Kitchen Hacks

The Perfect Medium Rare Steak

April 13, 2012

Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, Amanda shows us three ways to tell if a steak is medium rare.

A perfect medium rare steak is a glorious thing: rosy, juicy, with just the right amount of char. And, as Amanda shows, it's easy to achieve. Here, she shares three temperature-testing techniques that will guarantee meat cooked just to your liking. Take your pick ... and dig in. (Like we did -- just watch for the end of the video. You'll see why we couldn't help ourselves.)

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This week's video was shot by our friend Alex Lisowski and edited by Dimon Hunter.

Photo by Nicole Franzen

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Canela February 22, 2015
I found myself touching my steaks and if it bounces back up you got Medium Rare steak
slidedtd April 17, 2012
I too found this post to be a bit lacking...Helen, I agree 100 %. The resting is the most important part of the cooking process, allowing the juices to distribute throughout the meat and bringing the temp up that last few degrees :)
Helen R. April 16, 2012
These are all good basic principals, but the devil is in the details:

1) if you are reading 130 when you are testing your steak, it will not be medium-rare. After resting it will be much more done. How much residual heat you'll get depends on the thickness of the steak and the heat intensity. But you should expect a 10-15 degree rise. When I cook a thick steak (1.75 inches), I take it off the heat at 115F and let it rest in a warm place for 12-15 minutes. After the rest it is indeed 130F.

2) if you insert a thermometer the way you do in the picture, your temperature reading can be incredibly inaccurate. If your sensor is too close to the top or bottom of the steak , your reading doesn't count. Insert a thermometer sideways. If the steak isn't thick enough to insert a thermometer sideways (like skirt steak), there is no need to worry about doneness -- if the outside is brown, the steak is done (maybe even overdone :)

3) If you are cutting into the steak and looking for medium-rare, you'll be eating a disappointing steak. If you want a medium-rare steak, you should take it off the heat when the center looks quite raw.
Tatanka April 16, 2012
I watch the juice that is coming up from the steak. If it's red, it's rare, but when it starts to look clear, it's usually medium rare. I do like cutting into the steak to see how well it's done though.
drewkal April 15, 2012
The Thermapen's ( sensor is at the very tip of the probe, giving you the ability to get a very accurate reading as you have exact knowledge of where the temp's being taken. These thermometers are indestructible, extremely accurate, and simple to use. Their site will give you a complete education on well as many other options for more specialized applications. I reccomend highly!
meganbenn April 15, 2012
A little cut will not ruin the steak and you're going to cut it to eat it anyway. I think it's sad when beginning cooks are told they must never do certain things or they will ruin their food. It's so intimidating. People should do what they're comfortable with and understand why one method might be preferred.
Martha H. April 15, 2012
At some point, I was told that thermometers have specific spot on them where they measure the temperature of the food. Unless you specifically have a thermomter with a heat sensor in the tip, the temperature sensor is marked with a little divot in the metal rod about 1.5 inches or so up from the tip. I was told that the thermometer has to be inserted to that divot mark, preferably so that it's in the middle of the area you're trying to measure. With the heat sensor more than an inch above the tip, I could never figure out how measure temperaturely accurately on thinner cuts (such as the steak Amanda's working with here in the video), so I invested in a somewhat more expensive thermometer that measures temp directly from the tip. It seems to do a much better job. (Or maybe I now just have a false sense of confidence in the numbers! : )

Does anybody have more knowledge on this heat sensor topic? Is my information accurate?
Amanda H. April 15, 2012
Unless you cook steak and lots of different cuts every day, the "feel" test is very difficult to get right. We approached the video with home cooks in mind -- to help take away the fear of overcooking steak. If you cut a small sliver into the steak (as most people do), it does not let all the juices spill out. A steak is not a balloon. We acknowledge that it's not the best method (a thermometer is best), and would earn us an F in cooking school, but we also think it's perfectly acceptable if you're nervous. Better to get the steak done to your liking!
drewkal April 15, 2012
I agree that cutting into the steak and peeking is a no-no! I like the Aussie method, but to double check, I often use my small diameter probe Thermapen to go in from the side of the meat, not the top, as I think this gives a more accurate reading. Go into the middle, height-wise, and penetrate righr to the center. Very little, if any juice leaks out through the small puncture.

bigpan April 15, 2012
Although it takes a bit of practice, I am not quite proficient at telling how the meat is done you simply touching it with my finger or tongs. There is also the method of touching your thumb to each finger and feeling the different softness of the muscle between your thumb and index finger - but that all depends on how thin or chubby your finger are !
sandyalli April 15, 2012
I too agree that cutting a steak open is NOT a good method at all. I was surprised to see it on the video!! I agree with the 'squish' test. A chef told me to test the firmness of the skin area between the thumb and pointer finger (with the fingers spread open). Pinch that skin and that should be the same firmness as medium rare. Once you get the jist of it, a simple pressing of a tong into the steak will tell you all you need to know!
ChrisVeros April 15, 2012
No offense but cutting the steak open to see if it's done doesn't really count as a "method," that's the default way.
The best way to tell is by the squishyness. I never really understood comparing to your hand-meat, but I just learned to gauge it by practice... a medium-rare steak should have a good amount of "squish" when you press on it. A good comparison is chicken- when a chicken breast is cooked it should have no squish, or it will still be pink in the middle.
Michael_owen April 14, 2012
ThiS is a "very"amateur way of telling and also "most"cooks in fact would never cut the steak or pierce it ever to tell. What happens is all the juices will run out and you will have a drier steak. The best way it by feel or learn the minutes to pound based on type os steak being cooked.
edwardaggie98 April 13, 2012
I learned this one from the Australian livestock industry, and I like it because it doesn't involve piercing the meat at all. Make the "OK" sign with one of your hands (touch the tips of your thumb and index finger). Feel the fleshy part of your thumb -- the part on your palm just under your first thumb knuckle -- with your other hand. This is what a rare steak feels like when you poke it.

Now, switch fingers. Touch your middle finger's tip to your thumb tip. Feel the same part of your thumb. That's medium rare. Ring finger = medium well; pinky = well done.

Hope that makes sense. (They had diagrams.)