This is not to replace the use of a thermometer if you have one. But when testing steaks or  fish fillets, the thermometer may not be convenient. This is when the “touch” method comes in. There are many versions of this art-form. Chefs are notorious for finding a method that works for them.

We call this the “OK” method. Place your thumb & index finger lightly together making the OK hand sign. With your other hand touch the ok-hand below the thumb. This is what “rare” feels like; now move from your thumb to the middle finger. Immediately you should notice the tightening muscle when touching the hand at the base of the thumb, and that is what medium feels like. Go up one more finger to the ring finger, and that is well done! By the time you get to the “pinky” the touch indicates “over-done.”

This works for all meats, provided you test the feel with your tongs of the uncooked meat first establishing a point of reference, where you are starting from. Not all meats feel the same when raw.

For something like chicken, which should be fully cooked to serve, it is still wise to know when to pull it off the grill to allow some carry-over cooking to occur. As it rests on a covered plate for a few minutes before serving, the juices redistribute and finish cooking the center of the chicken.  Cooking chicken completely over the heat makes for over cooked meat after the carry-over cooking that will occur naturally. Pull it off the heat a few degrees away from done and allow it finish cooking through carry-over cooking that will occur.

Only expect 3-6 degrees on a piece of chicken. That will make a difference though if removed from the heat at temperature already.

When using a thermometer to check temperature you should consult a chart of final cooked temperatures allowed for food safety, and then remove it just under by a few degrees allowing for carry-over cooking during the rest period. This will vary according to size of meat cut being cooked. For larger cuts that require up to 20-30 minutes resting to ensure juices have time to redistribute, you will be able to remove the roast anywhere from 5-10 degrees under desired temperature. For example if cooking roast beef to rare, you may pull a 5-8 pound roast out at 125ºF so after resting 20 minutes, it reaches the goal of 130°F for rare beef. Typically  a larger piece of meat can be pulled earlier and requires a longer rest.


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