Our Guide to Steak Temperatures
Cooking Steak Perfectly Every Time
It seems there is a lot of confusion out there about what temperature to cook a steak at to get the perfect results. Well, we've cooked a few steaks over the years, and have some pretty good insight into the specific temperatures for steak to be cooked perfectly. We'll provide you with some of our best cooking tips so your next steak grilling experience will be a success without worrying whether the steak cooked too long.
The Best Way to Grill Perfect Steaks
We've been around a lot of great grill masters over the years. Each of them has their own special way of telling when a steak is at your desired doneness. Many of the tricks are probably pretty useful to these folks, but let's face it; the tests they use take years of practice to master.
There is one test where you press on the steak and it should have the same feeling as your palm. Great, except that's pretty vague and some of us have harder hands than others, so it's not really consistent. Others will tell you to watch for the color of the juices, and that'll let you know. Great tip, but it's also easy to under-cook a steak that way, and some people don't like it rare.
Other people live and die by the clock. So many minutes per side. It works, kinda, but really isn't reliable unless your steak is always the same thickness. Grilling times for steak can vary more than you'd expect. Even a little variation could leave you with a dry, tough piece of meat, or a bite of still mooing cow.
Don't you wish there was an easier way? One that doesn't involve guessing temperatures and steak doneness? Wouldn't grilling be so much better if you could just know when your steaks are done cooking? Read on for our best method for cooking the perfect steak, no matter how you like it done.
Why You Should be Using a Meat Thermometer
The trick to getting the perfect steak is as all about steak temps. No matter how thick or thin a piece of beef is, it'll cook to a certain level at a certain temperature. A meat thermometer is the best and only way to get consistent doneness when cooking any kind of beef, chicken, poultry, or fish. Oh, and it works on wild game too. A thermometer works no matter what cooking method you are using too. They are as accurate on the grill as in the oven.
Types of Thermometers
There are basically three types of thermometers you should consider. In many recipes, we use at least two types, and sometimes all three. Each one has specific pros and cons, and they accomplish different tasks.
This is what it sounds like, a small, pocket sized meter that has a built-in probe. These are used to instantly read the internal temperature of your steak. Simple and inexpensive, these are a great tool, but the downside is that you must open the grill or smoker to check the temperature.
A remote thermometer uses a probe inserted into the meat to display the temperature of your meat from outside the grill. These are truly wonderful tools that give you so much confidence that your meat is going to be the perfect doneness – it's almost cheating. They are typically loaded with preset USDA-approved desired temperature for the most common proteins. The drawback to these thermometers is that you must be within earshot of the monitor. If you are on the other side of the house engaged in conversation, you might still miss the alarm.
Wireless Remote Thermometer
A wireless thermometer solves the problem of the remote model. These ones can either send notifications to your smartphone through a downloadable app, or to a remote monitor. They use a Bluetooth or WiFi signal to work. This is the most convenient way to make sure your steaks are perfect. A wireless thermometer tends to be more expensive than other types.
Grilling Perfect Steak Every Way
Let's talk about what the perfect temperature is for everyone's individual preference. This is why the meat thermometer is such an incredible tool to have in your grilling arsenal. Getting the steak doneness consistent is essential to any grill masters cooking process.
The Levels of Doneness
There are five levels of doneness from least to most. They are rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, and well done. Let's explore some of our favorite meat recipes for the perfectly cooked meal. Keep in mind that the USDA states that for food safety, beef should always be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees.
- A rare steak is most often used when cooking tender, flavorful cuts. Fillet Mignon is an excellent example of a cut that is frequently seared quickly and served sliced to show the full color. A rare steak will have an internal temperature between 120 degrees and 130 degrees.
- Medium rare steak is one of the most common ways people enjoy their meat cooked. Any steak is great this way. Some of the most popular are porterhouse steaks, ribeyes, and similar cuts. Medium rare steak will have an internal temperature between 130 and 140 degrees, with 135 giving the perfect pale red steak.
- A medium steak will be pink throughout. The internal temperature will fall between 140 and 150. Medium steak, for some reason, is not often requested.
- Medium well is for those people who don't want the impression of bloody meat. It's pink in the center, with grey around the edges. The ideal temperature for a medium well steak falls between 150 and 160.
- Don't turn your nose up at well done steak just yet. It's not our favorite when cooking soft steaks. But when you smoke a tough, grisly steak like tri-tip, you are going to push the temps above 200 degrees. But, cooking a tough meat low and slow for hours will allow the gelatin to absorb moisture, keeping everything moist. Trying to push any steak to a high internal temperature quickly will leave you with a tough and dry piece of meat. That's the kind of well done no one wants.
Now that you are armed with all the necessary knowledge to cook your ideal steak, whether it's well done or medium rare, it's time to get the perfect thermometer. There are a few models we like, including our instant read and the remote and wireless models from ThermoPro. These are easy to use, highly accurate, and durable. When you get in front of your grill the next time and you can simply glance at the thermometer and know your steak temperature, you'll have an unbelievable sense of confidence.
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