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Everything You Need To Know About Steak Cooking Temperatures

From “Blue-Rare” to “Well-Done”!

Steak cooking temperatures are mainly a personal choice.

You may be the type who likes your steak bright red and juicy on the inside, or you may be squeamish about that and prefer that your steak is cooked until it’s well-done. There’s really no RIGHT WAY to cook a steak (or maybe I should say the RIGHT WAY to cook a steak is the way the person who will be eating it prefers it to be cooked). In any case, what I will say about steak cooking temperatures is that a steak that is cooked LESS (rare) is apt to be more tender and juicy then a steak that is cooked MORE (well-done).

A common misconception.

Many people are under the misconception that steak cooking temperatures are determined by the color of the cooked meat. This is only partly true. To cook a perfect steak, you must have an accurate method of knowing the actual INTERNAL TEMPERATURE of the meat. In other words, “RARE” doesn’t only mean that the meat will be bright red or bright pink in the center . . . it means that the internal temperature of the individual steak will be 120°, which, if you TOUCHED the center of the steak, it would feel “cool” on your fingertips. I need to be clear about this, because this can create a problem for a person who likes all of their food REALLY HOT. If you like your food REALLY HOT, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to cook a steak to Rare and have it be HOT on the inside. (A rare steak will NEVER be HOT – it will be COOL to the touch because the internal temperature of the steak is only 120°!)

Everything You Need To Know About Steak Cooking Temperatures

Temperature Probes.

No matter what anyone tells you, the ONLY WAY to effectively know the proper internal steak cooking temperature is to use a reliable temperature probe (sometimes referred to as a steak thermometer) that is specially designed for cooking steaks and other small items of food to the proper temperature. Now, I’m not talking about the large meat thermometers that you use for roasts, turkeys and other large cuts of meat. These thermometers can be unreliable when cooking steak because it just takes too long for the temperature to correctly appear on the readout of the thermometer. A good temperature probe is usually digital and it’s small enough to fit in your vest pocket (in fact, many temperature probes come with a “pen clip” on them so that you can do just that . . . keep it in your vest pocket just like you do with your favorite pen).

I might also add here that a good temperature probe is only as good as the calibration of the probe. (Calibration is simply the method that is used to check the probe to make sure that proper steak cooking temperature is correctly registering on the probe.) My point in bringing this up is that it is very important that you calibrate your temperature probe each time you use it, because an incorrect temperature probe can mean an over-cooked or under-cooked steak! And frankly, I think that you’ll agree with me that steaks are just too expensive to take that kind of risk!

At the end of this article, I’ve explained to you exactly how to calibrate a temperature probe, using a method that the professionals use called the “ice point method”.

How do the “BIG GUYS” do it?

If you’re wondering how they determine steak cooking temperatures at a Steakhouse or Restaurant, the method I’ve been describing to you is EXACTLY how they do it. Only the most seasoned Chefs in the best restaurants who have been preparing steaks for for decades can actually tell by looking and touching the steak what the internal temperature may actually be . . . and even then, it’s only their BEST GUESS! So take my advice and get yourself a reliable temperature probe so that you can accurately check the internal steak cooking temperatures of your steaks.

In my own Steakhouse that I owned for almost 20 years, it was MANDATORY that all of my chefs and cooks have a steak probe in their vest pocket at ALL TIMES!

What are the CORRECT Steak Cooking Temperatures?

The table below shows the correct temperatures for you to successfully cook your steaks to PERFECTION! Keep in mind that even after you
remove the steak from the heat source (the grill, the oven or the pan), it CONTINUES TO COOK for several minutes, so if you’re really ADAMANT about getting the exact steak temperature, remove the steak a few minutes BEFORE it reaches the temperatures shown below to compensate for this.

The other important point I’d like to mention is that the temperatures shown below are the temperatures in the CENTER of the steak. If you place your probe near the OUTSIDE EDGE of the meat, you will very likely come up with the WRONG STEAK COOKING TEMPERATURE! You must place the probe in the CENTER of the steak! Don’t poke it all the way through and be careful that you don’t have it resting on the grate of your grill or the edge of a baking dish, because this will give you an INCORRECT READING due to the fact that the grate or baking dish is hotter than the steak!

BLUE RARE, 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Centigrade)
To prepare a “Blue Rare” steak, you cook it very quickly so that the outside is seared, but the inside is still cool and BARELY COOKED. The steak will be blood red on the inside and barely warm, or not warm at all (your own body temperature is somewhere around 98.6°, so that will give you an idea of just how cool this steak will be). Blue Rare steaks are sometimes called “blood rare”, or are sometimes referred to as “Pittsburgh Rare”, or “Black and Blue” (black on the outside and “blue-rare” on the inside)

RARE, 120° Fahrenheit (48.9° Centigrade)
The outer edges of the steak just under the surface will be gray-brown, and the middle of the steak will be red and slightly warm.

MEDIUM-RARE, 126° Fahrenheit (52.2° Centigrade)
The steak will have a fully red center, and will be warm to the touch.

MEDIUM, 135° Fahrenheit (57.2° Centigrade)
The center of the steak is red, the outer edges will be pink, and the center of the steak will be warm to hot to the touch.

MEDIUM-WELL, 145° Fahrenheit (62.8° Centigrade)
The center of the steak will be light pink throughout, and will be hot to the touch.

WELL-DONE, 165° Fahrenheit (73.9° Centigrade)
The center of the steak is gray-brown throughout, the outside of the steak will likely be charred, and the center will be hot.

A Special Note about Well-Done Filet Mignon:

If you, or someone you’re cooking for, likes their Filet Mignon Well-Done, I highly recommend using a process called, “Butterflying” BEFORE you cook the filet. Filets are VERY THICK, and if you cook a filet long enough for it to be Well-Done, most likely the steak will be dried-out and burnt. Butterflying is where you horizontally cut through steak, but NOT ALL THE WAY THROUGH, and then open it up, resembling a butterfly. This makes the steak less thick, thereby it cooks quicker and is less likely to burn and dry out.

Butterflying a Filet:

CALIBRATING A TEMPERATURE PROBE USING THE ICE-POINT METHOD

This method of calibrating your temperature probe will give you PERFECT STEAK COOKING TEMPERATURES!

  • 1. Fill a large glass with crushed ice. Add clean tap water until the glass is full and stir well.
  • 2. Put the stem of the probe in the ice water mixture so that the entire sensing area is submerged. Do not let the stem of the probe touch the sides or bottom of the glass. Wait at least 30 seconds or until the temperature indicator stops moving.
  • 3. With the stem of the probe still in the ice water mixture, turn the adjusting nut until the thermometer reads 32°F (0°C). If calibrating a digital probe, press the reset button to automatically calibrate the temperature probe.