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As we approach the season of holiday roasts, pork loins, and The-Bird-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, meat anxiety can come to an all-time high. What if you bring a glorious, crispy-skinned masterpiece to the table and cut into it, only to discover that the meat is tough and dry? Or, worse, rubbery and undercooked?
You don't panic, that's what. Because with these tricks, you can slip back into the kitchen and fix your ill-cooked pièce de résistance with confidence.
Here's how to fix your meat if it's...
Before we can fix the problem of overcooked meat, we must first understand its cause. Meat is composed of three basic elements: protein, fat, and liquid. The fat contributes flavor while the liquid makes the meat nice and juicy. However, when meat is cooked for too long, all of the fat and liquid render out. Without them, all that's left is a bunch of tough, flavorless protein. Very unappetizing.
First, the bad news. Once the fat and liquid are gone, there's no getting them back. You can't force your meat to re-absorb more of either.
Now, the good news: You can mask their departure by adding other fat or liquids on top of or around your meat, essentially distracting your guests with some slight-of-hand. Cover overcooked meat with a generous pour of the sauce you were planning on serving on the side (hello, GRAVY). If your meat needs an extra juicy boost, dip it in warm stock first.
If you're not serving the meat immediately, you can redeem it by transformation. Turn overcooked chicken or beef into a filling for enchiladas, tacos, or ravioli. Add chopped meat to sauces, or use it to top a very jazzy sandwich, pizza, or salad.
One thing you should never do is add your overcooked meat to soup. It might sound like a logical solution; the meat has lost its liquid, so why not serve it in a broth? Sadly, this just doesn't work. Think back to cafeteria chicken noodle soup if you need a mental image.
More: For turkey that is always, always juicy, try this Genius technique.
While undercooked meat might be more dangerous than overcooked meat, it's also easier to fix. Obviously, all you have to do is cook it some more. The trick is in how to do so on the double, and without drying out your cut of meat.
Don't just put the cut back into the oven or pot as-is; cut down on cooking time by slicing it into smaller pieces. The more undercooked it is, and the sooner you want to eat it, the thinner you'll want to slice it. Place the meat in an oiled roasting pan or Dutch oven; drizzle it with some stock, sauce, or water; cover it with aluminum foil; and bake the whole thing in a 400° F oven until cooked. Poultry is cooked when the meat has an internal temperature of 165 ° F, or when its juices run clear. Pork is at its juiciest when its internal temperature is 135° F.
Once again, if you don't need to serve the meat right away, you can repurpose it in other dishes. Slice or shred the undercooked meat and add it to dishes that will need to be cooked again, like enchiladas, soups, or curries.
Do you have any go-to strategies for fixing under- or overcooked meat, besides taking deep breaths? Tell us in the comments!