It's a dilemma that plagues us all. How do you know when your steak is done? Is it rare, medium-rare, or well-done?
We get it – cooking meat can be tricky. To help you out, we've created this handy guide to the best steak doneness level for every cut of meat!
Have you ever asked yourself ‘What is the best doneness level for my steak?’ Is it safe to eat a rare steak or should I go for medium instead?
Even though each one of us has our own preferences when it comes to food, there is actually a recommended steak doneness level which most chefs recommend to cook your meat at.
We have prepared a quick all-around guide (and a good-looking infographic to go with it) so you can get a better understanding of how to achieve the perfect steak doneness.
Steak Doneness Infographic
Infographic by FuriousGrill.Com
What are the differences between doneness levels?
The main difference between all the steak doneness levels is the internal temperature. That is the real factor that tells you the correct doneness level. In the US, there are six doneness levels: Blue Rare, Rare, Medium Rare, Medium, Medium Well and Well Done.
The desired doneness level will depend on the cut of steak that you purchase. For example, some cuts are recommended to be cooked to Medium-Rare while some, like Wagyu, for example, are best at a Rare doneness level.
Blue Rare and Rare are the two entry cooking levels. Blue rare is reached at 115°F and about 125-130°F of internal temperature is considered Rare. The meat on these doneness levels has a very red center, almost raw, with a very pinkish-red color around it.
Medium Rare and Medium are reached at 130-140° for the first one and 140-150°F for the second one. Both these levels have a warm pink center with a brownish color around it.
Medium Rare and Medium are the most popular points of doneness when cooking a steak, and for very good reason. At these temperatures, the meat reaches its maximum flavor and juiciness, making it very delicious to eat. It is the temperature most chefs recommend.
Medium Well and Well Done are the last cooking points for a steak. They are reached at 150-160°F for the medium well and 160-210°F for the well done level. These two levels are hardly recommended by any chefs as most of them think that the meat is overcooked at these temperature points, as the meat loses most of its juiciness and become dry. In fact, some restaurants will refuse to even try to cook a steak to this level of doneness.
Which is the Best: Medium Rare or Medium?
Medium rare and medium are two of the best levels to cook your steak. Why? The internal temperature ranging between 130-150°F is the ideal cooking point for most steaks, making the meat very tender, juicy, full of flavor and very delicious to eat.
The other doneness levels, especially the medium-well and well-done expose the meat to heat for a longer amount of time. This additional heat evaporates the juices and makes it a bit dry and tougher to eat. That’s why most of the well done steaks taste a bit like leather and are very hard to chew.
As for deciding between medium rare or medium, I think is more a matter of preference. There is no big difference between the two. I personally think that medium rare is the best one because the steak is juicier and with more flavor.
How to Spot a Medium Rare Steak?
One of the easiest ways to cook your steak to a medium rare temperature is by getting an instant-read thermometer. They are very easy to use and only cost a couple of dollars. I know that there are some grill models that have a built-in thermometer, like natural gas grills models built on your garden, but they aren’t 100% accurate, especially when you need to measure the center of the meat.
Also, one cooking tip you should have in mind is that when measuring the temperature, you should have in mind that the meat will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from the heat, that’s why it is recommended to remove it 5° below the target temperature.
If you don’t want to spend money on an instant read thermometer, you can use alternative methods like comparing the meat with your hand.
The hand doneness test is one of the most popular ways to test the steak doneness and once you get used to it, you can tell pretty easy at which doneness level your meat is.
For a medium rare level, you should compare the firmness of the meat with the base of your hand. Start by touching your middle finger with the tip of your thumb. Then, feel the base of your thumb with your other hand and compare the firmness of it with your meat. That’s how a medium rare steak should feel like.
Cooking the perfect steak may require some practice, especially if you are a beginner.
It doesn’t matter if you cook it on a grill, smoker, or pan, an instant read thermometer is always a better choice than going for the traditional hand doneness test.
Once you get used to identifying the steak internal temperatures, you will easily cook a perfect steak, very flavorful, with plenty of juices and very enjoyable to eat.
I hope this article helped you to gain a little knowledge about how to cook a steak and makes you feel more confident next time you plan to cook one.