What Is the Red Juice in Steak?

When you unwrap a freshly bought steak, you’ll probably notice a good amount of red liquid in the packaging. The same thing happens when you cook a steak to rare or medium rare and then cut into it—there’s that reddish juice again on the plate. Let’s be clear from the start: that red stuff in the steak isn’t blood. And yes, you can absolutely eat it without any worries.

Many folks mistakenly refer to it as a “bloody steak,” which understandably leads to some hesitation. That’s precisely why I’ve compiled this helpful guide to clear up any confusion.

What’s the Red Stuff in Steak?

That red stuff in steak isn’t blood, even though it might look like it. It’s a mix of water and a protein called myoglobin. Myoglobin helps transport oxygen to an animal’s muscles. And when it’s exposed to oxygen, it gives the meat that familiar red hue.

In its natural state, myoglobin has a purplish appearance. But give it some time in the air or cook it up, and it can change, going from red to brown or even a grayish shade. So if your steak turns brown in the fridge after a day or two, it’s just the myoglobin doing its thing. No worries, the steak’s still good.

See my full guide on Why Does Raw Steak Turn Brown to learn more.

raw strip steak with red juice on plate
Raw strip steak with red juice on the plate

When you cook a fresh steak, something similar happens. As the steak gets hot, it lets go of its juices, changing color. If you’ve ever noticed, a well-done steak looks more grayish. It’s that myoglobin reacting to the heat, causing the switch. From this, it’s easy to see why a medium-rare steak, which spends less time with heat and oxygen, stays juicier and redder than a medium-well one.

juicy medium-rare steak
Juicy medium doneness steak

Myth: Rare Steak Contains Blood

When you see that deep red liquid in a rare steak, it’s easy to conclude that the steak has blood in it. But that’s not the case. Even the juiciest, rarest steak you’d get at a top-notch steakhouse doesn’t have blood. It might look “bloody,” but it’s not. That juice isn’t blood; it’s a mix of water and myoglobin, a protein that hasn’t had much contact with oxygen or heat.

Red Juices from Hanger Steak
Red Juices from Hanger Steak
Slice of a cooked flank steak
Slice of a cooked juicy medium rare flank steak

Here’s a thing to remember: as the steak cooks and warms up from the inside, it changes color. It starts releasing those juices, which can throw people off, making them think there’s blood involved. But when you cook a steak until it’s well-done, there’s no red liquid left. The heat evaporates the water, turning the myoglobin’s color and leaving you with a brown or gray steak.

So, the next time you see that red juice in a steak, remember it’s not blood. Trust me, the steak with that red liquid is safe and delicious.

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over 5 years, so he understands well all aspects of steak, from the types of steaks and their cooking times to choosing the best cooking technique for any steak.