This is actually a fairly simple matter of the relationships between temperature, heat and time. You will begin to be able to gauge this more properly if you cook the food the same way every time. In order to obtain your desired consistency, it is strongly recommended that you use a quality, instant reading meat thermometer. These thermometers, when inserted into the meat, will determine the meat’s internal temperature. A good thermometer will prevent guess work, along with undercooking (which can be dangerous to eat) and ruined meat through overcooking (a much more common problem). These thermometers work by inserting a narrow probe into the meat for 10-15 seconds to tell you how far along the meat is in its cooking. This is really the ONLY way by which you can really know if the meat is cooked to the desired doneness. A good one of these thermometers will only cost about $10 to $12 – but, it can save you hundreds of dollars in meat that might otherwise be overcooked and ruined on the grill or in the pit.
Now, another important cooking tip is to always take the meat off the grill just before it reaches it’s doneness. This is because the meat will continue to cook for several minutes after it is removed from the grill!
Once you become quite a bit more experienced, if you would like to try a general parameter for estimating (guesstimating) the doneness of the meat, there is another method that you might use. Try pushing against the meat with a fork or spatula to determine its elasticity:
- Meat that is very elastic and soft is still probably between raw and rare.
- If the meat is somewhat firm, but still has a springiness to its feel, it is probably the equivalent to a medium doneness.
- If the meat is very firm, but still has some movement, the meat is medium-well to well done and needs to be removed from the grill.
- If the meat does not yield to the touch (is rock hard), it is way overcooked (though some people still like their steaks this way.