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Ultimate Guide for Cooking Meat at Room Temperature

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Meat at room temperature before cooking is a common method because it can make it easier to achieve the desired cooking temperature. The key is to know how long you can safely leave it at room temperature for using it. From here, you must have a way to accurately gauge the temperature, allowing you to determine both safety and how long you should cook it.

With the right knowledge, techniques and digital meat thermometer, preparing and cooking a wide variety of meats becomes simple. This ensures that your family always has a fresh, healthy meal to enjoy each night.

Do We Really Need to Let Meat Come Up to Room Temperature Before Cooking?

If you let your meats sit out for a short while to achieve room temperature, this results in meat that is more evenly cooked and juicier. This is especially true for thicker cuts of meat.

If the meat is very thin, such as thinly sliced steak or bacon, getting it to room temperature does not seem to make a major difference. However, with thicker cuts of meat, if you do not let them essentially warm up a bit, they can cook unevenly since the middle of the cut will be colder than the edges.

How Long Can Meat Be Left at Room Temperature?

When it comes to meat at room temperature, how long before it is unsafe to eat? If you have raw meat left out for 4 hours or raw meat left out for 3 hours, will one be safer than the other? This ultimately depends on the type and size of the meat.

Just make sure that the entire cut is at room temperature because the opposite can happen if you allow the center of the meat to gets too warm. When this happens, it can cook faster than the outside parts, resulting in overcooking the center of the meat, making it tougher and less juicy.

The room temperature you want to use to achieve this is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If your home is much warmer than this, it can quickly cause the meat to become unsafe to eat. Because of this, you need to know the level of room temperature that you are working with before removing the meat from your refrigerator.

From here, you should periodically check the temperature of the meat when it is sitting out. Make sure to take temperature readings from the center of the cut and the edges to ensure that they are relatively even before you start cooking.

How to Tell if Meat Left at Room Temperature is Safe to Eat?

If you leave the meat out too long, a variety of bacteria can start to grow on it, making you sick if you eat it. This can happen even after you have cooked the meat thoroughly. Because of this, you want to ensure that you follow safety standards when you use this method for meat cooking.

When you get meat to room temperature, before you start cooking it, you want to first ensure that it is safe to eat. As you use this process more often, this is something that will be a lot easier to gauge. Until then, there are some methods that you can use.

The first method is to know how long it has been outside of your refrigerator and in a room-temperature environment. A good rule of thumb is that if the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it can only sit out for approximately one hour before it may become unsafe to eat.

When you think about a standard cut of steak in an environment that is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the average amount of time that it can sit out is approximately two hours. After two hours, you are running the risk that bacteria have already started to grow.

There are also some signs that you can look for if you are unsure about how long the meat has been sitting out in room temperature. These include:

  1. Your meat has developed a slimy texture, or it may feel as though it is sticky
  2. The color of your meat is off, making it look either greenish or grayish
  3. It has a foul odor that was not there when the meat was in the refrigerator

It will also taste different, but for your safety, you should never taste a piece of meat that you think is spoiled to test it.

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The Really Useful Methods for Heating Frozen Meat Before Cooking

While you can cook meats that are frozen, they may be tougher, less juicy and they will take a lot longer to cook. Because of this, it is best to heat them to essentially defrost the frozen parts before you start the cooking process.

One of the easiest ways to defrost meat is to put it into your refrigerator the night before you plan to cook it. This will take the most amount of time. In fact, if the meat is especially thick, it could take as long as five days, so make sure that you plan accordingly. Just make sure that you are prepared to use it once it is ready since not all meat will refreeze well.

If you have a microwave, you can use the defrost setting for smaller cuts of meat. If you opt to use this method, you should plan to cook it immediately after you defrost it to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Another option is to use cold water. Leave the meat in its packaging, place it into a pot and submerge it in the water. It can take up to three hours to defrost a roast that weighs about four pounds using this method.

How to Measure Meat’s Internal Temperature Before Cooking

When it comes to digital thermometers, you have a standard digital thermometer and a digital wireless thermometer. The steps to using each are slightly different.

To use a standard digital thermometer, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure that the thermometer has working batteries and that the battery door is properly secured
  2. Ensure that the probe is properly inserted into the thermometer’s transmitter and that you can see the temperature on the display
  3. Insert the probe part of the thermometer into the meat that you are going to cook before you start cooking and make a note of the temperature. The meat should not be on a source of heat when you do this.
  4. You can keep the probe inside the meat while you are cooking or simply check it periodically to determine when it gets to the desired heat level.
  5. Remove the probe carefully once you are done cooking, being sure not to touch the hot areas since this cold result in a burn.
  6. Once the probe as cooled, use soap and water to clean it to ensure that it is ready for the next use.

To use a wireless digital thermometer, follow these steps:

  1. Check the batteries to ensure that they are working and that the door that protects them is tightly secured.
  2. Ensure that the transmitter has the probe plugged into it and that you can read the temperature on the digital display.
  3. If the two components are not syncing up properly, sometimes removing one battery from each part and then putting it back in will reset them so that they will work properly.
  4. Prior to cooking the meat, insert the probe so that you can see what the temperature is. Make sure that this is done when it is still on the counter so that the heat from the oven, grill or stove do not cause a false reading.
  5. As you continue cooking, check the temperature of the meat so that you always know what level it is at. This is especially important if you are cooking meats at a temperature of medium or below because they can achieve the desired temperature quickly.
  6. Keep the transmitter with you so that you can keep an eye on the temperature even when you are not directly next to the meat.
  7. Once cooking is completed, carefully remove the probe.
  8. Once it has cooled down, you can clean it with water and soap.


While there is a lot of information to learn, you can see that it is not difficult to work with room temperature meats and ensure safety. The ThermoPro Digital Meat Thermometer is a viable option because it is easy to use and accurate. Just make sure that you are always able to accurately gauge the temperature so that you know that the meat is safe to eat and to determine the proper cooking temperature.

When you are finished using it, just wipe off the stem to clean the thermometer and ready for the next use. Take advantage of the digital display so that you can see the exact temperature at all times, ensuring safety with the meats that you are working with.

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