Temperatures

Temperaturer

Medium-rare ribeye steak cooked using a kitchen thermometer

Most Swedish chefs and amateur cooks use a thermometer when cooking meat or fish, so if you want to cook the Swedish way you really ought to use one!

Why use a thermometer?

When the meat or fish is heated the fibres are pulled together and release some of the liquid from the flesh. If the internal temperature ends up too high too much fluid will have been lost and so the meat or fish will become dry. Measuring the inner temperature is therefore the key to success, especially for small pieces of meat or fish which can very easily be overcooked. (Obviously, if the temperature is too low there will be a risk that harmful bacteria will not have been killed.)

Types of thermometer for kitchen use

A digital kitchen thermometer for measuring the inner temperature of fish, meat and breadA digital kitchen thermometer with a fixed probe

There are three main types of thermometer for kitchen use. One type has a fixed probe and a digital display. The probe is inserted into cooked food and left for a few seconds, until a steady reading is obtained. Fixed probe thermometers are useful for checking the temperature of fried meat or fish.

Kitchen cooking thermometer 280A kitchen thermometer with a probe on a lead

The second type has a probe on a lead and a digital display which is placed on the worktop or stuck on the oven door. (There is a magnet on the back of the display so it is easy to stick to an oven door and the lead doesn't stop the oven door from being closed.)

This is probably the best type of kitchen thermometer to buy as it can be programmed to ring when the food reaches a particular temperature and some include a menu of recommended temperatures, such as 'beef: medium-rare'.

An analogue meat thermometerAn analogue meat thermometer

The third type is an analogue thermometer. The advantage of an analogue thermometer is that it doesn't need a battery, but the disadvantages are:
• there is no alarm function to tell you when food is cooked,
• when roasting meat the display must be inside the oven,
• they are not as easy to read.

Using kitchen thermometers 

1. Begin with the meat or fish at room temperature

Take the meat or fish out of the fridge before you start cooking so that it has enough time to reach room temperature! This is because it will then take less time to reach the correct internal temperature and so less liquid is lost.

2. Season meat with salt just before searing

Season meat with salt just before searing, as this helps them to retain the juices. (Other seasonings can be added earlier, but salt is normally best added at the last minute.)

3. Measure the temperature of the thickest part

Measure the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat or fish.

4. Avoid measuring the temperature of the bone

Don't let the probe touch the bone, fat or gristle as they heat up at a different rate to muscle.

5. Decide whether you want to rest the meat before carving

Should you rest meat before carving it? A simple question, but many foodies argue over the answer! Advocates of resting meat say that rested meat is juicier and easier to carve. Opponents say unrested meat is just as juicy, has more flavour and is crispier. Also they complain that rested meat is often not hot enough when served and continues to cook whilst resting, which can lead it to being overcooked.

So is rested meat juicier? Yes and no! Virtually no juice evaporates when meat is rested, so the question is really about where you prefer your juice. (The juice, which sometimes people think is blood, is really coloured and flavoured water as meat has hardly any blood in it.)

Steak on a board showing the juices released when cut

If meat is not rested it will release more juice when it is carved and this will be seen on a board or plate. Those who advocate resting meat say that this juice is wasted. Opponents of resting meat say the juices released on to a plate or carving board need not be wasted and can be mopped up with bread etc or used to make gravy.

So is rested meat easier to carve? Yes, research confirms that rested meat is indeed easier to carve, but opponents of resting meat say simply use a good carving knife!

My advice is to rest meat if you are serving it to anyone who might be put off by "blood" on their plate, but otherwise do whatever is convenient! I usually try and serve steaks as quickly as possible, but rest joints, chicken or turkey whilst I finish off side dishes and cooking the sauce or gravy.

If you do let meat rest then try and allow for the fact that it will continue cooking whilst it rests. How much it will continue to cook depends on the size of the meat and whether it contains a bone or not. For a small joint the temperature may increase by 2°C (4°F), but for large joints it could be as much as 8°C (14°F).

Recommended temperatures

The temperatures below are based on the recommendations in Vår Kok Bok, Sweden's top selling cookery book.

Bread

white bread, such as 100% wheat      92°C
(198°F)
medium coloured bread 94°C
(201°F)
dark bread 96°C
(205°F)


Use the table above when you follow a bread recipe for the first time and make a note of the time it takes to bake the bread. Although ovens vary they are normally consistent, so you will know how long to bake the bread for on future occasions. (I think only experienced bakers can tell whether a loaf is baked by tapping the underside to see if it sounds hollow.)


Fish

Fish is best baked using a kitchen thermometer to ensure it is perfectly cooked

It is well worth using a thermometer to check the inner temperature when baking fish as it is easy to overcook it. It is ready when the inner temperature is 52°C (126°F).

Game

  Rosaröd
(Medium-rare)
Rosa
(Medium)
Genomstekt
(Well done)
Elk (Moose), Reindeer,    
Venison    
55°C
(130°F)
60°C
(140°F)
70°C
(160°F)

 

Meat

  Rosaröd
(Medium-rare)
Rosa
(Medium)
Genomstekt
(Well done)
Beef 55°C
(130°F)
60°C
(140°F)
70°C
(160°F)
Ground meat¹   - - 70°C
(160°F)
Ham - - 70°C
(160°F)
Lamb 55°C
(130°F)
60°C
(140°F)
70°C
(160°F)
Pork² - 65°C
(150°F)
70°C
(160°F)
Veal 55°C
(130°F)
60°C
(140°F)
70°C
(160°F)


¹ This includes all ground meat or mince, including sausages and burgers. The harmful bacteria on meat is on the surface and so it is killed when the meat is sealed, which is why steak can be served rare, but when meat is ground the bacteria are distributed throughout the meat which is why it should always be well cooked. (Data for ground meat is from Norrmejerier.)

² For a juicy result, Vår Kok Bok recommends cooking pork fillet rosa (65°C/150°F). (Traditionally pork always had to be cooked until it was no longer pink. This was because of the risk from Trichinella Spiralis, a worm parasite that pigs got from eating food scraps. Provided the pork come a good farm using modern nutritional systems and fodder then it can be served pink, except fläskkarré (collar, Boston collar, pork butt) which should be cooked until the inner temperature is 75°C (165°F).

Poultry

  Blodig
(Rare)
Rosa
Medium
Genomstekt
(Well done)
Chicken (boneless) - - 70°C
(160°F)
Chicken with bone - - 75°C
(165°F)
Duck breast¹ 60°C
(140°F)
63°C
(145°F)
70°C
(160°F)
Duck with bone - - 75°C
(165°F)
Ostrich fillet¹ 60°C
(140°F)
63°C
(145°F)
70°C
(160°F)
Turkey (boneless)         - - 70°C
(160°F)
Turkey with bone - - 75°C
(165°F)


¹ Vår Kok Bok recommend serving ostrich and duck breast rare, although the Swedish Livsmedelsverket (Food Agency) recommend cooking all poultry thoroughly. 

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