When you are cooking meat, getting it to the table cooked just the way you like it is critical. To do that, you must hit the meat’s target temperature exactly. Having your meat 5 or 10 degrees off can make a huge difference to taste and texture. However, judging when meat is done is tricky, because what you are actually gauging is not whether the food is ready to eat right now – but whether it will be ready to eat once it has rested. Meat continued to cook even after it has been removed from the heat source, this is known as “carryover cooking”.
This happens for two reasons:
First, the exterior of a meat gets hot much more quickly than the interior. Second, because heat always moves from a hotter to a cooler area, as long as there is a difference in temperature between the two regions, heat will keep moving from the surface to the center even after you remove the meat from the heat source. This transfer will slow, and eventually stop, as internal and external temperatures approach each other and even out.
However, the process can result in a significant increase in temperature at the center of a large piece of meat, bringing it from a perfect pink to a disappointing gray. Investing in a meat thermometer will not only help you know the temperature of the meat while its cooking, but also help you gauge the perfect time get it to the table.