One question we hear again and again is: Can you help me learn to cook meat properly? Our readers have tackled this question several times and they always have plenty of helpful advice for learning how to safely handle meat and mastering a few beginner-friendly cooking techniques. Whether you are an ex-vegetarian, a current vegetarian cooking for an omnivorous loved one, or a brand-new cook, these five tips will help you get over any fears and start cooking meat with confidence.
1. Buy a good meat thermometer.
An instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen lets you quickly and accurately test the temperature of a piece of meat, while a probe thermometer has a probe that can be left in the meat while in the oven, allowing you to track its temperature as it roasts.
Whether you are grilling, roasting, baking, or braising, a great thermometer is indispensable. It also makes for completely consistent and predictable results. — Raiden79705
A meat thermometer is a definite must. Print out a temperature chart and keep it on your fridge. — iamtheamygdala
Thermapens are definitely the best meat thermometers. When she came over to grill a lot, my mom kept forgetting if I had a meat thermometer and buying cheap ones at the grocery store. I think I have 3 now and they all give different temps in the same piece of meat. Just buy one good one instead of 3 crappy ones. — akay
→ Further reading: Safe Cooking Temperatures for Meat: Including Beef, Lamb, Pork & Poultry
2. Learn safe food-handling habits.
There is a lot of fear that surrounds handling raw meat, especially if you are new to it, but a little knowledge and a few good habits will minimize the risk of getting ill and make you feel a lot more confident.
Get yourself a dedicated "MEAT ONLY" nylon/plastic cutting board. Use it only for raw meat, and the plastic material can be easily disinfected with bleach and/or very HOT water without you having to worry about the integrity of the cutting board. — Schwed
This obsessive "wash everything 800 times while wearing gloves" is unnecessary. Use plastic cutting boards for meat, and wash them with hot, soapy water. Do not cut other foods on the board until you have washed it well (or use two boards when making a meal)....Wash your hands between touching meat and touching anything else. — Irina is Dinner
→ Further reading: The Best Way to Quickly & Safely Thaw Frozen Meat
3. Start with beginner-friendly techniques.
Turning out a perfectly medium-rare steak on the first try can be intimidating. If you're just starting to get comfortable cooking meat, braising and stir-frying are two forgiving methods that our readers recommend.
Braising is the easiest way of cooking tough cuts of meat and it's incredibly forgiving and foolproof....Braise, braise, braise. At least until you learn more about cooking different kinds of meat. — Pi.
BRAISE....Roasting can bring out a lot of the same deep meat flavors, but I find I'm not as fond of leftover roasts in our empty nest: braised dishes freeze wonderfully for a later meal. — joelfinkle
For a good stir fry, just cut the meat into thin strips (and ACROSS the grain, always) and have your pan really hot — a quick tumble is all that's needed. — MforMagpie
→ Further reading: How to Stir-Fry Chicken
4. Then learn how to roast a chicken.
I don't know what it is, but there is something deeply satisfying about roasting a whole chicken, a mostly hands-off process that nevertheless makes you feel like a pro. In addition to using the meat in a kinds of meals, you can use the carcass to make homemade chicken stock.
Learn how to roast a chicken. This site and plenty of others have all sorts of ways to roast a chicken. You can eat the chicken at dinner, or you can shred it for any number of stews, soups, fillings, etc. — limes
Roast chicken is your friend! You can use leftover meat and bones for a ton of different dishes throughout the week. You can leave the bones and vegetables/scraps in the crock pot all day to make homemade broth, too. — Schwed
→ Further reading: How To Roast a Chicken
5. Practice, practice, practice.
As with cooking in general, the more you cook meat, the more comfortable you'll feel.
I find that with meat (especially beef), it's honestly just a matter of practice and getting a "feel" for when things are done to perfection, etc....The only thing that makes me less hesitant about cooking something is just practicing cooking it until I get it right. — lowercasesandcapitals
→ Further reading: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Meat: 28 Tips and Tutorials
Do you have any other advice for cooks who are just starting to master the art of cooking meat?