The level of doneness is all about how you like your steak cooked. It lies on the continuum between rare and well-done.
The most common (and most desired) is medium-rare, which literally means 50% – done and 50% – raw.
Tips below will help you to get excellent results (with a bit of practice).
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First things first. Before we start moving somewhere, we need a clear target!
This chart is handy, if you have a food thermometer and are able to measure the temperature inside your steak.
Typically there are…
Six Levels of Steak Doneness
- Blue/Very Rare (115F / 46C). Slightly seared surface with entirely red meat in the middle. Kind of hard to chew.
- Rare (120F / 49C). Extra few degrees add up to protein coagulation. As a result it becomes easier to chew and remains juicy. This is my favorite doneless level.
- Medium-rare (126F / 52C). Literally means that first half of meat is cooked and the second one is still rare. This is the most popular degree of doneness.
- Medium (134F / 57C). This is when the flavor and juiciness start deteriorating. However it’s ideal for people who don’t find rare meet attractive to eat – a steak with this doneness is still nice.
- Medium-well (150F / 66C). Less moisture, flavor and tenderness. This is already considered overdone.
- Well-done (160F / 71C). You can call this “oh, I forgot to switch the oven off”. Dry, flavorless, dead =/.
When To Check Steak Doneness Level
To be on the safe side and not to overcook the steak, I recommend checking the inside temperature BEFORE you think your steak is ready.
So, if you think it will be ready in 20 minutes(according to these steak cooking times approximations), check in 10 and see what it’s like.
It never hurts to recheck within the next 5 minutes to measure the trend and see if there was any change.
I tend to check the doneness level when using one of the following cooking methods:
- Searing steak on stove and finishing it in oven both, when I just put it inside the oven and in 5-10 minutes.
- Pan-searing steak on stove after 1-2 minutes on each side.
- During broiling steak in oven within the first 5-10 minutes and then around every 5-7 minutes.
- Slowly cooking a steak in oven at low heat – usually once in 15 minutes (the temperature is very low, so there isn’t much to worry about in terms of over cooking).
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Steak Doneness Hand Test (i.e. Doneness Finger Test)
So if you don’t have a thermometer (or unwilling to get it), this hand touch test might be useful for you.
Basically you need to put the fingers the same way as on the image, so the tension you create in the testing area resembles the level of doneness of the steak you are making.
Personally I never use this method, because my palms are just too tough after all the strength training I go through. Even when it’s supposed to be rare, my palm indicates at least a medium-well! =)
If you are like me or just can’t get a hang of it (and don’t want to buy the probe), next way to check the doneness degree might work for you!
See it below…
Steak Doneness Time
Yes, good old time-based method. Even though many chefs blame time guidelines for not allowing people to get good results, surprisingly, they quite often work really well (I mean the guidelines).
So, general temperature guidelines for a 1inch / 2.5cm thick steak at room temperature, cooked on the stovetop, using a skillet are:
- Blue/Very Rare. 2-2.5 minutes per side (PS).
- Rare. 2.5 – 3 minutes PS. Good for premium cuts like rib eye, NY strip, filet mignon.
- Medium-rare. 3-4 minutes PS. Ideal for tougher cuts like round steak, flank, skirt and chuck. Great for premium-cuts.
- Medium. 4-5 minutes PS. Tougher cuts will get quite tough here. Still good for premium cuts.
- Medium-well. 5-6 minutes PS. Only ok for premium cuts.
- Well-done. 6-infinity PS. Only premium cuts.
Not perfect, this time guide is a good starting point. You are free to adjust it, depending on things like steak thickness, room temperature, your stove power etc.
Note that, when preparing steak in oven, time frames would be slightly different.
Other Ways To Make Sure Your Steak IS Super Awesome
As I said, a lot of deliciousness in beef comes from correct temperature and appropriate doneness level. But what else can you do to really make your steak taste really good?
Here are some ideas:
- Marinate. Try our marinades to add some new flavor and tenderness to your beef. New to marinating? See this quick guide and check these tips to help make your marinating top class.
- Recipes. Our round steak recipes are also at your disposal.
- Tenderize. How to make a tough and chewy cut resemble a premium steak? Find a way to tenderize it.
- Sauce recipes. Any steak can taste much better with a healthy sauce.
Have fun getting to perfection! Leave a comment, if you are stuck with anything.
Enjoy delicious steak!
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