One thing that's tough about cooking leaner cuts of meat is the margin of error. If you overcook them, they get dry and unappetizing. If you undercook them, they may not be safe to eat.
I've found that the way to get perfectly-cooked lean meats, every time, is to use a meat thermometer.
For example, if you use a thermometer to cook your chicken breast to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, if will be very tender and juicy. I simply cannot recommend it enough.
Another time, I was working on a salmon recipe and popped in the thermometer almost as an afterthought. It's a good thing I did, because the salmon was done way sooner than I expected! If I had been cooking it by how it looked or how long I thought it should take, I would have ended up with a very overdone piece of fish.
To use a meat thermometer, insert as much of it through the meat as possible. For a chicken breast or fish fillet, the thermometer goes in almost horizontally. Cook the meat until it reaches your desired temperature (check out the USDA's Food Safety Factsheet for a simple guide to safe internal temperatures) and then remove it from the heat. Often it is wise to let the meat rest for a bit before serving, so follow the USDA's advice when it comes to various cuts of meat.
Here's a helpful chart with some great information about safely and effectively cooking meat!
And I've put together a guide to my favorite cooking equipment -- including thermometers -- on our Pinterest board. Check it out!
There are lots of amazing food safety resources in the Nutrition Education Store too!
And don't miss these amazing NEW resources:
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.