Cooking meat and poultry

There are two basic methods of cooking meat:

It is important to select the proper cooking method for the cut of meat. Less tender cuts of meat require moist heat cooking methods to help break down the tough connective tissues. Moist heat cooking means moisture is added to the meat and the meat is cooked slowly over a long time; it includes:

Tender cuts of meat do not require moisture and long, slow cooking. They are usually cooked with a dry heat method, including:

The method chosen to cook a certain cut of meat should relate directly to the inherent tenderness of that cut. Tenderness is determined by:

In general, cuts from the loin section are the most tender; the farther away from this section the less tender the meat will be.

Cooking Tender Cuts of Meat

Roasting is a cooking method in which meat is surrounded and cooked by heated air, usually in an oven. Meat is not covered and no water is added. Follow these steps:

To test for doneness, use a meat thermometer. The internal temperature shows exactly how done the meat is. Look up the roasting time tables in a cookbook. The more tender cuts of meat will remain tender if cooked to rare rather than well-done. On the other hand, less tender cuts may be more tender if they are cooked to medium or well-done, rather than rare.

Broiling, Pan-broiling, or Pan-frying
The basic rule for broiling, pan-broiling or pan-frying meat is to use enough heat to brown the outside without overcooking the inside of the meat. A moderate temperature is best for broiling and frying most meats.

Broiling is cooking by direct heat from a flame, electric unit, or glowing coals. Meat is cooked one side at a time. Choose tender beef steaks, lamb chops, cured ham slices, and bacon for broiling. Use steaks or chops cut 1 to 2 inches thick. If steaks or chops are less than 1 inch thick, panbroil them.

Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for broiling since equipment varies. Usually the door is left open when broiling in an electric range and closed when broiling in a gas range.

Pan-broiling is cooking in an uncovered pan over direct heat. Fat that cooks out of the meat is drained off.

Pan-frying is similar to pan-broiling, except that meat is cooked in a small amount of fat.

The easiest way to tell when steaks and small pieces of meat are done when you broil, pan-broil, or panfry is to make a small cut in the meat near the bone and check the interior color.

Cooking Less Tender Cuts

Braising is cooking in steam trapped and held in a covered container or foil wrap. The source of the steam may be water or other liquid added to the meat, or it may be meat juices. Large, less tender cuts, such as chuck, round, and rump, are braised as pot roasts.

Cooking in Liquid
This method involves covering a less tender cut of meat with liquid and simmering in a covered kettle until tender and well-done.

Cooking Poultry
The type of method to use for cooking poultry depends on the bird. Young poultry is best for roasting, broiling, and frying. Older poultry requires braising or stewing methods. Either way, slow, even heat should be used for tender, juicy, evenly done poultry. Do not overcook; it results in tough, dry meat.


Poaching (in the microwave)
An easy way to be prepared for any recipe that calls for cooked chicken is to poach chicken in the microwave ahead of time and have it stored in the freezer. That way, cooked chicken is available for use in casseroles, sandwiches, and salads.

Note: Chicken breasts can also be poached in a large saucepan on top of the stove. Add cold water just to cover chicken, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until chicken is tender. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface.


Timetable for Roasting Fresh or Thawed Poultry or Poultry Parts
Weight (Pounds) Unstuffed (Hours) Stuffed (Hours)
4 to 6 (breasts) 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 not applicable
6 to 89 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 3 to 3 1/2
8 to 12 3 to 4 3 1/2 to 4 1/2
12 to 16 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 4 1/2 to 5 1/2
16 to 20 4 to 5 5 1/2 to 6 1/2
20 to 24 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 6 1/2 to 7
24 to 28 5 to 6 1/2 7 to 8 1/2
Drumsticks, quarters, thighs 2 to 3 1/2 not applicable

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Oven Cooking Bags
Preparing poultry in an oven cooking bag is a moist heat cooking method. It is the best way to produce a moist, tender bird. It also helps reduce oven spatter. Using ordinary brown bags for roasting is not recommended because they may not be sanitary, the glue and ink used on brown bags have not been approved for use as cooking materials, and the juices formed as the poultry cooks may saturate the bag and cause it to break.

Roasting Chart for Fresh or Thawed Poultry Cooked in an Oven Cooking Bag
Weight (pounds) Unstuffed (Hours Stuffed (Hours)
8 to 12 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 2 1/4 to 2 3/4
12 to 16 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 2 3/4 to 3 1/4
16 to 20 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 3 1/4 to 3 3/4
20 to 24 3 1/4 to 3 3/4 3 3/4 to 4 1/4

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Thawing Frozen Turkeys

Thawing Time in the Refrigerator
Whole turkey
8 to 12 pounds 1 to 2 days
12 to 16 pounds 2 to 3 days
16 to 20 pounds 3 to 4 days
20 to 24 pounds 4 to 5 days
Pieces of Large Turkey
half, quarter, half breast 1 to 2 days

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Thawing Time in Cold Water
8 to 12 pounds 4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 9 hours
16 to 20 pounds 9 to 11 hours
20 to 24 pounds 11 to 12 hours

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Cooking a Frozen Turkey
A whoel frozen turkey without giblets nad neck can be roasted, briased, or stewed without thawing. Turkey parts can also be cooked iwthout thawing. The turkey should be cooked in a preheated 325°F oven.

Timetable for Roasting Frozen Turkey
Weight (Pounds) Cooking Time (Hours)
12 to 16 7 1/2 to 8 1/2
16 to 20 8 to 9 1/4
20 to 24 9 to 10
Half, breast 4 1/4 to 6 1/4
Drumsticks, quarters, thighs 2 to 3 3/4

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