Steak Doneness

From rare to well done, know when your steak is just right

Rare steak with potatoes and arugula
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  • 01 of 06

    Cooking Steak to Desired Doneness

    Fillet mignon
    istetiana / Getty Images

    To properly gauge when a steak is cooked, you should know something about the meat before it hits the grill. Familiarizing yourself with the steak grade and cut will help you learn how it changes as it cooks. It is best to hold the raw steak in your hand and get the feel of it; in its uncooked form, the meat will feel spongy and soft and the fat around the steak will be harder. As the meat cooks, it becomes firmer and increasingly solid through the middle, while the fat softens and melts.

    Knowing...MORE how the steak "feels" as it cooks—going from squishy to firm—is one way of testing for doneness. Of course, there is no substitute for a good thermometer. Test for the correct temperature by sticking the probe of a reliable meat thermometer through the side of the steak to the center for accurate results. The times listed depend on the heat of the grill so watch your steak closely, monitor the temperature, and adjust accordingly until you find the right amount of time for your grill.

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  • 02 of 06

    Rare

    Filet mignon
    Claudia Totir / Getty Images

    This is the steak for the true carnivore who wants something nearly raw but gets it cooked (as little as possible) to be polite. A rare steak should be warm through the center, lightly charred on the outside, browned around the sides, and bright red in the middle. The meat should be soft to the touch, much like the raw meat, but browned over the surface. 

    For a 1-inch steak, place steak on​ a hot grill for 5 minutes. Turn and continue grilling for another 3 minutes. Cook to an internal...MORE temperature of 120 to 130 F (50 to 55 C).

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  • 03 of 06

    Medium Rare

    Medium rare steak on cutting board
    Diana Miller / Getty Images

    This is the recommended level of doneness for a good steak. Ask any chef how they like their steak prepared and they will almost all say medium rare. A medium rare steak should be warm through the middle and most of the center should be pink in color with a hint of red. The sides should be well browned, the top and bottom caramelized to a dark brown color with good grill marks. This steak's firm surface should give a bit toward the middle (it will spring back quickly). 

    For a 1-inch...MORE steak, place steak on a hot grill for 5 minutes. Turn and continue grilling for another 4 minutes to an internal temperature of 130 to 135 F (55 to 57 C).

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  • 04 of 06

    Medium

    Grilled meat and vegetables on rustic wooden table
    Milkos / Getty Images

    If you are grilling for a large group of people, this level of doneness often pleases most everyone. A medium-cooked steak should have a thick band of light pink through the middle, but more browned than pink. The sides should be a rich brown color and the top and bottom charred darkly (but not black). This steak should have some play through the middle but feel firm to the touch. 

    For a 1-inch steak, place steak on a hot grill for 6 minutes. Turn and continue grilling for another 4 minutes until...MORE an internal temperature of 140 to 150 F (60 to 65 C) is reached.

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  • 05 of 06

    Medium Well

    medium well grilled juicy beef steaks
    from_my_point_of_view / Getty Images

    This is the steak for the squeamish who don't want color in their meat. If you can sneak this one in for someone ordering well done you will be doing both of you a favor. A medium well steak should have a hint of pink in the very middle of the steak. The surface should be a dark brown with good charring on the top and bottom. This steak will be very stiff but still have a little squish in the center. 

    For a 1-inch steak, place steak on a hot grill for 7 minutes. Turn and continue grilling for...MORE another 5 minutes. Cook to an internal temperature of 155 to 165 F (68 to 74 C).

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  • 06 of 06

    Well

    New York Strip Steak,grilled,with baked potato
    monica-photo / Getty Images

    Most people will tell you that this is the steak for people who don't like steak. While there is some truth to that, it is a popular request, so any good griller needs to know how to do it. A well done steak is the hardest to cook. The secret is to do it low and slow—it's the only way to prevent burning while fully cooking it through the middle. 

    This steak should not be burnt on the outside. While there is not the faintest hint of pink in the middle, it should be browned through, not...MORE burnt through. This steak should feel solid to the touch.

    For a 1-inch steak, grill over medium heat between 10 and 12 minutes per side. It should reach an internal temperature of 170 F (77 C) or higher.