When you think of a big, juicy burger or a thick cut of steak, a backyard cookout probably springs to mind. But what happens when you don’t have the space, energy, or weather to fire up the grill? (Porch-less apartment dwellers, we feel your pain!) Don’t sweat — there are plenty of ways to enjoy a deliciously prepared cut of meat without ever using a grill. In today’s post, we’re highlighting our top tips for achieving perfectly cooked meat in the oven.
Obviously, your exact approach, cooking time and temperature will vary depending on what type of meat you are cooking. The way you deal with chicken wings will be quite different than how you handle pork chops. However, there are some general tips that apply to just about every type of meat that goes into the oven — read on!
Tip #1: Get high-quality meat.
This tip isn’t exclusive to oven-baked dishes, but is worth bringing up time and again. Your meal is only as good as your ingredients. Even the best home chefs can’t outcook a low-quality piece of meat! Take the time to do your research and splurge on meats from a reputable resource.
Tip #2: Thicker cuts are more forgiving in the oven.
This is especially true for things like steak, which can vary so greatly in size and shape. Think 1-inch to 1.5-inches thick as the minimum thickness — this allows for a little more “wiggle room” and margin for accidentally keeping in the oven a minute or two too long. If you are cooking steak in the oven, any cut will do just fine as long as you mind the thickness.
Tip #3: Don’t press down on your meat as it cooks.
It can be so tempting (and so satisfying) to constantly open the oven door and give your cut of meat a press with the ol’ spatula. But every time you do, you’re not only letting precious heat out of your oven, you’re squeezing out the juices and practically asking your meat to be dry! There’s really no reason to press flat down on your meat. If you must, flip it over using tongs (but only once!).
Tip #4: Avoid stabbing or piercing to turn it over.
Speaking of turning your meat over in the oven …. do NOT stab with a knife or fork to flip it over (or to check doneness). Use tongs. And, don’t continuously flip your meat over again and again as it cooks, as this can cause the meat to come out less juicy. Plus, flipping your meat just once can help an even caramelization occur.
Tip #5: Get an instant read thermometer.
The simplest, fastest way to tell if your meat is done cooking is to invest in a meat thermometer. This helps avoid those unprofessional cuts and hacks into the meat to check what color it is. A medium-rare steak is done around 130-135 °F, medium is 135-145 °F, and well done is 145-155°F. For pork, 145°F is best, and poultry is done at 165 degrees.
Tip #6: Let it rest.
Last, but not least, it’s important to let your meat rest for several minutes before you slice into it. This is a crucial step in keeping your meat perfectly moist and delectable. As it cooks, the meat’s juices shift around due to the heat. By letting it rest before you come at it with a fork and knife, you allow the juices to re-distribute more evenly throughout the cut. The larger the meat, the more time it needs to rest (e.g. a small beef filet only needs five minutes, while a whole chicken needs fifteen minutes to rest). After all, you know what they say: You can’t rush art!
Now that you’re armed with the best tips for cooking your meat in the oven, all that’s left to do is stock up on the best cuts!