Beef up on a few errors home cooks make when cooking meats and how to fix them.

Are you afraid of trying a new beef, pork or poultry recipe for fear your guests will need a butcher knife at their place setting? Well, fear no more, because we’ve got a few tips to help you avoid some common mistakes home chefs make.

Skimping up front

Let’s face it, quality meat costs some bucks and it’s tempting to go with cheaper cuts. If you really want good quality meat, especially beef, go see your butcher. Sure, you can’t buy the best cuts for every family meal, but see your butcher when it matters most. A butcher can help you match the cuts for new recipes you know less about or replace them with the best alternatives. Butchers also are your best source for how to cook a cut of meat. After all, that’s what they’re trained to do!

Searing meat on low heat

Searing a cut of meat, or fish for that matter, seals in some of the juices and flavor. Using lower heat cooks it through. Don’t be afraid to set your skillet on a high heat. You want the meat to cook quickly on the outside, so be sure your pan is good and hot before placing the meat inside. And reach for the best heat conductor in your cooking arsenal, cast iron if you have it.

Choosing the wrong cooking method

The most tender cuts of meat require less moisture, and can usually be grilled, broiled or roasted. That’s true of most poultry, with the addition of frying, of course. Chicken burns easily on the grill when cooked over direct heat. It’s best to move it away from the flames a little, close the lid and let it cook with indirect heat. If you’re got a less expensive, tougher cut, braise or stew the meat.

Turning, and turning again

Sometimes, less attention is better. That’s true of most meats that you’re grilling or pan-broiling. Every time you poke, prod, pick up and flip a burger or pork chop, you squeeze a little bit of its natural juices out. Try to wait a little longer, gently lifting one corner to see if it’s time to turn the meat over. If you can’t get your spatula under it, it’s probably not ready to turn. And if you crowd your chicken or other small cuts into a pan, they aren’t going to cook well, especially to a nice outside crust. Crowding the meat traps heat underneath.

Overcooking, especially lean meats

Lean meats can dry even more quickly because they have less fat to keep them moist. Just because you stew or simmer a meat in a slow cooker doesn’t mean it automatically stays juicy. Water seeps out of the meat if it cooks too long, especially at too high a temperature. So don’t assume that more is better. And if you seared the meat first, it cooks even faster, so cut your time a little. If you’re worried about undercooking, use a meat thermometer.

Not giving it a rest

Another big mistake by cooks is to worry too much about keeping meat cold. Food safety is tremendously important, especially when thawing and cutting meats, but it’s not a good idea to take any steak or pork right from the refrigerator to the heat. This usually causes it to undercook in the middle. So let the meat sit on your counter for up to 30 minutes before cooking.

Darn this delicate, diva meat. Turns out it needs to rest after cooking as well. You can place a foil tent over the meat to help hold in heat, but let a pork chop or steak rest a few minutes, up to 10 for a larger cut of steak. A whole roasted chicken should sit for about 15 minutes, and a turkey nearly 30 minutes. Then take out your knife, slice away, and enjoy.

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