When I first starting cooking on my own, I had the unabashed optimism of someone who didn’t know failure. I could do whatever I wanted. And for the most part, that was true, except for when it came to steak. Cooking the perfect steak proved to be something that seemed simple, but was actually much harder.
After some trial and error, I finally worked out exactly how to cook a steak how I like it – rare. I was set. Until it came time to cook for other people, like my husband, who wouldn’t have touched rare steak if it was the last food on the planet and he was starving. So I found myself back in the kitchen and at the grill, trying to master the illusive task of cooking the perfect steak.
The good news is that if you don’t know how to get that steak exactly how you like it, I’m going to get you started. Here’s everything you need to know about cooking a steak to the right temperature, whether you want it rare, medium-rare, or well done.
The perfect rare steak is bright red in the center and pink toward the edges. The meat is tender, and warm throughout (just warm in the center).
If you are cooking a steak and want to get this perfect, use a meat thermometer and take the meat off the heat when the internal temperature is between 120 and 125 degrees.
Medium-rare steaks are very pink in the center and gradually get browner toward the outside. The steak is hot throughout, and starting to get firm.
An internal temperature should read 130-135 degrees.
At this point, the center of the steak is light pink and the rest of it is brown. It is hot throughout, and very firm to the touch.
It’s ready when your thermometer reads between 140-145 degrees.
When a steak is cooked to medium well, its center is just barely pink.
It’s done when its internal temperature reaches between 150-155 degrees.
Well done steaks are hard to the touch, and brown throughout. Your internal temperature will be at least 160 degrees.
Now that you know what you are looking for, it’s time to get cooking. Get out your meat thermometer and have some fun.