By John “The Grill Guy” Morford
I left my contact information at the end of my last column and received a few excellent questions from readers. So this week I thought I would answer one of them. Diane asked, “Could you write about correct cooking temps for grilling meats and veggies, plus length of time I should cook them?”
This week I will answer the question about protein cooking temperatures. Each piece of meat will cook differently depending on its size and shape, so there really is not a definite time associated with each meat, only approximations. Because of this I recommend using a thermometer while cooking. I like to grill the meat until I see moisture start to pool on top of the meat, then I flip it. When moisture pools on the other side, your item will be close to done. When checking your temperature, you want to probe the thickest part of the meat, as this will be the part that takes the longest to cook.
Another consideration for grills is that each brand and type of grill will have hot spots that will cook faster. You can sear on your hot side, then rotate to a slightly cooler spot to finish. You will learn this through trial and error, and you will have to rotate the meat accordingly to have all the pieces come off the grill at approximately the same time for serving.
You can cook directly on the grill with high heat for quick cooking and searing, or cook low and slow. You can also use your grill as an oven by putting the item to be cooked on the upper rack and closing the lid. When you do this, you will want to watch the temperature gauge on your grill so as not to let things get too hot. Ultimately, the meat will be done when you hit your proper temperature for the doneness you desire or the doneness for proper food safety. Thinner cuts of meat will cook more quickly than the thicker cuts.
Ground meats and chicken should be cooked to an internal temp of 160 degrees. Some people like their burgers medium rare, but the USDA warns against eating undercooked products, so do so at your own risk.
Beef cuts like steaks can be served at 130 degrees for rare, 135 degrees for medium rare, 145 degrees for medium, 155 degrees for medium well, and 160 for well. Beef steaks can be prepared at these temps because any bad bacteria or contamination would be on the outside of the meat, not ground into and throughout like a burger, and are killed in contact with the hot surface of the grill.
Pork is now allowed to be cooked to lower temps than what was recommended previously by the USDA. A good temperature for pork is 145 degrees. This will allow more moisture to be retained. You can cook to a higher temp as with steak if you prefer a more done pork dish. A nice pork roast cooked to 140 or 145 degrees and allowed to rest for a bit before cutting is REALLY delicious, in my opinion.
This is a basic guide for some of the usual grilled items. You can find more definite temperatures online. A site that has a lot of information is amazingribs.com. Feel free to submit your questions to [email protected] and visit our Facebook page and website, aguyandagrill.com.