A Visual Walk Through Steak Doneness | Temps,Times, and Tips

Every carnivore has VERY specific feelings when it comes to steak. For some, it needs to moo when you poke it with a fork and for others it has to be as tough as the leather shoe they are wearing to the steak house. What many people is ask is, how do you reproduce your favorite doneness at home? How do you make steak delicious for you or your guests?
A lot of people think that steak is very technical to cook to a certain doneness. With the proper tools and a little bit of patience, learning how to cook a steak can be a simple task. 
In the picture above, you'll see strip steaks cooked to varying degrees of doneness. Ranging from deep-red rare to grey well-done. Keep reading to learn about the different levels of doneness and how you can do it at home.

Testing a Steaks Doneness with a Meat Thermometor 

Lots of backyard barbecue pit masters and cooks alike use a meat thermometer. It is a quick way to see the inner temperature of the thickest part of the meat, and helps guide you to a doneness that you want. Usually they are inexpensive and can be found online or at most grocery stores. (I also wrote a blog about one here).

 Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

To use a meat probe or thermometer properly; insert it horizontally into the side of the meat, making sure the tip of the thermometer reaches the center, avoiding any fat or bone. Keep reading below to see the correct temps for each level of doneness for steak.


 Rare Steak

Internal Temperature Range: 125ºF to 130ºF

Cook Time (1 Inch Thick Boneless Steak): 3 minutes per side over high heat. 

What To Look For: Rare steak is the least cooked and reddest colored steak. And don't worry, that is not blood in your steak. The steak should have a light to moderate sear on the outside while having red on the inside, almost all the way to the edge. This is the second most popular way people choose to eat their steak! To cook it, heat up a cast iron pan or your grill. Cook over the high heat, only needing to flip once per side. After about 3 minutes per side, or if the internal temp reads 125ºF, you should take it off the heat and let it rest. WAIT about five to ten minutes before slicing.



Internal Temperature Range: 130ºF to 140ºF

Cook Time: 4 minutes per side over high heat.

What To Look For: This is the number one way people choose to eat steak. A medium-rare steak will have a properly seared outside with a reddish-pink in the center. Cook over high heat for four minutes per side or until the thermometer reads in the 130º-140ºF range. As always, wait five to ten minutes before slicing. 



Internal Temperature Range: 140ºF to 150ºF

Cook Time: 5 minutes per side over high heat.

What To Look For: Medium is the third most popular doneness level for steak. A typical medium steak will have a prominent sear on the outside with a thin layer of pink in the center. As the name says, medium is a good middle ground for steak eaters; especially those who are just beginning to eat red meat.



Internal Temperature Range: 150ºF to 160ºF

Cook Time: 5.5 to 6 minutes per side over high heat.

What To Look For: A medium-well steak will have a VERY prominent sear (or crust) on the outside. The inside will be a grayish color with little to no pink. 



Internal Temperature Range: 160ºF and above.

Cook Time: 6 to 6.5 minutes per side over high heat.

What To Look For: My tag line for my company is, "Grilling so rare, it's well done"™. However, I do not eat my steaks well done. I know people that do, even in my own family, but I find it unnecessary to kill the cow twice. ONLY KIDDING! People can eat steak however they like it. A well-done steak takes the longest to cook. The inside will be a light grayish-brown and will feel firm to the touch. When cooking a steak well-done, you run the risk of drying out the meat. 


The Hand Test: How to Test a Steaks Doneness WITHOUT a Meat Thermometer

Chef Eric Gephart of Kamado Joe shared this secret of the trade to me. He always says, "go by feel, not by temp". There is a lot of truth to that. Thermometers are great and have their place on the grilling deck or in the kitchen, but barbecue can also be about feel. The hand test is just that; by feel! This is also a cool party trick that will impress your friends and family! 

By touching your thumb to one of your other fingers and then using a finger from the other hand to feel the palm of your hand (just under your thumb), you can match the texture to your preferred level of doneness. See the series of photos below to see the hand test in action.

Cooking a steak can be daunting and is an expensive cut of meat to mess up. Using this guide, your own creative barbecue skills, and an open flame; you can become a grillionaire™ in your own backyard. 

1 comment


Good article. Nice to include temps as well. Thanks!

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