I think the one question that most cooks have whenever they are cooking meat, whether it be chicken, beef, pork, or whatever animal is when is it is done. They open the oven door, poke the meat, stare it trying to determine if it looks done, and then pull the meat 30 minutes after it should have already been out of the oven. So how do one know when their meat is done? Many meats will come in packages that tell you how long to cook it per pound. That might work, if every piece of chicken was shaped exactly the same. So the only other option out there is a thermometer. A thermometer will be able to tell you exactly when your meat is done. There are two types of thermometers I recommend: a probe therommeter and an instant read (both of the digital variety). Both can be had for less than $20 a piece.
A prope therometer is perfect for putting into a roast. All you do is stick the probe end into the hunk of meat, put the meat in the oven, and plug in the therometer. Then you can watch as the temperature rises until it reaches your desires doneness (with roast it’s a good idea to pull it from the oven 5-10 degrees before it’s done because there will be carry-over when you take it out). You have to be careful that you inser the probe into the right spot. If you hit a bone or the bottom of the pan you will get a false reading. It’s best to stick the probe on an angle into the thickest part of the meat.
An instant read therometer will tell you within 5 seconds what the tempearture of your meat is. Why would you need of these as well as a probe? Sometimes a probe therometer can’t be used like when grilling, cooking a piece of meat that is too thin to get the probe in, or when you are braising or cooking in liquid. An instant read can be used to test whether the meat is done in those situations. It can also be used to taste whether a loaf of bread is done.
Here is a list of the temperature you want to cook certain types of meat to (these are all minimum temperatures):
Pork: 160 degrees
Poultry: 165 degrees (for dark meat of a turkey: 180 degrees)
Beef: Medium rare (135 degrees), Medium (145 degrees), Medium Well (155 degrees), Well Done (or Toast) (160 degrees)
Lamb: 160 degrees
Fish: 145 degrees