Rule of thumb for temperatures for removing beef from heat?

I don't cook steak very often but will be doing a lot of grilling in the next few weeks. Anyone have a general rule of thumb for temperatures for removing steaks from heat - meaning, from frying pan, oven or on a grill? (I have a digital thermometer.) This would be for "plain" steaks - maybe marinated but not covered or wrapped or a stew, etc. For example, do you always remove them from heat X degrees before desired temperature, then let it rest and cook a few degrees more? Will be using less expensive cuts (not something like filet). Thanks!

  • Posted by: Pegeen
  • July 21, 2012


dozer August 20, 2012
Thumb Rule. Loosely place the tip of your thumb and tip of your pointer finger together and feel the ball of your thumb for rare. For medium place the tip of your thumb together with your tip of your third finger. For well done place the tip of your thumb to the tip of your baby finger.
Pegeen July 23, 2012
Bugbitten, thanks for the various tips. Um, regarding PAM: have to agree, looks a little weird. I guess it's the same concept as basting with an oil/acidic mix, except you don't get all the preservative and aerosole compounds. What works for me is to get some new, cheap washcloths or dishtowels. Pour some canola or other low-smoke oil on them, grab them with a tongs and rub down the grill. Use them a couple times at the most and toss.
bugbitten July 23, 2012
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I recently took some advice about oiling the product and then maybe the grate. Theory is that the hot grill will cook the oil in a flash and make the surface tacky. Made sense to me and I just was wanting to pass that along.

My final boy scout thought is that those thermapen batteries go suddenly, and are not the easiest to find.
Pegeen July 23, 2012
Pierino the reference to the Papal Conclave in your recipe made me laugh.

Am finding everyone's info very helpful. I can cook fish, chicken and lamb without disgrace because of experience but have had much less exposure to grilled beef. The "baste vs marinade" topic is interesting - will try some comparison tests. Am spending some vacation time with friends who will bring a lot of beef (including tri-tip - where did I put my doctor bag and syringes?), so it should be fun - plenty of chances to practice. Have Thermapen, will travel.

FYI, Thermapen has a sale on right now on open-box stock. Still expensive but at least a bit of a discount.
pierino July 23, 2012
Here's stil another treatment

Tri-tip is now the generally accepted name for this cut. On the East Coast it used to be hard to find; sometimes known as triangle steak. It's become quite popular now but it's been famous here on the other coast for decades.
bigpan July 22, 2012
"Touch" method = some say to feel the muscle between your thumb and index finger as you "touch" your index finger to your thumb, or middle finger, or ring finger, or little finger. You will feel the difference in your muscle tighten to give an "approximatation" of rare, medium rare, medium and well done.
I think you simply have to learn from practice. Pop a steak on the grill and press with your finger (or I simply use my tongs) and feel the "give " of the meat.
I like medium rare. When I feel the softness to my liking, I would make a slice in the meat to make sure. After a while you get the hand of it and can impress your guests (and yourself).
Do not worry if the first couple times your undercook or overcook...that is called learning.
And, of course, if ever in doubt, do not wreck the meat - use a high quality instant read thermometer and test on each end and middle.
Meat with bone - that's a whole other story.
bugbitten July 22, 2012
And I go further with my truisms:
1) You might be tricked into doing so, but never knowingly buy steak labeled round, unless you are in deep winter and craving an indifferent stew.
2) You might want to invest in a good carver and board. Victorinox, 35 U.S. bucks.
3) You know you have asked a good question on Food52 when Pierino answers it twice, and twice on-the-money.
4) Do whatever it takes to have fun.
bugbitten July 22, 2012
Here's a starter marinade that has worked for me:

1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 3 minced garlic cloves, and one Tablespoon each of chili powder, cumin, brown sugar and tomato paste (buy a tube or make catsup with the rest of the can.)

I don't think that marinades that contain lemon juice or any other acids are worthwhile. This one works because the salty soy sauce gets quickly absorbed along with the "southwest" seasonings, and you can add any kind and amount of hot sauce to satisfy the hordes of men that are crowding around you demanding meat.

Further unsolicited advice: don't let anyone see you spraying Pam on both sides of the steaks before putting them on the grill. It's the best method, but looks way odd.
pierino July 22, 2012
I'm for the most part a big "disser" of marinades in general (although I do have a Korean style one posted to Food52). A baste is better. Begin with simple seasoning of salt, pepper, and some variety of paprika aka pimenton first, applied directly to the meat. For the baste, just oil and wine vinegar combined with some appropriate meat herbs. Shake it up. Baste.
Pegeen July 22, 2012
Thanks, bugbitten. All these tips make me less nervous. I seem to grill everything except steaks... just not often on the menu here. Now off to start researching marinades...
bugbitten July 22, 2012
Hi, Peg-o-my heart! My own opinion is that those less expensive cuts can be the best. It's tough to get a true reading on even the best digi thermometer with skirt steak, so I undercook it, and then return it to the grill if it's too bloody after the resting. This makes me look like a fine cook who knows what he is doing.

With "London Broil" I like a garlicky marinade, and a digi temp around 125F. Best
Pegeen July 21, 2012
Thanks everyone - this is very helpful.
ChefOno July 21, 2012

There are so many variables -- thickness and cut of meat, bone or boneless, type of coals, distance to coals, grill covered or uncovered, degree of doneness (rare vs. medium), outside air temp…

Try pulling 5-10 degrees (F) before your target temp.

Rest thick steaks 15-20 min., tented or in a warm spot, thin ones 10 min.

Meat is dense and retains heat well. Don't worry about it cooling down too much during resting.

pierino July 21, 2012
I'm "sort of" with ChefOno on ths one. I always cook over real wood charcoal and use a Thermapen (indispensible) for grilling. You want to stick that sucker in a fleshy part, away from the bone and hope that it's about 130F for beef. Yes! Tent and rest but be aware that most of the crapola "instant reads" are not going to give you a true reading in less than 20 seconds. And that's a long time.
Pegeen July 21, 2012
bigpan - thanks. I understand what touch method means, but how would you describe your own? Any advice is helpful (esp given the price of beef!).
bigpan July 21, 2012
I am sure the cooking temp is a factor - fast high heat versus slower medium heat. I mostly BBQ steaks of at least 1" thickness (thicker is better) and I use the touch method for medium rare.
I suggest you experiment with your style of cooking and start resting the meat 10F below your target temp.
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