The sizzle of steak, the aroma of vegetables roasting, the tender texture of perfectly seared fish—these are some of our favorite things about cooking. But, no matter how beautifully you’ve seasoned your food and how high quality your ingredients are, it’s essential to know when something is cooked, otherwise the texture and flavor will stop your dish in its tracks. So, we’ve put together a list of helpful tips and tricks for knowing when things are done! Of course, the preferred (and safest!) method is to use a cooking thermometer to check that your food has reached the USDA-approved internal temperature, which we always mention in Plated recipes.
We have a few methods for knowing when fish has finished cooking. Depending on the cooking method, variety, and size, the length of time has a large range. When a thin knife inserted into the fish meets no resistance, your fish is likely done. Also, when it turns entirely opaque and can be flaked with a fork, also done. We recommend the first method for fish that’s crusted or coated so that you don’t have to cut into it, and the second for fish that will be flaked or cut into anyway. The safest way to know is by checking its internal temp, which should be 145°, per USDA.
As you probably know, depending on your preferred texture and doneness, there are different internal temperatures that beef can be cooked to. In addition to checking the temperature, you can also cut into the meat and see its level of doneness—medium-rare meat will be pink at the center but not raw. We always recommend making sure that your pan is nice and hot before adding the meat so you get that perfect sear. For timing, think 5 minutes for medium rare, and longer if you like it more well done. And, although you may have a personal preference (we’re looking at those who love their meat extra rare), USDA recommends steak be cooked to 145°, and allowed to rest for at least three minutes.
Depending on the variety of ground meat, the cooking will vary. However, when the color has turned dark golden brown and there is no pinkness (none at all!) remaining when you break it up, your ground meat has cooked through. (USDA recommends 160°)
Chicken and Pork
When chicken and pork are fully cooked through, they will have a harder texture and there will be absolutely no pink color left in the flesh. We find pounding the meat thinner, milanese-style, helps it to cook more quickly and develop a nice crust. Generally, you’re looking at about 6 minutes per side, depending on thickness, but be sure to check by either using a thermometer or cutting into the thickest part of your heftiest piece. Don’t forget to allow to rest for at least three minutes as well. (USDA temp for chicken: 165°, + for pork: 145°)
In addition to firming up texture wise, fully cooked through shrimp will also change color. It will go from a white, see-through hue to pink/ orange, and become fully opaque. Since it cooks so quickly (4–5 mins, total), make sure you keep a constant eye on shrimp, it’ll be done before you know it! (To be safe, the USDA temperature recommendation is 145°.)
Pasta should be served al dente, but if you’re wondering whether it’s done, scoop out a piece and break it open, or take a bite. If you still see a white ring in spaghetti or if the pasta itself still is white and crunchy, it needs a little bit more cooking time. Always check the box for cook times, as they do vary by type of pasta.
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