Cooking to your preferred level of steak doneness (or someone else’s) is difficult. You may be able to reach an approximate level by poking your steak or cooking it for an appropriate time, but these methods are not as foolproof as relying on steak temperatures. It may also compromise your meal’s main attraction.
Steak temperatures and cooking time rely on size, shape, and cooking method. There’s an easier way to help you reliably reach your desired steak doneness, though.
Whether you like it rare or well done, follow these simple steps to make sure you always reach the right steak temperatures.
Thermometers for Steak Temperatures
If you want the desired level of steak doneness, you will need to measure your steak’s internal temperature accurately. However, without a meat thermometer, you will be unable to tell the exact steak temperatures.
It is especially important to know your steak’s internal temperature because it continues to cook when you remove it from the heat source. It is easy to overcook a scrumptious piece of meat without temperature readings and ruin your meal.
Most cooks at home and in the top steak houses use instant-read digital pen thermometers. It ensures that your meat reaches temperatures high enough to kill the bacteria that cause illness without spoiling the steak.
Steak Temperature Cooking Chart
|Steak Doneness||Internal Temperature||Grill Time at 400°F Each Side||How Does the Steak Look?|
|Blue||100° F (38° C)||1 min.||Seared outside, completely red inside|
|Rare||125° F (52° C)||2:30 min.||Cool, red center with only small traces of pink|
|Medium Rare||135° F (57° C)||3:30 min.||Dark pink to red center with lighter outer ring|
|Medium||145° F (63° C)||4:30 min.||No dark red, and it should be pink throughout with dark brown edging|
|Medium Well||150° F (66° C)||5:30 min.||Some pink in the middle but mostly browned on the inside|
|Well Done||160° F (71° C)||6:30 min.||Hot at the center with no pink visible|
Steak Temps & Times
When you test if your steak is cooked correctly, insert your thermometer tip into the center of the steak. Avoid any bone or fat.
Remove the meat from your heat source when it reaches 5° F lower than the steak temperature listed on our cooking chart for your preferred steak doneness. Then, let it rest so that it will cook through to completion.
Blue Steak Temp
100° F (38° C)
Grill Time at 400°F Each Side: 1 minute
To make a real blue steak, you should not let the internal temperature exceed 115° F. It should be seared on the outside and completely red on the inside after a total cooking time of two minutes.
As it is close to raw, a blue steak’s texture is soft and incredibly chewy. However, most bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, like E. coli, only inhabit the steak’s surface. Blue steak is safe to eat as long as the chef follows specific preparation procedures.
You need to make sure that the entire surface is sealed brown and that you sterilize the cooking tongs after putting the steak in the pan and before flipping it over.
Rare Steak Temp
125° F (53° C)Grill Time at 400°F Each Side: 2.30 min.
Seared around the edges, red interior.
At an internal temperature of 125° F, rare steak will have a center that is cool (or only slightly warm) after two-and-a-half minutes on each side. The soft meat will have almost no resistance to pressing it with a finger. The center should be completely red with small amounts of pink near the cooked edges.
Like blue steaks, rare steaks have minimal searing on the surface. While restaurants do not typically recommend rare steaks, this steak doneness has become increasingly popular with advances in sanitation and food preparation techniques.
It is easier to cook a steak for longer than start cooking a new one, so restaurants commonly prepare their steaks slightly on the rare side.
Medium-Rare Steak Temp
135° F (57° C)Grill Time at 400°F Each Side: 3.30 min.
Seared outside, pinkish red interior.
Medium-rare steaks reach the desired temperature of 135° F after about seven minutes. The piece remains dark pink to red in the center but has a lighter ring on the outside edges. You want your medium-rare steak to give only slight resistance and to be a little warm throughout.
Medium-rare remains the most popular level of doneness for steaks prepared at home or in restaurants. Steaks that are cooked medium-rare have a balanced moistness that accentuates your meat’s natural texture and flavor. Your steak will be warm enough to melt the fat marbling but not hot enough to lose the flavorful and pink center.
Medium Steak Temp
145° F (63° C)Grill Time at 400°F Each Side: 4.30 min.
Pink center surrounded by brown meat.
The medium option is also popular. It meets the USDA-recommended internal cooking temperature of 145° F after four-and-a-half minutes on each side.
A medium steak should be completely warm and have no visible dark red. It should instead be pink throughout with darker brown edging. Pressing this steak with your finger gives slight resistance and springs back somewhat.
Almost as popular as medium-rare steaks, it is the base by which steaks are judged in the Steak Cookoff Association. However, this steak doneness is difficult to reach with cooking methods that use high temperatures. Reverse searing is a reliable way to achieve even cooking across the entire cut.
Medium-Well Steak Temp
150° F (66° C)Grill Time at 400°F Each Side: 5.30 min.
Faint pink color throughout.
Your steak will turn out medium-well when you cook each side for five-and-a-half minutes until it reaches 150° F at its thermal center. There is still some pink in the hot center, but most of the steak will be browned. If you press it with your finger, a medium-well steak will be firm with a considerable amount of spring.
Medium-well steaks are not as popular as the previous entries. The option is still liked by people who want less pink showing, but the steak might be on its way to being drier and chewier. These steaks tend to lose the moist and juicy appeal of rarer options.
Well Done Steak Temp
160° F (71° C)Grill Time at 400°F Each Side: 6.30 min.
Solid brown color throughout.
The steak you cook should reach a maximum of 160° F, at which point they are considered well done. With over six minutes of cooking time for each side, the steak will have shrunk and turned entirely gray-brown without any signs of pink. The center will be hot and the whole steak firm and springy to touch.
Well done steaks can be challenging to cook without burning and are almost guaranteed to be dry and bland. People who prefer their steaks without pinkness tend to make up for the lost moisture and flavor by using steak sauce or other condiments.
While some consumers look down on this choice, prepare your steak is a matter of preference. If that’s how you like it, it is up to you.
How to Temp a Steak! (Finding the Thermal Center)
An instant-read or meat thermometer is an easy way to consistently prepare your steaks the way you like them. To find steak temperatures, insert the thermometer’s probe into the top of the steak and avoid bone. Push it just past where the center of the steak should be, and slowly pull it back until you find the coolest spot (normally called the thermal center).
When checking to see if your steak has reached its target temperature, use the reading from the thermal center to decide when to pull it away from your heat source.
The temperature gradient tends to be wider in thicker pieces, so it may be easier to temp your steak from the side. Use a pair of tongs to lift the steak from your pan or grill and insert the thermometer probe into the center on its side.
You will find the thermal center in the same way, by pushing past the middle of the steak and pulling it back slightly until you reach the coolest reading.
The perfect steak is only a few minutes away. Grab a thermometer and your favorite cut of beef and head to the grill for an unforgettable meal in under 13 minutes.