It’s easy to get confused about the cooking temperature for steak, so we’ve created this post just as a simple reference to use as a guide for when cooking or grilling steaks you can get the right temperature and have it cooked the way you like it.
There are basically five different ways for a steak to be cooked, all of which reference to the level of “doneness” of the steak. There is rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, and well done. Rare is usually red in the middle, and as my mom used to say, “still mooing”. Medium rare is a little bit less red, but pretty darn dark pink. Medium is slightly lighter pink, but still pretty pink throughout the entire middle of the steak. Medium well is just a hint of pink through the center, and well means no pink at all.
Now, some people will tell you that rare to medium is the only way to eat a steak, and that if you eat a steak at medium well or well done you’ve completely destroyed the steak. At the same time, if you ever look at the asterisks and disclaimers on a restaurant menu, they’re required by law in many areas to tell you that consuming raw or undercooked foods can put you at higher risk for food borne illnesses. So, really, if you eat your steaks cooked, you’re not committing a crime against nature, you’re pretty much just practicing food safety! So don’t be ashamed if you like your steaks medium well or well done.
When you’re cooking a steak, one of the most challenging things is trying to figure out how long you should cook it. Since steaks come in various shapes, cuts, grades, thickness, and more, there is not set answer for “how long should I cook a steak?” Instead, the best thing to do is to learn the cooking temperatures for steaks and use a meat thermometer to tell what the temperature is to gauge when the steak is done or if it still needs to cook for a little bit longer.
Some professional cooks will tell you they don’t need a thermometer. They can tell if it is done just by pressing on the steak. They say that a steak will feel as firm as the palm of your hand does where it meets your fingers when it is done. But, this obviously will vary from person to person (not everyone has the same amount of flabby/firmness to their hands!) and many people simply cannot focus on their sense of touch enough to really be able to tell.
You could try cutting into the steak to see if it is done yet, but then you really risk screwing it up, especially if it needs to cook for very much longer. The most accurate way to cook a steak and know that it is at the right temperature is through using a digital meat thermometer which will tell you exactly how hot the steak is in the middle and therefore the level of doneness.
Here is a quick list of the cooking temperatures for steak:
Rare: Between 120-125 degrees
Medium Rare: Between 130-135
Medium: Between 140-145 degrees
Medium Well: Between 150-155 degrees
Well Done: Anything above 160 degrees
If you have any questions or comments about the cooking temperature for steak, share them in the comments section below!