Several months ago, I had the chance to chat with Steven Raichlen–author of Planet Barbecue! and host of “Primal Grilling”–for his tips on how to perfectly prepare a charcoal grill for summer barbecue (more on those tips in the near future). Raichlen also shared another smart tip, and that one I will share with you now.
To gauge the doneness of meat, Raichlen uses the “Poke Test.” Here’s how it works: Make the OK sign with your thumb and index finger. Now, touch the pad of flesh at the base of your thumb. The flesh should feel soft and squishy; this is what rare meat feels like, according to Raichlen. Switch to your middle finger, and the pad feels a bit firmer–that’s medium-rare. Your ring finger is medium. And with your pinky, it’s well-done.
Now, if you spend as much time cooking over the grill as Raichlen, you’ll get good enough to where this method is foolproof. But, if you need some reassurance that your meat has cooked enough, there’s no shame in using a meat thermometer. I own an inexpensive digital model, and it’s a tool I use all the time at home.