Fitness Minutes: (120)
6/4/13 12:03 P
An instant read digital thermometer (not the kind you leave in, those are too hard to use with smaller pieces of meat) means all my meats turn out perfectly. Also, keep in mind that meat will still cook even after you pull it from the oven, so pull it out before the thermometer has the desired temperature... maybe 5 degrees less.
Also, cooking bone-in meat usually yields a much moister meat. I do bone in chicken thighs all the time. I take the skin off before cooking most of the time.
I started learning to cook when I started this adventure in to lifestyle change a few months ago (yes, I really did make it to my late 40's without cooking!). I find that approaching everything as an adventure takes the pressure off, and I've been able to have a lot of fun with it. I always make sure that I add just one new thing per meal, though, so that there is still plenty to eat if my "adventure" turns out awful! I am in complete agreement that including your family in choosing and cooking will help in having them be more accepting.
For boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, or for pork loin chops, my favorite way to cook them in the oven is to use a broiling pan (but not actually broil them). I put about half an inch of water in the drip pan part, put the top rack of the pan on, and place the meat on that. I sprinkle the meat with various spices (generally garlic powder, onion powder, sage, nutmeg, maybe some ginger) and place the pan on the middle oven rack at 350 degrees. I keep a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest piece of meat, and remove from the oven when it hits an internal temp of 160 degrees (generally works out to about 35 minutes for thighs, 45 minutes for breasts or pork, or closer to an hour if I started them frozen). I have never managed to dry out a piece of meat using this method.
For steaks, well, in my opinion they need to be grilled and never to more than medium rare, so my partner does them on the BBQ.
For beef roast, I like to use an eye-of-the-round and dry roast it at 375 degrees. I'm not much of a gravy fan, so I use the broiler pan (without the water in the bottom) so that the drippings fall through, and keep a meat thermometer in the meat. I like these no more than medium rare as well, so pull it out of the oven when it hits about 130 to 135 degrees, cover with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
My other favorite thing to do with chicken breasts or thighs, or pork chops, is to cook them in a sauce. There are a ton of really flavourful sauce recipes out there, and it's really easy to place the meat in to a small casserole dish, add the sauce, and cook at 350 degrees until they reach the right internal temperature. The sauce can then go over the meat, go over your side starch (rice / potatoes / whatever), or you can do as I do and add the whole dish (meat and sauce) to a veggie stir-fry.
Seriously, figuring out a few favourite sauces can be a huge help while playing with food. Any meat / veggie / starch that didn't turn out quite the way you wanted can be made quite edible with the right sauce over it! My current two faves are a simple garlic cheese sauce (which takes maybe 3 minutes to make), and a sweet/sour type sauce made with blackstrap molasses, hoisin, and apple cider vinegar (which can be used just mixed and cold, cooked with the meat, or heated separately). A good selection of spices can be a huge help, too, as they allow you to really change up the flavours, especially with really bland things like skinless chicken.
The thing to remember when using a meat thermometer is to just insert it in to the raw meat and leave it in throughout the cooking time, making sure to place it so that you can read it through the oven door. This prevents having to poke the meat numerous times, and losing the heat in the oven every time you check it. Honestly, the kitchen scale and the meat thermometer are the two things that I couldn't live without.
Try to keep in mind that this is about having a happy, healthy, fun new lifestyle. That means that there is no place for "perfection" - just lots of room for adventure and experimenting and play! Honestly, if you go in to it with the right attitude, then there is little frustration even with your "failures" (although there will be good-natured "pokes" from the family, and likely lots of giggles).
Good luck, and please try to have some fun with it!
Fitness Minutes: (82,255)
6/4/13 6:44 A
I agree with CHOCOLATELEA -- excellent advice....now I am hungry just reading her post!
Fitness Minutes: (1,418)
166 6/4/13 1:08 A
Here's two things that might work for you.
1) Crockpot. Either "low" or "high"—basically, if you're gone for eight hours, choose low, if only five, choose high.
2) Lower the heat in the oven (cook at 350) and cover with aluminum foil. Even if it's overcooked it'll still taste delicious. (Chop up your potatoes/carrots/veggies and toss them in as well. Note that carrots and potatoes will take longer than, say peppers, and you should cut potatoes into smaller chunks and peppers into larger ones—that being said, if you're planning on leaving it in there for a long time, the potatoes'll get cooked anyway (I tend to chop them into quarters).) [Aluminum foil will keep the moisture in and prevent dryness—don't forget to add herbs/garlic etc. for flavour!] —I have literally left lamb in (I tend to use shoulder chops) for four hours and it was still fine (it did taste like cottage roll though—so delicious) [note that lamb has more fat that some other meats, but you can do this with any meat—you can also lower to 325 and cook for even longer].
Basically—lower temperature+longer time+aluminum foil (or lid)=moist, cooked meat (even if you left it in the oven a bit too long)
[You'll know when it's done by smell and a quick "fork test."]
if your goal is to do this perfectly right out, you may as well not bother trying. it's like deciding that you're going to learn to swim this week and setting your goal as beating one of michael phelp's olympic gold medal best times.it can take six weeks to change a single habit, and you're trying to do them all at once. it's the equivalent of deciding you are going to start walking backwards everywhere, jumping over cracks, twirling when you cross a threshold, only taking left turns when you are driving in to work, doing seven jumping jacks at 47 minutes past the hour and all sorts of other strange things. how long do you think you would last doing that? instead find one thing to focus on. and don't worry about this not being exactly how you want to do this thing for the rest of your life. it isn't supposed to be perfect off the bat. it's supposed to be a little better than what you were doing before. that is the victory you want to focus on. so focus on getting in another serving of veggies for a few weeks. or getting your breakfast a little more in line with where you want it to be. or working out more. or lightening your family's dinner [cutting out 1 Tablespoon of cooking oil from a 4 serving meal will save you 30 cals and your family likely won't notice the difference. same goes if you add an extra half cup of veggies to the side dish. perhaps if you're going to have hot dogs, make veggie chips to go with them. all you need to do is thinly slice most root veggies, toss in a little olive oil and seasoning, and bake til crispy, flipping once. viola. chips that are veggies.]. if you make little changes then they tend to stick. because instead of suddenly expecting yourself to have all of this extra free time to do more prep work and cleanup and magically get the right ingredients, you're slowly building in and actually changing how you do things. and little changes are less likely to go noticed and complained about as well. again, you don't want to compare yourself to a perfect, ideal goal. you just need to compare yourself with where you were and see that you are going in the right direction. try making a chili, soup or a stew where there are other ingredients wetting the meat. a lot of people love the slow cooker salsa chicken in the recipes section. look around for cooking light recipes. they may be higher than where you want dinner to be right now, but they can be a great step between where you were eating and where you want to be. you can do this, it's just unreasonable to expect that you can do it all at once. so do it bit by bit.
Fitness Minutes: (86,286)
6/3/13 7:40 A
My husband is the meat expert. He cooks any kind of meat... perfectly.
I never ate much meat to begin with so I'm learning the ropes still. It takes practice and experimentation, that's all. I know one of the big tricks with most meat is not to over cook it. You just have to get to that perfect point where it isn't undercooked but isn't overcooked.
My meat usually looks like it was attacked by Jason. I have to constantly check the inside. But an internal thermometer might help you (and me, keep meaning to pick one up!) Also, experiment with different methods of cooking it. I eat a lot fish and chicken. I usually leave the red meats to my husband. When I do fish/chicken my go to method is broiling. When I do red meats or pork... I bring out my trusty, never-fail slow cooker. ;)
But more often than not, my husband takes the ropes and BBQs.
Fitness Minutes: (41,586)
27,285 6/3/13 3:01 A
Meat ending up dry is often because it is overcooked, and an inappropriate cooking method for the cut of meat.
Meat ending up tough is often because you haven't chosen the cut of meat properly for the cooking method, and/or haven't rested it after cooking.
Maybe your family could be involved with this, too - after-all, no harm in them learning how to do it at the same time as you. It would be a good bonding time and they would be less likely to complain about the results.
Good luck, Kris
Fitness Minutes: (11,796)
5,855 6/2/13 10:19 A
Sure describes me to a T lately. New health challenges are drawing me down and now I find myself eating mindlessly during the day. Still keeping within my kcal range, but I should be eating more healthy foods.
6/2/13 10:07 A
I feel totally overwhelmed in trying to do it perfectly. I know, a step at a time. I eat raw oatmeal with a few raisins/ cranberries/almonds/wheat germ, etc.. I eat nice salads for lunch or cut the bread from a sandwich, then dinner rolls around and I cook for the family. the meat does not go over well, mainly because I dry it out. I try to read up on how to cook moist stuff, but it always ends up dry or tough. ughh..so frustrated. They love when we have just hot dogs or some other fake meat.