posted September 13, 2022
Steak Temperature and Doneness Guide
This Steak Temperature Guide is your ultimate guide to the most popular steak doneness, from Rare to Well Done. We’ll cover the temperatures themselves as well as information about each.
Steak can be cooked to a variety of temperatures and still be safe to consume. Doneness is a matter of personal preference, and today we’ll get into the nitty gritty of cooking steak to your preferred internal temperature.
Different steaks can handle different temperatures. Thinner steaks like skirt, flap, flank, and top round, are much better cooked rare to medium rare and then sliced thin. Cooking these steaks to higher temperatures will result in meat that is very chewy and tough.
Lean steaks like tenderloin or sirloin are also best on the medium rare side as cooking them to higher temperatures can result in very dry meat as there isn’t enough fat in those cuts to keep them moist. Fattier steaks like a rib eye or well-marbled New York strip steak can be pushed up to medium doneness and still stay juicy and tender.
A quick note about carryover cooking: I always pull my steaks off the grill about 5 degrees away from their target temperature and let them rest for 10-15 minutes because the momentum of the heat rising inside the steak will carry over for several minutes and raise the temperature a few degrees before it is fully finished. This way I end up with a juicy steak that is perfectly cooked to my preferred temperature.
Using a Meat Thermometer for Steak
Prior to cooking steak, make sure to invest in a high-quality meat thermometer. The temperatures in this guide mean nothing if there isn’t a way for you to measure what is happening on the inside of a steak. I recommend using an instant-read digital thermometer, like the Thermapen ONE from ThermoWorks.
This pen thermometer is the industry standard in both home kitchens and high-end steak houses. It reads temperature incredibly quickly, has fantastic accuracy, and is incredibly durable. It will be one of the most used tools in your kitchen for the rest of your life.
Steak Temperature Doneness
Rare steak is cooked to an internal temperature of 120-125 degrees F.
The center of the steak is completely red with cooked edges. The center of the steak will also be cool to just warm to the touch. The meat should feel very soft with almost no resistance when you press on it with your finger.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, rare steaks range from 120-125 degrees F. Steak cooked to 125 degrees F is a more traditional rare steak. My dad likes Blue Rare steaks. These are pulled off the grill right at 120 degrees F. They are still cool in the middle and the outside is just charred. He likes his steaks so rare that a good vet could bring them back to life.
Medium Rare steaks are cooked to 130-135 degrees F.
These are mostly red to dark pink in the center with cooked edges. The center of the steak will be just barely warmed through. When pressing on the steak with your finger, you will feel the slightest bit of resistance.
Medium Rare steak temperature is the most popular steak doneness. It brings a nice balance to the moisture as well as the texture in the meat. It’s my favorite way to eat a steak, and pretty much all the steak pictures you’ll see on Hey Grill Hey are good to Medium Rare doneness.
If you’re a fan of Medium steak, you’ll cook your steak until it reaches an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees F.
The entire inside of the steak will be pink with no darker red visible, and it will have darker cooked edges. The center of the steak will be hot throughout. You will have some resistance and a slight spring back when you press on the steak with your fingers.
Steak Cookoff Association judges base steaks on this Medium steak temperature. It can be difficult to achieve Medium wellness with high temperature cooking methods, so I recommend using a reverse sear technique to get even doneness throughout your steak. Medium is another popular temperature for cooked steak.
Medium Well steaks are cooked until they come to a temperature of 150-155 degrees F.
These steaks have the slightest hint of light pink left in the middle of the meat. The center is hot throughout the entire steak. These steaks will feel firm with quite a bit of spring back when you press on them.
Medium Well is another popular steak temperature, but it is not my recommended doneness. When you cook a steak past 150 degrees F, it starts to get dry, for sure. I often recommend having a cutoff temperature at Medium to ensure your steak remains juicy and moist. However, I know many people prefer less pink in the meat, so if you cook your steak to medium well (and you enjoy it), then go for it.
Well done is meat cooked to 160-165 degrees F.
Last up on our steak temperature doneness guide, let’s chat about Well Done. No pink is left in the middle; the meat is grey from edge to edge. The center is hot throughout the steak and the meat itself is visually reduced in size. Steaks cooked to Well Done will feel completely firm and spring back immediately when you press on them.
Steaks cooked to Well Done will definitely be dry. Most people eat steaks like this with steak sauce to make up for the flavor and moisture content lost cooking it to a higher temperature. As mentioned previously, I understand there are plenty of folks who prefer Well Done steak, and that’s fine! You should cook your steak how you like it. However, just know the more done your steak is, the less moisture and flavor you’ll have in the meat.
If you like well done meat, try to keep the temperatures low while cooking to retain some of the moisture in the meat instead of just blasting it with high heat until it is cooked through. Another little tip for those well done meat lovers is to spare the expensive steak and try cooking tough cuts that are best done when they are cooked until no pink is left and are better served shredded or sliced. These include cuts like chuck roasts or brisket.
This post was originally published in March 2020. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.
BBQ Must Haves
Join the Grill Squad
The Grill Squad is our exclusive membership program that will transform bland cookouts into booming barbecues that you'll remember for a lifetime. The technique and skills you learn will bring your backyard cookouts to a new level. For the cost of a full brisket, you'll get annual access to an exclusive BBQ community, Pitmaster Classes, discounts, and much much more!