simple probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat you are cooking will give you an excellent indication of degree of doneness. With something like a beautiful steak, you don’t want to go past the point of how you like it cooked – because there is no way back. And if you have concerns about cooking chicken to a safe temperature, a thermometer is the best guide rather than guessing or simply hoping that it has been in the oven long enough.
The last steps to that perfect piece of protein is to remove it from the heat a couple of degrees below the temperature you want it to be: the meat will continue to cook a bit longer with residual heat. Then, cover the steak or chop or chicken breast loosely and let it rest for at least 10 minutes so the juices reassemble after being in the heat.
And be patient: cutting into it too early will result in a lot of the juices – and flavour – being lost.