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I don't cook meat very often, however when I do it often turns out "dry" rather than moist and juicy.

How do I ensure my cooked meat turns out moist?

  • thermometer?
  • braise the meat?
  • cook less time?
  • high temp vs low temp?
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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The way to ensue moist meat is to make sure that you don't overcook it. It is really just that simple. Variations on cooking method are to achieve certain effects on the meat, i.e. searing to develop more flavor due to the maillard reaction, sous vide to allow you to cook to a specific temperature, ect. In the war against dry meat, a thermometer is your best foxhole buddy.

That said, some cooking methods allow you to hit that temp mark easier than others. Typically, the slower heat enters the food, the closer to the specific temperature you will be able to get. Thus things like a braise more often result in a meat that is moist as the window between cooked and over-cooked is much larger than on something like a grill.

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I am not sure how you cook your meat. You may need to be more specific how you cook you meat like stir-fry, deep fry or roast.

A lot of people think "dry" meat is mainly related to cooking technique, but I think it's more to do with the ingredients. We can still look at this from both directions

1/ Cooking Technique

The main reason why meat are dry because the juice & fat in the meat get lost during the cooking process and usually it's related to the temperature & cooking time. It means our cooking technique should focus on how to persevere juice and fat. You mention Braise which is pretty safe technique to make sure that, however, it depends on the ingredients as well.

2/ Ingredient

Try to pick meat that has higher fat content that usually will keep the juice and fat when the meat is cooked. Let's let about beef. Rid-Eye is usually better steak because they are tender. The reason they are tender is because the fat and juice are still kept in the meat. If you use beef that has low fat content, you will more likely to have a dry cooked meat. Another example, chicken breasts are always drier regardless how you cook. Chicken thighs are usually better and you can't really make dry chicken thighs.

Let's try to answer your question

  • thermometer?

Not sure how it will help as you can still dry your meat with cooking at any particular temperature

  • braise the meat?

Braise is usually pretty safe as mentioned above. Ask your butcher which are the better cuts.

  • cook less time?

This is interesting question. Cook less time may not mean anything as Braised beef takes hours to cook and the meat turn out tender.

  • high temp vs low temp?

My vote goes to low temp as low temp usually can give you better control of the meat and also low temp mean you are less likely to cook out the juice and fat of the meant

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I haven't cooked meat in quite a long time, but doesn't overcooked meat (as in too-high internal temperature) tend to seem dry and tough? Seems like a thermometer could be very helpful. And of course, you're losing water and raising the internal temperature as you cook, so surely cooking for less time can help too (with braising being an exception, not the rule). –  Jefromi Nov 14 '10 at 3:53
    
The water content of meat is purely a function of temperature. The higher the temp the more juice that is squeezed out of the meat and the drier it is. check out the food lab for some more info if you're curious. –  sarge_smith Nov 14 '10 at 6:27
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Along with FoodRules comment, I would also say brining or marinating helps too. The exchange of a slightly salty liquid with the internal water not only brings quite a lot of flavor to the party, but also helps the meat retain moisture. I've only ever done this with Chicken, but it stands to reason, where it works with one protein, so too would it work on another. Can't say I'd feel too comfortable brining a burger, but that's hopefully not the kind of meat you are talking about.

One of the reasons slow cooked meats do not typically turn out dry if you cook them slow enough is the conversion of collagen to gelatin. It’s that lip smacking unctuousness of pulled pork sandwiches and pot roast. Though the meat may technically be barren wastelands at this point, the gelatin coats all the fibers giving them the perception of very moist and tender.

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Brining pork is great as well, however, I wouldn't brine beef or lamb. –  Magnus Nordlander Nov 14 '10 at 22:47
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There are many ways to keep meat moist, and they pretty much fall in to one of two categories. Keep moisture in the meat, and replace the moisture with something that feels moist.

In the first category we have various techniques, including but not limited to:

  • Brining (technically not keeping moisture in the meat, but rather adding more of it)
  • Cooking the meat sous vide
  • Short cooking times

In the second category, you mainly replace the moisture with fat, which although it isn't moist, feels like it, or break down collagen into gelatin. Techniques include:

  • Confit
  • Buying marbled meat
  • Cooking the meat with fattier meats (fatback, bacon, etc.)
  • Stewing
  • Braising

There is also a third category, which isn't really a category at all, trying to hide that your meat is dry. This include sauces and soups. However, in these cases, you will still be able to detect that the meat is dry.

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Beef: You are probably overcooking your meat and/or you are using very low-fat cuts.

  • Don't cook beyond medium (Europe) / raw (Australia).
  • Cuts with high amounts of fat in the meat (e.g. Scotch Fillet) are much harder to dry out than cuts with little fat (e.g. Rump Steak).
  • Marinating low fat beef, e.g. Rump Steak in olive oil, helps a lot against drying out.

Chicken breast: I found this method to work very well: After turning the chicken breast over after about half the cooking time, place a lid on the frying pan for the second half.

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