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Different Steak Temperatures Explained

From rare to well, the choice is yours

A lot of people talk about the perfect steak, but the simple fact is that this doesn’t exist. This is because the perfect steak temperature is entirely subjective. For some people, a rare steak is an absolute delight, but for others, it conjures thoughts of being a barbarian or wild animal.

Mention well done and most steak lovers will gasp. Like we said, it is completely subjective. 

Steak temperatures or Doneness chart

So, when people speak about cooking the perfect steak, in reality they are speaking about cooking the perfect steak for them. This is why steak is one of the most difficult meals to cook for a Chef in a restaurant. So, if you are hosting a dinner party, and steak is on the menu, it is important to research all the different ways to cook steak to ensure you are properly prepared.

In this guide, we’re giving you all the information that you need to know to cook the perfect steak for everyone in your dinner party. So keep on reading to find out more about steak temperatures. 

What Does Temperature Mean for Steak?

If you are not a steak person, then you might be unfamiliar with what is meant when a person refers to a steak’s temperature. Even if you are a steak person, you might not be familiar with this, and that is primarily because the temperature of a steak is often referred to as a number of different things. As well as being considered to be the temperature of a steak, you may also hear it be referred to as a steak’s doneness, or simply just the way that a steak has been cooked. 

steak cooking temperatures or doneness from rare, medium, medium well to well
steak cooking temperatures or doneness from rare, medium, medium well to well done

So, when we speak about a steak’s temperature, we are referring to how the steak is cooked. No matter what restaurant you are ordering your steak in, you will generally find that there are 5 different temperatures to which your steak can be cooked. These are rare, medium, well done, medium rare and medium well. Some restaurants will also offer steak cooked blue, which is basically just an extra-rare steak where around 75% of the steak is raw. Everybody likes their steaks cooked differently, so if you plan on cooking steak for guests, it is important that you learn how to cook steak to all of these temperatures. 

The Most Important Piece of Equipment: The Meat Thermometer

People will choose to cook their steak using different techniques, but one piece of equipment that we would never be without is the meat thermometer. As steak is cooked to temperatures, this is an essential piece of equipment to use if you want to ensure that your steak is cooked perfectly. A lot of people choose to cook their steak blindly, and instead put their trust in the timings. However, this method of cooking carries a pretty big risk, and it isn’t ideal if whoever you are cooking for is very particular about how they like their steak. 

Cook measuring temperature of freshly grilled steak on hot barbecue grill.

If you want to cook your steak to perfection, then using a meat thermometer is the best way to achieve this. Rather than taking your steak out after a set number of minutes, you can instead regularly check the temperature of your steak. Then as soon as it hits the correct temperature for the level of doneness you desire, you can simply take it off the heat. But remember, you should always put the meat thermometer in the thickest part of your steak to get an accurate reading. It is also important to remember that you should take your steak off the heat once it reaches 5 degrees under your desired temperature. This will ensure that your steak does not overcook as it continues to cook outside the pan. 

Temperatures and Timings

Before we take a look at how to cook your steak to different temperatures, let’s take a look at the very important information that you need to know about these different temperatures. So, here are the very basic cooking instructions for the different temperatures of steak: 

steak cooking temperature chart
  • Rare – Get your pan to somewhere between 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit, then cook for 5 then 3 minutes per side, pull your steak off the grill when its internal temperature is 125 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Medium-Rare – Get your pan to somewhere between 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit, then cook for 5 then 4 minutes per side before pulling off the grill at an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Medium – Heat your pan to somewhere between 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 6 then 4 minutes per side, pull off the grill at 145 degrees Fahrenheit maximum. 
  • Medium-Well – Preheat your pan to between 155-165 degrees Fahrenheit, then cook your steak for around 7 then 5 minutes per side. Remove it from the pan at an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Well done – Heat your pan to a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit or more, then cook for around 12 then 10 minutes per side and remove from the heat at a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Rare

Now, let’s take a more specific look at the different temperatures. We haven’t included how to cook a blue steak because this temperature can be very dangerous if it is not cooked correctly. If you want your steak cooked blue, then it is best for you to visit a restaurant that serves steak cooked in this manner. So, skipping over blue steak, let’s start with how to cook a rare steak. 

rare steak temp
Rare Steak

Rare steak is one of the most delicious temperatures of steak that you can produce, but it is very rare for people to order a rare steak because it is very bloody. The blood alone is often enough to put people off ordering this steak, but if you love meat, then this is probably the best temperature for you. 

On the outside, a rare steak looks like it is cooked to perfection because it will be brown and charred. But, on the inside, a rare steak will be very red. It should be soft to the touch, and simply have a thin layer of brown cooked meat surrounding the red raw center. 

To cook your steak rare, begin by preheating the pan to around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Add your steak and cook it for 5 minutes on the one side, before flipping and cooking for 3 minutes on the other side. Check that the internal temperature of your steak has reached around 125 degrees Fahrenheit, then remove from the pan and enjoy!


Medium-Rare

Rare steak is, well, rare. Not many people order their steak cooked to this temperature, despite the fact that it tastes great, mainly because of the level of rawness within it. This is why medium-rare steak offers the perfect compromise. Medium-rare steak is often praised as the ideal temperature of steak, and this is the way in which most chefs would recommend you cook this cut of meat. 

medium rare steak
medium rare steak

Medium-rare steak allows you to get the best of both worlds. You get a lot of the flavor that you get in a rare steak, but you also get a lot less blood. When you cut into a rare steak, blood will often pour out onto your plate. But, when you cut into a medium-rare steak, you will instead be greeted with lots of delicious juices. All of which are full of flavor, and excellent for mopping up with a piece of steak, or a fry. 

A medium-rare steak will be warm all the way through. The center will be red, but the majority of it will be a gradient between light pink and brown. The sides of your steak should be very brown, and the top and the bottom should be well grilled. Unlike rare steak, a medium-rare steak will not be soft to the touch, instead it should be springy. 

To cook a medium-rare steak, preheat your pan to the temperature we gave you earlier. Cook your steak for 5 minutes on one side, then 4 minutes on the other. Sear the edges of your steak, then remove it from the grill when the internal temperature reaches around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. 


Medium

For a lot of people, a medium steak is where they draw the line. Anything passed this is sacrilege because the steak will simply be too chewy to enjoy. However, if you are cooking for a large group of people, and haven’t accepted requests for how the steak should be cooked, then medium is your best bet. There are very few people who won’t enjoy a medium steak. 

Medium Cooked Steak
Medium Cooked Steak

A medium steak is very popular because it looks cooked. A medium-rare steak looks cooked, but it is clear that it isn’t fully there. But with a medium steak, there is no denying that this steak is cooked through. Within a medium steak, you shouldn’t observe any red meat, and there won’t be any blood. Instead, the center of the steak will be taken up by a thick pink layer, which is then surrounded by a dark brown and charred layer of meat. 

A medium steak will not be springy, and it definitely will not be soft to the touch. But as you cut it, you should observe that the center is slightly softer than the exterior of the meat. A medium steak is just on the right side of chewy, and this is why so many people love it. 

To cook a medium steak, begin by heating the pan to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Add your steak, then cook for 6 minutes on one side, and 4 minutes on the other. Once the internal temperature reaches around 145 degrees Fahrenheit, it is ready to eat. 


Medium-Well

Some people have a very strong aversion to red meat. A lot of people struggle with eating red meat simply because they believe it to be raw, so if you are one of these people, a medium-well steak is the perfect temperature for you. For steak connoisseurs, a medium-well steak will be cooked for too long, and you will have lost too much flavor. But if you like your meat to clearly be cooked, then this is the best temperature. 

medium-well steak
medium-well steak

A medium-well steak will be a lot chewier than some lower temperatures of steak. But, it will not be completely tough. You will have to cut through the steak a lot if you want to be able to get to the squishier part, but right in the center you will find it. 

The outside of the steak will be very brown, and in some restaurants you might even observe that the steak looks slightly overcooked. As you cut into your steak, you will find that this dark brown color continues all the way through the steak. Except right in the center, you will find an incredibly small amount of pink meat. 

For a medium-well steak, you need to preheat the pan to 155-165 degrees Fahrenheit and cook one side for 6 minutes. Flip your steak, and cook the other side for 4 minutes. Sear the edges and serve when your steak reaches around 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit internally. 


Well Done

Your final option is to cook your steak to be well done. This isn’t a very popular choice, and this is mainly because a well done steak tastes like an overcooked steak. In fact, a well done steak isn’t just unpopular among those eating it, it is also unpopular among those cooking it. Some chefs even refuse to cook steak to this temperature. 

well done steak
well done steak

A well done steak is very difficult to cook because you have to cook it all the way through without drying it out. If you want to achieve a well done steak, then you should cook it slowly on a low temperature. A well done steak will be brown the entire way through. 

To cook a well done steak, get your pan to a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Add your steak, then grill for between 10-12 minutes on each side. When the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit, it is cooked. 

Before You Eat… 

Just because your steak has reached the desired temperature, this doesn’t mean that it is ready to eat. Before you even cut into your steak, it is very important that you leave it to rest for a couple of minutes. We would recommend doing this for at least 3 minutes. This allows the juices inside the steak to redistribute, ensuring that you get flavor throughout the entire cut of meat. For the best tasting steak, it is very important that you let it rest. 

Summary

So, this has been a complete guide to how to cook steak to different temperatures. We have looked at all the main temperatures of steak, along with their characteristics, and how to cook them. So, if you are thinking of serving steak at a dinner party, you are in the right place. 

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Written by Brian N

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.