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We all know meat should reach a certain temperature whilst cooking before we eat it. This temperature is 160-165°F for most meats. But what if I don't have a thermometer?

How can I reliably confirm that my dinner is cooked thoroughly if I don't have a thermometer?

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The Finger Test to Check the Doneness of Meat, by Elise on Simply Recipes

Raw:

Open the palm of your hand. Relax the hand. Take the index finger of your other hand and push on the fleshy area between the thumb and the base of the palm. Make sure your hand is relaxed. This is what raw meat feels like. (Check this out the next time you have a raw steak to cook.)

Welldone:

Now gently press the tip of your pinky and your thumb together. Again feel the fleshy area below the thumb. It should feel quite firm. This is what well done meat feels like when you press on it. (Check this out the next time you overcook a piece of meat.)

Medium:

Press the tip of your ring finger and your thumb together. The flesh beneath the thumb should give a little more. This is what meat cooked to a medium doneness feels like.

Medium Rare:

Gently press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. This is medium rare.

Rare

Press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The fleshy area below the thumb should give quite a bit. This is what meat cooked to rare feels like. Open up your palm again and compare raw to rare.

Sources: simplyrecipes.com

Illustration (unknown origin).

Meat Doneness

Sources: simplyrecipes.com

  • add this infographic and you've got an awesome answer. – Erich Feb 12 '15 at 11:58
  • @erich It helps that the answer was plagiarized from somewhere else. The original (or another place that plagiarized it, I'm not sure) already had pictures by the way. – Gilles May 10 '15 at 14:59
  • Hello Nuach, this is a good answer, but I believe it is plagiarized from here. This wouldn't be a problem, but you never attribute this to the original. If you don't do so, I might have to delete this answer. For more on referencing, see the help center. Thanks :) – michaelpri May 10 '15 at 15:22
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This depends on the meat you are cooking. Chicken should be completely white, no pink. Beef only needs to cook surfaces exposed to air, so burgers should be cooked through to make sure they are safe, and steaks only need the outsides cooked. Beef turns brown when cooked. Pork should have no pink and should not bleed when cut. Shrimp turns orange when cooked. I think crab does too, but I'm not 100% on that. As for most other seafood, I wouldn't try without a thermometer. Same with turkey. Just not worth taking a risk getting sick because you want to use a "hack" and get by without one. Even the red bump thermometers aren't trustworthy.

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Edit: The question is how to tell if meat is done without a thermometer. A person can look at the meat to tell, by how drawn up it is. Nothing else but eyeballs are required. Without past experience, watch the meat as it cooks. When it ceases drawing up and no red fluid comes out when poked, it is done.


I can look at the meat and tell if it's done by how drawn up it is. Very seldom am I wrong. Beyond that, the outside color indicates whether it's going from medium to well.

  • "I can do it innately" isn't much use to anyone else. Maybe you can improve your answer and describe exactly what you mean by "outside color indicates" doneness, and specify for which meat. – Doresoom Feb 13 '15 at 23:02
  • I did not say "innately". – subjectivist Feb 14 '15 at 0:01

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