Have you ever asked yourself “How do I want my steak cooked?”, “Is it safe to eat a rare steak or should I go for medium instead?”.
Even though each one of us has its own preferences when it comes to food, there is actually a recommended steak doneness which most chefs recommend to cook your meat to.
We have prepared a quick all-around guide, so you can get a better understanding of how to cook a steak to the recommended perfect steak doneness level.
Finding the Perfect Steak Doneness Level
Infographic by FuriousGrill.Com
What are the differences between doneness levels?
The main difference between all the steak doneness levels is the internal temperature of the meat. That is the real factor that tells you the correct doneness level. In the US, there are in total six doneness levels: Blue Rare, Rare, Medium Rare, Medium, Medium Well and Well Done.
The results for each doneness level are highly impacted by the steak type and location. For example, some cuts are recommended to be cooked on Medium-Rare while some others, like Wagyu, for example, are best at Rare doneness level.
The Blue Rare and Rare doneness are the two entry cooking levels. The Blue rare is reached at 115°F and about 125-130°F of internal temperature is considered Rare doneness. The meat on these doneness level has a very red center, almost raw, with a very pinkish-red color around it.
The Medium Rare and Medium levels are two of the most popular doneness levels. They 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 also the best temperature point to cook a steak, based on several recommendations from chefs all around the world. At these temperatures, the meat reaches its maximum flavor and juiciness, making it very delicious to eat.
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.
Which is the Best: Medium Rare or Medium?
As you may already know, medium rare and medium are two of the best steak doneness levels. Why? The internal meat 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 meat juice 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 and notice when your steak is 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 in your yards, 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, is 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 what a medium rare steak should feel like.
Obtaining the perfect steak doneness level may require some practice, especially if you are a beginner.
It doesn’t matter if you cook it on a grill, in a smoker or in a 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’s internal temperatures, you will begin to easily cook a perfect steak. Making it very flavorful, with plenty of juices and very enjoyable to eat.
Pro Tip: A Great Steak Rub is always an awesome way to amp up the flavor!
I hope this article helped you learn a little more about steak doneness levels and that it will make you feel more confident next time you plan to cook a steak.