When Is Meat Cooked Properly and Done?

When you go out to a restaurant and order meat or fish it’s the chef’s job to tell precisely when it is cooked and done. But if you’re making dinner for yourself or for your family at home, the Goldilocks-esque responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders.


As anyone who has ever grilled meat or fish will tell you, it’s not always super easy to tell when these various sources of protein are ready to be eaten, especially since the cook times differ depending upon the exact nature of what you’re preparing. However, unless you’re cooking large cuts of meat, you don’t need much more than a finger to tell when your meal is ready to go from grill to plate.

1. Fish

Grilling fish seems like a scary prospect because most of us have experienced it falling apart. However, there are a few simple things to keep in mind to successfully prepare grilled fish. First, it’s always best to use fresh fish that hasn’t been frozen. If you have frozen fish, make sure it thaws properly before cooking. Take the fish out of the fridge or freezer and let it evenly come down to room temperature. Use a little bit of oil all over, and place it on a very hot grill. The high heat will allow for the skin or flesh to get crispy, which will enable it to easily release from the grate.

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2. Chicken

Medium heat generally works best when grilling chicken, but it also depends on the cut. If you’re grilling skinless chicken breasts, you don’t want the heat to be too high because it will dry out the delicate meat. However if you’ve got some skin-on chicken thighs, for example, you can use higher heat to get that perfect char on them. The number one way to make sure your chicken comes off the grill with a lot of flavor is to marinate or brine it beforehand. Try our foolproof wet and dry brining techniques for best results.

3. Pork

Pork chops are the perfect cut of meat for grilling. Make sure they’re at least 1-inch thick and that they have some fat on them, which will prevent it from drying out and will infuse a lot of flavor. Using a dry rub is highly recommended, too, so add some spices to your pork chops and let them sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Oil up the grates and set your heat to medium before you pop them on the grill.

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4. Hamburgers

Unlike with chicken and pork, when it comes to flavoring your burger patties for grilling, less is more. That means that you’ll get the best texture if you don’t overwork your meat while making the patties, and only season them with salt and pepper. Set the heat to medium, and resist the urge to press on the patties with a spatula while they’re cooking. Don’t flip them more than once, or you’ll run the risk of drying them out or cooking them unevenly.

5. Steak

Steak loves high heat on a grill, and a bit of char is what you want to achieve with a perfectly grilled steak. For even cooking, the meat should be at room temperature. And don’t forget to rub the steaks with salt in advance, even up to 30 minutes before grilling.

Though people’s cooking preferences for steak may vary wildly, there’s a simple trick you can do with just one hand that will help you differentiate between a steak that is medium-rare and one that is medium-well. All you need to do is bring your thumb and index finger together so you form the “OK” sign with your hand. If you press the fleshy part of your palm right below the thumb with your other hand, that will give you an idea of what a rare steak should feel like when you press it.