Blue rare steak temp

Table of Contents

Learn how to cook steak perfectly every single time with this easy to follow recipe where steak is seared in a skillet on the stove and finished in the oven.

What are the different grades of beef?

There are three grades of beef steak that you will find in a US supermarket: Select, Choice, and Prime. Select is generally the grade of sale-priced, or advertised meat. Select grade is just above what the USDA deems edible. So if you buy Select grade meat, don’t be surprised when it isn’t that great. It will always be worth it to pay the extra money per pound for the Choice grade. If it is choice grade, it will be advertised as such and marked somewhere on the label or packaging. If your supermarket carries Prime grade, lucky you!

Buy Choice or Prime Grade steaks for best results.

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What temperature should steak be cooked to?

Whether you like your steak practically raw on the plate, or dry as a bone, this steak doneness chart should help you out. The chef’s standard level of doneness is medium-rare. At this point it will be tender, juicy, and if you do it just right the steak will melt in your mouth. With practice you can tell how cooked a steak is just by feel alone. Every steak has a different cooking time due to varying thicknesses of the cuts. Be wary following anything that tells you a cooking time rather than a temperature. Use an instant read meat thermometer for the most accurate results.

What cut of steak should I use?

What cut of steak you make depends on what you like in a steak. There are 5 main steak options, each a little bit different in their texture and tenderness.

Porterhouse and T-Bone Steaks

What is it? Porterhouse and T-Bone steaks are similar cuts of beef that come from the short loin. These cuts both have a T-shaped bone in the middle and contain two different pieces of meat: tenderloin and strip steak. Porterhouse steaks are cut from the rear end of the short loin and contain a larger portion of the tenderloin, while T-Bone steaks are cut from the front end and contain a smaller portion of the tenderloin.

Why use it? This steak gives you two different steaks in one! One side is super meaty, the other tender. The bone in the middle keeps things cooking evenly.

Ribeye Steak

What is it? Ribeye is a beef steak that is cut from the rib area, between ribs six through twelve. It is a flavorful, marbled piece of beef that yields a very tender result when cooked hot and fast. You can buy both bone-in and boneless ribeye steak.

Why use it? The marbling of fat in this steak yields a melt-in-your-mouth steak when cooked correctly. The bone-in variety will help the steak cook more evenly. This is a fattier cut of steak that pickier eaters might not appreciate.

New York Strip Steak

What is it? New York Strip steak is a lean cut of beef from the short loin area. It is one side of the porterhouse or T-bone steak and is always served boneless.

Why use it? This is a lean cut of beef steak with little fat. It is an excellent choice for mass appeal.

Top Sirloin Steak

What is it? Top Sirloin comes from the back area continuing off the short loin area. Top sirloin has bones and the bottom round muscles removed.

Why use it? This is a less expensive cut of steak that can still yield a tender and flavorful result. This cut of steak is best suited for marinating and is a more budget conscious steak option.

Filet Mignon

What is it? Filet mignon comes from the small tip portion of the tenderloin.

Why use it? This is the most tender piece of beef steak and is still quite lean. It is a pricey option, but the resulting melt-in-your-mouth tenderness is unparalleled.

Bone-in vs Boneless Steaks

There is an endless debate amongst foodies about whether steaks are better bone-in or boneless, or whether or not it matters at all. Those who advocate for bone-in say that the flavorful marrow from the bone will seep into your meat while cooking, giving you a more flavorful result.

Bone-in DOES impact the cooking time of your steak. The bone changes the way the heat is distributed while cooking. It actually helps your steak cook more evenly and gives you a little more leeway with overcooking. Bone-in steaks will require a longer cooking time because the bone insulates the meat surrounding it. It takes a little more time for the heat to penetrate the interior, but once it does it spreads out evenly.

If you liked this recipe you may be interested in these other steak options, from beef to pork to seafood:

  • Perfect Grilled Pork Chops
  • How to Cook the Perfect Tomahawk Steak
  • Grilled Swordfish Steak

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.

How to Cook Steak Perfectly Every Time

Learn how to cook steak perfectly every single time with this easy to follow recipe where steak is seared in a skillet on the stove and finished in the oven. Prep Time30 mins Cook Time15 mins Total Time45 mins Pin Servings: 2 Servings


  • 2 beef steaks at least 1-inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1-2 cloves garlic minced


  • Remove steaks from refrigerator and any packaging and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  • Rub each side with the olive oil to coat. Combine the salt, pepper, and white pepper in a small bowl. Rub both sides of each steak with the rub mixture.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Preheat a heavy, oven-safe skillet over high heat until it is smoking hot. Sear steaks in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes per side. If the steak has a side of fat, turn the steak onto its side and render the fat by searing it for 2-3 minutes as well.
  • Slide the skillet with the seared steaks in it into the oven to finish cooking. Remove the steaks from the oven 5 degrees before the desired level of doneness is achieved, or 130 degrees F for medium rare.
  • While the steaks are cooking, use a fork to combine the butter with garlic in a small bowl.
  • When the steaks are removed from the grill, immediately top with 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture and allow the steaks to rest 10 minutes before cutting into them. The temperature of the steak will continue to rise as it rests by about 5 degrees.


Calories: 475kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 174mg | Sodium: 1387mg | Potassium: 800mg | Vitamin A: 350IU | Vitamin C: 0.5mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 3.6mg Course: Main Course, Main Dish Cuisine: American Keyword: How to Cook Steak

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Cooking The Perfect Steak

Lobel’s Guide to Cooking the Perfect Steak

  1. Steaks should always be at room temperature before they are cooked. Remove your steaks from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
  2. Preheat grill to maximum temperature.
  3. Rub both sides of the steaks with coarse kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Place the steaks 3 to 5 inches from the flame to sear the outside and seal in the juices.
  5. Sear the steaks for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  6. After the steaks have been seared on both sides, remove from heat, and brush both sides with extra virgin olive oil. This will help form the crust that adds the touch of perfection.
  7. Return the steaks to heat and cook on both sides to a desired doneness using the timing suggestions in the chart below. If using a gas grill, reduce the heat to moderately hot to hot. Or, use indirect cooking for gas, charcoal, or wood-fired grills and move the steaks to the warm side of the grill.
  8. Transfer the steaks to dinner plates or a platter and let rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pan Searing – Indoor

  1. Bring the steaks to room temperature as described above and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Place a dry cast-iron skillet in a pre-heated broiler on high heat about 6 inches from flame or heating element. Heat pan for about 20 minutes.
  3. Brush the steaks with olive oil and rub with coarse kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. CAUTION: Pan handle will be extremely hot. When the pan is heated, pull the oven rack out to give yourself clear access to the pan and lay the steaks carefully into the skillet to avoid splatters. Your vent or fan should be set on high because this method creates a fair amount of smoke as the steak is seared.
  5. Sear the steaks for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  6. After the steaks are seared, reduce the heat to moderately hot to hot and continue cooking the steaks to a desired doneness using the timing suggestions in the chart below.
  7. Transfer the steaks to dinner plates or a platter, and let rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pan Roasting – Indoor

  1. Bring the steaks to room temperature as described above and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  3. On the stovetop, heat an ovenproof frying pan or skillet (cast-iron is great) on high heat until the pan smokes slightly or a drop of water evaporates on contact.
  4. Brush the steaks with olive oil and rub with coarse kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. When the pan is heated, lay the steaks carefully into the skillet to avoid splatters. Your vent or fan should be set on high because this method creates a fair amount of smoke as the steak is seared.
  6. Sear the steaks for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  7. After the steaks are seared, put the pan directly into the oven and roast the steaks to a desired doneness using the timing suggestions in the chart below.
  8. Transfer the steaks to dinner plates or a platter, and let rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cooking Times & Tips

Perfect Steak Tips

  • Suggested total cooking times are estimated below for a preheated oven broiler. Red-hot charcoal may take less time.
  • Cooking times below include the initial searing time. Be sure to deduct the searing time from the total estimated cooking time to determine how long the steaks should be grilled, pan-seared, or pan-roasted.
  • Give filet mignon one minute less to cook than other steaks.
  • For best results, check the internal temperature for doneness with an instant-read thermometer a couple of minutes before the end of suggested cooking time.

Cooking Times: Indirect Heat

Steaks, burgers, and chops that are 1 inch or more in thickness are best cooked using a two-stage cooking method. Sear first over direct heat, then finish over indirect heat. Be sure to deduct the searing time from the total estimated cooking time to determine the finishing time.

Cooking Times: Direct Heat

Steaks, burgers, and chops that are 3/4-inch or less in thickness can be cooked in one stage over direct heat.

Desired Doneness Approximate Cooking Time
Rare (120-130°F) 2 minutes each side
Medium Rare (130-140°F) 3 minutes each side
Medium (140-150°F) 4 minutes each side
Medium Well (150-160°F) 5 minutes each side

How Would You Like Your Steak?

Blue to well done are descriptions of how thoroughly cooked a cut of meat is, based on the colour, juiciness and internal temperature when cooked. Gradations, their descriptions, and the associated temperature ranges vary regionally from cuisine to cuisine and in local practice and terminology. The table below is the guideline that our chefs use when preparing a steak.
The temperatures indicated are the peak temperatures in the cooking process, as the meat is removed from the heat source, a couple of degrees cooler than the temperature stated. The interior of a cut of meat will still increase in temperature by 3 to 5 degrees centigrade after it is removed from the grill. The whole meat, and the centre will also continue to cook slightly as the hot exterior continues to warm the slightly cooler interior. We then allow the meat to ’rest’ before being served, which allows for the juices in the centre to return to the edges.

Steak Temperature Guideline:


Seared on the outside, completely red on the inside, cold
Temperature 46 – 49 C


Seared on the outside, 75% red on the inside, cold centre
Temperature 50 – 55 C


Seared on the outside, 50% red on the inside, warm centre, firmer
Temperature 55 – 60 C


Seared on the outside, 25% pink showing, firm
Temperature 60 – 65 C


Hint of pink in the centre
Temperature 65 – 69 C


Broiled until gray-brown throughout, firm
Temperature 71 – 100 C

Are people who prefer their steaks well done just wrong? It’s the question that has divided a nation that is otherwise firmly united on the “steak is great” front, given that we Americans consume about 25 billion pounds of beef annually. It makes ordering at steakhouses for large parties a negotiation; it causes effete elitists like me to reconsider the measure of a diner; and I’m going to guess that the BTUs of gas spent taking perfectly good rare steaks to well done amount to an environmental catastrophe.

A May 2014 investigation from this very website — one which, by my own admission, began as a campaign to smear those who enjoyed well-done beef — found that when people self-reported their steak preferences, most said medium-rare, followed by medium and then medium-well.

But that’s just what people say they like. We’re living in a society where meat doneness preference has been used as a political cudgel against the holder of the highest office in the U.S. We have to get to the tender, marbled meat of the issue.

Longhorn Steakhouse hooked us up here, agreeing to share aggregated data about how Americans prefer their steak. Longhorn shared a year’s worth of steak orders1 from all of its 491 U.S. locations, revealing how Americans ordered all different cuts of steak. It turns out that Americans claim to like their steak a lot rarer than they actually do!2

There are serious differences in how people order different cuts, and we wanted to know why.

“Every steak has a different fiber,” said Jens Dahlmann, the executive chef at Longhorn. “If you look at the most tender steak, it’s the tenderloin. That’s a steak that lends itself to barely cooking it. It’s got a very soft fiber and very sweet flavors to it. It works great for rare and medium-rare.”

Prime rib also works great on the rarer side. Because it’s cooked slowly and at low temperatures, a rare order of prime rib can come out without the bloodiness that turns off many rare-averse people. Other steaks can handle more heat.

“Steaks that still perform very well even if you go to a medium-well temperature, those would be the highly marbled steaks, the ribeye, even the porterhouse or T-bone,” Dahlmann said. “There is a bone running through the middle, and around the bone retains more moisture and flavor.”

David Berson, director of operations at Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, agreed. “Some people like a ribeye rare, but I would recommend cooking it a little longer. It’s got a lot of fat.”

One way cooks can get a leg up is to buy thicker cuts of beef, which gives them more margin for error than the thin cuts most supermarkets sell. “For home cooks it’s important to get the highest quality they can,” Berson said. “With protein — fish, beef — you don’t want to cut corners.”

Meat buying is a big part of the job at Luger’s. “We look for fat distribution or marbling,” Berson said. “That’ll be a good indication of how juicy the steaks will be.”

Dahlmann suggests that home cooks invest in a high-quality meat thermometer to nail the perfect doneness every time. Any steak with an internal temperature from 95 degrees to 105 degrees Fahrenheit is rare, anything from 115 to 125 degrees is medium-rare and, according to FiveThirtyEight culture writer and cantankerous elitist Walt Hickey, anything above that is ruined.

Follow this guide to cooking great steaks just the way you, and your guests, like them – and for even greater flavour, make sure you use Scotch Beef PGI.

How would you like your steak?” Unless we’re gourmets, having to cook steaks to order for family and friends can be challenging. Even ordering in a restaurant can be daunting. How often do we play it safe by asking for medium because we fear saying the ‘wrong thing’ or because we’re not really sure?

The good news is that a little knowledge and confidence in our own preference can overcome any reticence and turn us into accomplished cooks and happier diners.

The following guide covers the six grades of cooked steak from blue to well-done, their key preparation times and the little-known yet very handy ‘touch test’.

A handy guide to cooking great steaks

The temperature at the centre of a piece of meat gives an accurate indication of the extent to which is cooked but there are other methods that dispense with the need for a meat thermometer. One is timing, the other is the touch test. Here’s how it works.

Hold out your non-dominant hand, palm up and relaxed. With the index finger of the other, gently prod the fleshy area between your thumb and the base of your palm. There is very little resistance. This is what raw meat feels like.

Now make a circle with that thumb and its index finger. The muscle at the base of the thumb tenses up slightly. This is what rare meat feels like.

As you repeat this process with the middle, ring and little finger, the muscle below the thumb tenses further each time. Miraculously, the feel of that muscle corresponds to the feel of a steak at its further stages of cooking: medium/rare, medium and finally well done.

The heat is on: cooking steak in four steps Credit: StockFood

So if you touch the steak as it cooks, and compare it with the feel of your other hand, you’ll know exactly when to stop cooking it. With a little practice anyone can become an expert steak chef.

There is also a ‘face test’. On a person of average build, the different feels of your cheek, chin and forehead correspond to a rare, medium and well-done steak. The face test, however, is not as hygienic as the touch test because while we all wash our hands before cooking few of us wash our faces.

The six degrees of “doneness”

Inevitably, the touch test is a rule of thumb so timings for cooking are approximate and based on a 1-inch-thick sirloin steak, at cool room temperature, placed in a hot pan.

Note, it is advisable to brush both sides of the raw steak lightly with oil before hand to avoid it sticking, and afterwards to rest the cooked steak for 3-4 minutes before serving as this improves the texture.


The touch test for blue steak is the same as for raw meat described above. Sear the steak for one minute either side in a hot pan and for a few seconds on each of the outer edges using tongs.

All but the outside of the steak will look raw. If you use a meat thermometer, the steak’s internal temperature will be less than 29C.


Gently press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The flesh beneath your thumb will give quite a bit when prodded. This is what a rare steak feels like.

To achieve this, sear the steak on both sides for 2½ minutes and using tongs, sear the narrow outer edges for 10 seconds each. The inner two-thirds of the steak will remain blood-red. (Internal temp: 30-51C)

Medium rare

Lightly press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. Notice how the flesh beneath your thumb feels a little firmer. This is what a medium rare steak feels like.

Sear the steak on both sides for 3½ minutes. When cut, the steak will range from brown on the outside to pink and moist with a narrow, blood-red centre. (Internal temp: 57-63C)


Bring together the tip of your ring finger and thumb and the flesh beneath your thumb starts to feel firm. This is what a medium steak feels like.

Sear the steak for 4 minutes on each side. Only the inner 25 per cent of the steak will remain pink and moist. (Internal temp: 63-68C)

For medium well-done, cook for 5 minutes each side. (Internal temp: 72˚-77C)


Placing your little finger and thumb together, the flesh beneath your thumb will become decidedly firm. This corresponds to the feel of a well-done steak.

Sear the meat for 6 minutes each side. It will appear dark on the outside and evenly cooked to a light grey-brown colour throughout and have a dry texture. (Internal temp: 77C +)

Other methods

In addition to the six principal degrees of ‘doneness’, there are two others worth mentioning. Steak tartare refers to a finely chopped or minced raw beef steak often served with onions, capers and seasonings such as Worcestershire sauce and sometimes including a raw egg yolk.

The Pittsburgh rare steak, or ‘black and blue’, has recently come back into fashion. It is a steak that has been cooked momentarily at a very high temperature so that it is charred on the outside yet raw in the centre.

Its origins are uncertain but may lie with Pittsburgh’s steel mill workers in the early 20th century who are said to have cooked steaks on the side of the blast furnace or on a cooling piece of steel during their lunch breaks.

That’s one steak you would not wish to touch during cooking.

Scotch Beef – always a cut above

Only beef sourced from selected Scottish farms that adopt the best practice in animal welfare can be called Scotch Beef PGI. Go to to find out how to prepare delicious, healthy meals from this premium food.

For more information on Scotch Beef, visit, like the Facebook page and follow on Twitter.

Guide to Meat Temperatures: Steak

All this week we have been talking about meat temperatures on social media. While we could just throw all of the different meat temperature guidelines into one blog post, it would be massive and no fun to read.

So in the interest of keeping things short, sweet, and to the point, we’re going to be doing a blog post series on meat temperatures.

First up: Steak!

We have some strong opinions at Char-Griller HQ about how steak should be cooked. While we do try to be as unbiased as possible, this is one area where we just can’t help it. So here we go, your guide to steak temperatures.

The Different Meat Temperatures

We all know that one person who tells us, “No, seriously. I just want the steak kissed by the grill. Quick sear on both sides and then off. I want to hear it mooing still.” Extra Rare steak means that the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat is at 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes called Blue or Purple Rare, cooking steak to this temperature means it is barely warm in the middle.

For people who like their steak with a little less mooing, Rare is the way to go. Kept on the grill just barely longer than an Extra Rare steak, Rare steak is cooked to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. We like to call it a “Caveman Quality” sear. It’s good for extra premium cuts of meat where you really want to taste the flavor of the beef.

Now we are hitting the ideal restaurant quality steak. Medium Rare is the temperature that waiters most commonly recommend when you order a steak at a restaurant. Cooked until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the steak is at 135 degrees Fahrenheit it’s a great way to get the ideal flavor and texture of a steak.

Pro Tip: If you are worried a restaurant is going to overcook your steak, ask for Medium Rare because you can almost guarantee that you will at least end up with Medium.

One of the most common meat temperatures, Medium steak is cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. It is still mostly tender but quickly approaching the almost dry stage. If you only like a little bit of pink in your steak, Medium is the way to go.

Now we are approaching the point of no return. Medium Well steak is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. A lot of people feel like this is the only “safe” temperature for steak, but that’s just not true. That being said, it is the temperature you want to cook steak to when someone says they only want a tiny bit of pink in their steak.

We can’t really even justify this one with more than a sentence or two. But yeah…Well Done means your steak is really dead. It just can’t survive that 160 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature. God speed.

Medium rare steak temp is 130–135°F, Medium steak temp is 135–145°F

If you love your steak juicy and tender, then you probably love medium rare steak. Cooked to 130–135°F (54–57°C), a medium rare steak’s muscle fibers are just starting to contract, but aren’t yet expelling all of their juices, and, for many people, that means perfection. For some, that straddles the line too close to uncooked, and they prefer something a little more noticeably done. Medium steak temp is 135–145°F (57-63°C) and provides a slightly more fibrous, less raw-feeling steak, though also less juicy.

In truth, people love steaks cooked many different ways, so today we’re bringing you a whole post on getting steak temps and getting them right. We’ll let you in on the thermal secrets and critical temperatures that will help you cook your steak perfectly every time.

Porterhouse steak and beyond: temps don’t change

Many websites that give information on steak doneness break the temperatures down by steak-type. In reality that is an unnecessary distinction, as all steaks experience the doneness stages at the same temperatures. Whether you’re cooking up a porterhouse steak or a ribeye, medium doneness is 135–145°F (57–63°C). (The best way to get that temperature just right is, of course, to use a fast and accurate Thermapen® Mk4 thermometer.)

To understand the reasons behind doneness, we need to look at what’s happening on a physical, thermal level. The degrees of steak doneness have to do with the ways that the proteins have been affected by the thermal energy they’be been exposed to. When the protein fibers in meat are heated to rare doneness—120–130°F (49–54°C)—they begin to denature, coiling and changing their structure. This changes everything about them: they become less slick and translucent, they start to lose their protein-bound water, and naturally-occurring tenderizing enzymes in the meat become very active.

If you heat the steak further to medium rare—130–135°F (54–57°C)—the protein fibers become slightly more fibrous, losing most of their slickness and turning an opaque lighter red. The tenderizing enzymes actually deactivate, and juices will run from the steak if cut. And here’s the important thing: this is the same for every cut of steak, regardless of type. The proteins in a filet don’t behave any differently than the proteins in a NY strip.

So why do different steaks have different textures? That has more to do with connective tissue and fat content. Obviously a ribeye has more fat than a filet and that will affect its texture. A strip steak has more connective tissue than a filet, making it slightly tougher. A skirt steak has a muscle structure that makes it naturally tough unless cut across the grain, but its medium rare is still medium rare!

With that bit of understanding under our belts, we can take a look at a complete steak temperature chart.

Steak temperature chart

Steak Doneness Temperature (°F) Temperature (°C)
Bleu Steak 110°F 43°C
Rare Steak 120–130°F 49–54°C
Medium Rare Steak 130–135°F 54–57°C
Medium Steak 135–145°F 57–63°C
Medium Well Steak 145–155°F 63–68°C
Well Done Steak 155°F and up 68°C and up

Judging steak doneness by color—don’t

One thing you may notice in the above chart is the lack of descriptive color information. I understand that those pictures of steaks all piled atop each other at different doneness-levels are very appealing, but they don’t take two very important factors onto account: 1) judging color is rather subjective and 2) color isn’t even a good indicator of doneness anyway.

If I tell you that a steak should be rosy and slightly dark in the center, that’s not a precise statement, What you consider rosy and dark might be, to me, pink and light. Accurate information about steak doneness cannot be conveyed via color descriptions.

So…which of these is a “dark rosy color?”

Even if we could agree on exact color descriptors for medium steak doneness or medium rare, it wouldn’t matter as they don’t always hold true. External factors can change the way the myoglobin—the protein that colors the meat red—behaves. The presence of nitrates, carbon monoxide, and even certain vegetables can affect meat color independent of meat temperature.

In truth, the only objective way to know if your steak is done is to take its temperature. And don’t worry, sticking it with a probe does not make it lose more juice!

Temping a steak

To temp a steak, you must be sure you’re reading the temperature in the coolest part of the steak. The exterior of a steak is likely to have a significantly higher temperature than the center, so it’s critical that you measure the thermal center of the steak. In order to get that temp just right, use a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen Mk4. The Thermapen is one of the only thermometers fast enough to show changing temperature gradients as you pull the probe through meat in real time. Insert it most of the way through the steak, and draw it slowly out, watching the temperature change as you move the probe through the temperature gradients.

A word about carryover cooking

Heat is not static. Heat moves. In fact, heat tries its best to reach a state of equilibrium. When you take a steak out of a hot pan, the heat at the exterior of the steak will work its way into the steak, raising the temperature of the inside of the steak. This is what we call “carryover cooking.” Unless you’re cooking your steak sous vide, you will experience carryover cooking, and you need to plan for it. Thinner steaks like skirt steak, which have less thermal mass and less thermal momentum, will experience less carryover than thick steaks like porterhouse or tomahawk steaks.

If you’re looking for a pull-temp chart, I’m afraid I can’t help you. We don’t publish such a thing is pull temps are surprisingly variable. The higher the heat, the more carryover there will be because the thermal gradients will be wider. Something cooked in a 225°F (107°C) oven will carryover less than the same thing cooked in a 300°F (149°C) oven. So the pull temperature for any given target temp must be viewed by way of the heat at which the food is being cooked.

Another reason we can’t have a pull-temp chart is size. As I said above, larger items experience more carryover than smaller items. This may seem counterintuitive, but if you think of the thermal mass of a whole prime rib vs. the thermal mass of a hamburger, you can see that there is a larger heat reservoir in the roast that can do carryover cooking.

Add to these the fact that heat transfer is proportional to the square of thickness, and you can see that the chart we’d have to make would probably need to be a rather complex 3-dimensional matrix. I can’t speak for other sources, but I think our dedication to precision here at ThermoWorks prevents us from making a chart that would be anything short of correct, and so we make none at all.

In general, know that low heat carries over less, so your pull temps will be 2-5 degrees below your target. The higher the cooking temp, the greater the pull gap, up to 10° or maybe even 15°F, depending on the size of the cut.

As Harold McGee says “The extent of afterheating depends on the meat’s weight, shape, and center temperature, and the cooking temperature, and can range from a negligible few degrees in a thin cut to 20°F in a large roast.”

In general, you can plan on 3–5°F (2–3°C) of carryover for a thinner steak and anywhere from 5–7°F (3-4°C) carryover for larger ones. Using a ChefAlarm® to track the carryover via the min/max function can help you understand how carryover behaves in your kitchen with your steaks.

Grilled reverse-sear steak cooking method

One of the best ways to cook a steak is to use a reverse-sear method. In this method, you start cooking your steak at a low-ish temperature to reach an evenly-cooked desired temperature, then sear the steak for the last few degrees to give it that wonderful charry crust. It works great on the grill with a two-zone setup or inside with a low oven and a hot cast-iron pan.

Not only is the reverse sear a great way to get a steak done right, it’s also a great way to get a lot of steaks done quickly. You can cook them all at once in the lower temperature and then sear them off quickly to serve them all at once. We’ll break down the steps of you here, so you can see for yourself.

  • Preheat your grill for indirect (two-zone) cooking by turning the burners on one side of the grill to high while leaving the others off or stacking your charcoal under one side of the grill.
  • Salt and pepper your steaks.

  • Place steaks on the cooler, indirect-cooking side.
  • Probe at least one steak with the probe from a ChefAlarm and set the high-alarm for about 20°F (11°C) cooler than you want your final temperature to be. I like medium rare steak, so I set it for 110°F (43°C). Make sure your cables don’t run across the hot part of the grill.

  • When the high alarm sounds, move your steaks to the hot side of the grill and sear them over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes per side.

  • Use a Thermapen Mk4 to check the temperature of each steak as soon as you flip them over. Be aware that the last few degrees can go quite quickly.
  • As each steak reaches about 5°F (3°C) below your desired finish temp, pull them from heat and allow them to rest.
  • Look, resting steaks is important and extremely hard to do. I have found that a great way to actually let your steak rest without just cutting right in and eating it is to grill something else while the steaks rest. Cooking some asparagus tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper (maybe some garlic, shallot, or lemon zest…) is a great way to take your mind off the juicy, meaty steaks that are resting on that plate over there, calling your name.

  • Eat those steaks!

Far from being a subjective matter, cooking steaks to temperature with a Thermapen Mk4 is the best, most accurate way to get your steak done the way you want it. Ditch the ideas of cooking by time or color, and get your medium steak (if that’s how you like it) done just right!

Shop now for items used in this post:

Thermapen Mk4 ChefAlarm

Restaurants are cooking your steak wrong on purpose

My friend Barbara Wagner gulped when the rib-eye cut she and her husband recently ordered medium-rare at Wolfgang’s on East 54th Street came to the table.

“We gasped. The outside was seared — it looked like a normal steak — but when we cut into it, it was practically raw,” says Wagner, a real estate publicist. “So we sent it back.” It was refired to perfection and she said she’ll go back to Wolfgang’s.

But chew on this, steak lovers: Your medium-rare cut is getting rarer, in both senses of the word.

A few days after Wagner’s experience, I ordered a boneless rib-eye medium-rare at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Midtown. What I got wasn’t remotely the medium-rare ideal of red at the center fading to pink around it, but the near-purple hue known as “blue rare.”

Both incidents reflected the new, medium-rare confusion. While getting an underdone steak has been a possibility for decades, what’s really given the phenomenon traction is that chefs are under bottom-line pressure to reduce throwaways that occur when customers say a steak is too well-done. An under-cooked steak, on the other hand, can always be salvaged with a touch more fire as my friend’s was.

Bowery Meat Company is one of the few places serving truly medium-rare steaks when customers order them.Stefano Giovannini

Most chefs regard beef cooked to medium-rare — with an internal temperature of 130 degrees off the grill and 135 degrees after resting — as the best way to bring out flavor and retain moisture in tender cuts such as rib-eye and top loin. Unlike rare, medium-rare allows time for the outside to caramelize and develop a sear.

It “maintains the most flavor and it keeps the juice in the meat,” says Laurent Tourondel, the founder of the BLT Steak chain who’s now a partner in Brasserie Ruhlmann and L’Amico.

At Porter House New York in Midtown, executive chef and co-owner Michael Lomonaco says more than 60 percent of his customers order medium-rare.

Yet, the “medium-rare” rib-eye that I had at salt-spewing Salt Bae’s Nusr-Et was so red end-to-end, it resembled a bloody nose. Similar cuts that I braved in the last week, at STK in Midtown and at Delmonico’s in FiDi, were nearly as rare. Only Bowery Meat Company nailed medium-rare as I expect it, although Porter House New York’s slightly underdone, chili-rubbed rib-eye had the best overall flavor and char.

A medium-rare rib-eye at Delmonico’sAnnie Wermiel

Mark Pastore, president of distributor Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, which sells to scores of New York restaurants, says he first noticed the undercooking trend about a year ago.

“The norm has become to order by a new term, medium-rare-plus, because people found their steaks were arriving undercooked — like rare-plus,” Pastore said.

I now ask for medium-rare-plus to prevent getting steak too raw and tough to chew. Even Bowery Meat executive chef Josh Capon says he now orders medium-rare-plus, rather than medium-rare, for himself when he’s out, because “most steakhouses are undercooking.”

Restaurateur Stephen Hanson says it’s mainly about money. Every cent counts when eateries are under unprecedented strain from high rents, high labor costs and brutal competition.

“If a customer says their steak is overcooked, it can only be thrown out,” says Hanson, the owner of Henry at Life Hotel who previously ran four steakhouses under the BR Guest banner, including the Strip House chain. So kitchens err on the rare side, knowing the dish can always be rescued with a minute or two more heat.

Tony Fortuna, owner of the always-buzzing TBar Steak & Lounge says he spends $34 to buy a 24-ounce, dry-aged cut of rib-eye, and, if one customer finds their steak overcooked, “we lose money on the whole table.”

The medium-rare at Porter House New York is technically a touch too rare, but it’s got great flavor and perfect char.Annie Wermiel

Rising beef prices are also driving the cost.

“Right now I’m buying choice rib-eye for around $8 a pound,” says Pastore. “It was $6 two years ago.” Prime, the highest grade, now costs him “around $9.50 a pound, versus $8 two years ago.”

Adding to the issue is the fact that many chefs have dispensed with using meat thermometers and just go by feel, says Fortuna, who keeps a close eye on his steaks’ outer char as well as on their inner moisture.

“ creates a hole, juice comes out and the meat gets dry,” says Fortuna.

Then there’s the fad factor. Some chefs are swayed to undercook because rawness and near-rawness is seen as somehow superior.

“Overcooking steak is regarded as a greater moral and aesthetic sin than undercooking it,” Mark Schatzker, author of “Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef,” tells The Post. “A rare steak is edgy … an overcooked steak, on the other hand, is a criminal act, like putting ketchup on foie gras.”

How to order steak properly

“Doneness is certainly a hot topic,” says Michael Ollier, the corporate chef for Certified Angus Beef brand. To show just what everything from rare to well done should really look like, Ollier created the “Degree of Doneness” chart (below). He cooked uniform steaks to precise temps using a sous vide machine and a meat thermometer.“The Certified Angus Beef ® Brand”; Food Stylist: Michael Ollier and Gavin Pinto; Photographer: Mark Merryweather

Getting steak cooked exactly as you want it isn’t foolproof. Few eaters are willing to go as far as filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld, who once brought a catalog photo of a steak to Bowery Meat’s chef Josh Capon when he was at Lure Fishbar to show him how he wanted it done.

But it’s not difficult to try. Although it’s theoretically a cinch to ask for more fire on an undercooked steak, a customer should nudge the house to get it properly medium-rare the first time. Even a few minutes’ lag for one person at a table to “send it back” can be awkward for others who don’t. It’s also bad for the kitchen — and for the steak.

“Our goal isn’t to reheat or refire it,” said Porter House’s Michael Lomonaco, who turns out many cuts at around 120 degrees before resting. “The result isn’t the same when it goes back for further cooking.”

So what should you tell the waiter? Once again, experts disagree.

“Tell them you want it hot in the center, the color pink, and red with some brown toward the edges, and with a crust outside,” chef Laurent Tourondel recommends.

But Capon laughs off the idea of telling a server, for instance, “I’d like it red-pink in the center, fading slightly toward brown closer to the edges,” he says. “If anything, I’d ask if they cook true to temperature.”

I find nothing works better than to say “medium-rare-plus,” and reinforce it with, “That’s more than medium-rare but not medium.”

But at this rate, we soon might have to ask for it medium-well to guarantee it won’t be raw.

Is it Healthy to Eat Rare or Medium-Rare Steak?

If you’re going to shell out big bucks for a fancy dinner, you want your food to be prepared flawlessly. When it comes to steak, though, there are often differences in opinion about what the “perfect” preparation is. Everyone has different preferences about how well done they would like their meat to be cooked.

Most high-end steak chefs and connoisseurs agree that the worst mistake you can make when it comes to cooking red meat is to overcook it. Overcooked steak tends to be tough, chewy, and devoid of tenderness. In fact, you’re likely to see any estimable waiter at a quality steakhouse cringe at the sound of the words “well done”.

But is the alternative safe? Many people are wary about ordering steak per the chef’s recommendation for fear that the outcome will be steak that is too rare and therefore could be dangerous to eat. What guidelines should be followed when it comes to eating rare steak?

Dangers of Rare Meat

The main danger of rare meat is that it might not reach a high enough internal temperature to kill any bacteria that may be in the meat. Ideally, meat should reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F to ensure that it is safe for consumption.

Making Safe Choices

In general, steak that is cooked to at least medium rare doneness can guarantee that it has reached an internal temperature that makes it safe to eat. If you prefer your steak rare, there is a slightly higher risk — but this is still the preferred method of steak preparation for countless aficionados out there.

Your best options for eating rare steak are to do so at a high-quality and reputable steakhouse. In such establishments you can rest assured that chefs are well-educated about the different cuts of meat, the risks of eating rare meat, and the best practices for reducing associated risks. In particular, delicacy dishes such as Beef Carpaccio or Steak Tartar that feature raw meat should only be consumed at high-end restaurants with a flawless reputation.

If in doubt, ask the waiter to ask how the chef recommends a given cut of meat should be cooked. While there are instances where choosing to consume raw meat comes associated with few risks, there are other instances where it should be avoided no matter how nice a given steakhouse is.
Finding a High-Quality Steakhouse

Looking for a top-shelf steakhouse that meets all of your needs for superior cuisine, excellent service, and knowledgeable staff? Check out reviews online to find the best value option that will meet all of your expectations. At a high-quality steakhouse you can rest at ease knowing that you and your dinner party are in good hands. If you prefer your steak in the rarer side, it’s even more important to find a steakhouse with a highly professional and reputable approach to steak preparation. There is obviously something to be said for steak that’s rare or medium-rare, but no matter how well it’s done, the important thing is that it’s done right.

Do you enjoy meat that is cooked until it is just rare or medium-rare? It’s OK if you’re not a fan of well-done meat. You don’t need to give up enjoying foods prepared the way you like. But you should know the safest way to savor lightly cooked meat.

What’s the Temperature?

A food thermometer is the most important tool in your food safety toolbox. And using it is the only way to ensure meat is prepared to a safe minimum internal temperature when harmful food bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli, will be destroyed. When not destroyed, these bacteria can lead to serious illness or possibly death. An instant-read food thermometer is inexpensive and only takes a few seconds to use. It’s priceless if it prevents food poisoning.

Try the “Goldilocks” Approach

Is well-done the way to go? You don’t need to aim for well-done meat to make it safe to eat — unless, of course, you prefer it that way. The better approach is simply checking the temperature of your meat to assure you’re not undercooking or overcooking it. Ultimately, a food thermometer helps guarantee you’re cooking meat until the “just-right” doneness for juiciness and deliciousness.

Caution: Your Senses May Be Misleading

Your senses play an important role in deciding what foods to eat. However, don’t rely exclusively on your senses to determine if your meat is cooked safely. Color and texture are not reliable indicators of properly prepared meat. Research confirms that. Specifically, a brown color, firm texture or clear juices should not be counted on to determine doneness or confirm safety. Likewise, a pink color doesn’t necessarily mean that a meat is undercooked. A food thermometer will provide the final answer on proper doneness.

The Rules About Rare

Is rare or medium-rare meat ever safe to eat? If beef, veal, pork or lamb are ground, the answer is no. That’s mainly because the process of grinding can introduce potentially harmful bacteria on the meat surface into the ground meat. Ground meat needs to reach 160°F internally — at least a doneness of medium. (Dishes prepared with ground turkey or chicken need to reach an internal temperature of 165°F.) If the fresh meat is a steak, roast or chop, then yes — medium-rare can be safe. That means the meat needs to reach 145°F internally and stand for three or more minutes before cutting or consuming. Unfortunately, even if preferred by foodies, there’s no way to guarantee the safety of rare meat. That also means raw meat delights, such as steak tartare or beef carpaccio, are not considered safe, especially for people who are at higher risk of food poisoning. Pregnant women, children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems should avoid all raw and undercooked meats.

The Bottom Line

Food taste and food safety can go hand in hand. Use a food thermometer to assure meat is prepared thoroughly. And then you can enjoy… thoroughly.

Ordering Your Steak Well-Done Can Impact Your Brain Health

You know the drill: Would you like your steak rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, or well-done? Most would argue that your choice in this case is a matter of personal preference. Do you enjoy the taste of blood? Do you like your beef rouge, pale pink, or brown?

Although scientists have long warned about the carcinogens associated with grilled meat and fish, little has been truly established in terms of an exact cause-and-effect relationship between eating charred hamburgers and being diagnosed with cancer. (However, numerous studies have linked cancer in lab animals with consumption of grilled meat due to its high levels of known carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.)

And it’s not just the grill itself that’s amping up the danger in your ribeye—it’s the “doneness.” A 1999 study tied well-done meat to a higher incidence of colorectal cancer, and a 2010 review confirmed its link with other cancers as well. But enough about our colons; what about our brains?

A study from New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has even worse news for those who like their beef blackened. Apparently, a diet high in glycotoxins—found in high-concentration in well-done meat—is a risk factor in developing age-related dementia. Quick—grab a Post-it and write down where your keys are now.

OK, not right now. But if you’re chowing down on brown-to-the-core burgers for lunch every day and are trying to keep your wits about you as long as possible in late life, it might be worth rethinking.

In the study, mice were who were on a diet high in glycotoxins called Advanced Glycation End products, or AGES, were found to have significantly higher likelihood of developing dementia-like symptoms. They also had greater levels of amyloid beta proteins—the basis of “brain plaque” in Alzheimer’s patients—in their brains.

The second part of the study followed the eating habits, insulin levels, and cognitive function of 93 people over the age of 60 living in New York over the course of nine months. Researchers tested the quantity of AGEs in their blood as well as their consumption of foods high in glycotoxins. The results: the subjects with the highest blood levels of glycotoxins had more pronounced symptoms of cognitive decline.

Because this was such a small-scale study in a concentrated region, further evidence is needed before drawing strong conclusions on what methods of cooking and eating meat are the most harmful on a whole.

But with a growing body of evidence pointing towards the negative health effects of grilled, smoked, and well-done meats, it may be advisable—at the very least—to learn to love your steak medium-rare.

Rare, Medium, and Well-Done: Which is Best?

Rib Eye. This super flavorful and super juicy cut of prime rib is tender when it’s cooked to no more than medium doneness. Rib eye is best when it’s cooked medium-rare; that’s about 6-8 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak.

(Credit: Flickr/stratman² (2 many pix!))

Sirloin Steak. Sirloin is a lean cut of meat, so it can easily become tough if it’s overcooked. For a tender, juicy sirloin steak, don’t cook the meat past medium doneness. If you have top sirloin, it’s best served rare.

(Credit: Flickr/LeMeridien Hotels and Resorts)

Filet Mignon. Filet mignon is a cut of meat from the heart of the tenderloin. It’s well known as a fork-tender cut of beef. To fully enjoy filet mignon, cook the steak to medium doneness or less, but we recommend medium-rare.

(Credit: Flickr/Kurt VanderScheer)

T-Bone Steak. T-bone steak is a cut that consists of both from the strip loin and tenderloin. If you like your steak cooked to a higher degree of doneness, this is a good cut to choose; T-bone steak is most flavorful and juicy when cooked medium-rare to medium.

(Credit: Flickr/DaMongMan)

New York Strip Steak. This flavorful steak from the heart of the beef loin is best served medium-rare; that’s about 6-8 minutes of cook time for an average strip steak.

(Credit: Flickr/Jon Gales)

Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.

Photo: David Murray (Getty Images) FeaturesFeaturesStories from The Takeout about food, drink, and how we live.

“We are not responsible for steaks ordered well-done.”

This small caveat graces menus across the country, from Duanesburg, New York to Winneconne, Wisconsin to Gurnee, Illinois. And it impacts more people than you might expect: More than a third of customers—at least those who eat at LongHorn Steakhouse—prefer their steak medium-well or well done. With those numbers, most restaurants won’t outright refuse to serve a steak well-done. Chefs might think it’s an abomination, but after all, it’s your money and it’s your teeth that have to grind through the shoe leather.


Most chefs say that, begrudgingly, they’ll cook your steak until it’s brown all the way through. They might just wince while they do it.

“Our smoked chicken is fantastic, so if we can get somebody into that versus a well-done steak, we’ll try to take that opportunity,” Landon Brown, general manager at 3rd Street Tavern in St. Peter3, Minnesota, tells The Takeout.

The restaurant’s servers won’t refuse to take the order, but they might point out the meat-doneness graphic that graces the menu: If you’re thinking about well-done steak, order chicken.

Photo: 3rd Street Tavern Advertisement

“If a server has an opportunity to make light of it a bit and make a funny comment based on the graphic, they usually take that opportunity,” Brown says. “I find that guests usually have that understanding, too—they’ll make a joke themselves about it like ‘Yep, I want the steak really dead.’”

He says the kitchen does collectively roll its eyes when that order comes in: “It’s always a joke in the back-of-the-house, when you see that well-done steak come back. Like ‘Well, they wrecked it.’ It’s well known among service industry staff that well-done steak is a total no-no.”


Still, he says, they’ll grill and oven-finish the steak just like they would any other—except it takes about 10 minutes to make a well-done steak, versus the 4 or 5 minutes for a medium-rare steak. 3rd Street Tavern’s chefs actually rely on their thermometers quite a bit when it comes to cooking well-done steak, because they’re not in the habit of preparing them that way.

This same “the customer is always right” attitude prevails at even some of the most elite steakhouses.


“I have and will always cook steaks to well done,” chef Danny McCallum of Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse in Toronto tells The Takeout. “If a guest wants it well done, then that is how they shall get it, without prejudice. As I see it, you are paying, you can have it however you like. I cook steaks to well done on a nightly basis.”

(Jacobs & Co., by the way, offers a menu of beefy delicacies like 65-day-aged Prime Angus striploins and Japanese A5 Wagyu steaks that cost upwards of $300. McCallum’s patience is truly admirable.)


But while these chefs politely say the customer is always right, they also acknowledge that the customer’s taste is in this case, essentially, wrong. Is it ever okay to refuse a customer’s request? I mean, what if I ask for my well-done porterhouse to be covered in peanut butter, or something?

“Personally, I think serving bad food is not okay and that overcooking anything shouldn’t be done,” Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Chicago restaurants Alinea, , and Roister. “But some things are personal preference and in the case of a basic steak, sure, burn it if the customer prefers that.”


When it comes to more composed dishes, though, he says it’s fair game to refuse certain requests. An example: When Next opened, it served a dish called Supreme De Poussin, a thin-sliced piece of chicken cooked sous-vide. A customer complained her chicken was undercooked and insisted it be returned to the oven; even after the waiter explained that, because of the sous-vide preparation, the chicken couldn’t be cooked further, she was insistent.

“That table did not get their chicken well done,” Kokonas says. “Did we lose that customer? Probably. Is that okay? Definitely.”


Steaks, though, can be returned to the oven, and most restaurants—even the fanciest of steakhouses—will agree to cook your beef to within an inch of edibility if that’s what you like. They might just issue a menu disclaimer to absolve themselves of gastronomic guilt.

A good steak is, I think, one of the purest carnivorous pleasures available. A hearty roast dinner has its charms, of course, as does a slow-cooked, gelatinous stew, but neither is so absolutely, almost primitively meaty as a simple steak – which is one of the reasons it pops up so often, in my experience, in people’s fantasy final meals.

The other, I suspect, is that steak is expensive, and has the reputation of being tricky to do well at home, which means it remains a rare treat for many of us. (Rare, of course, being the only sensible way to eat steak.) But it’s even pricier when you’re paying someone else to cook it, and someone else to serve it, and yet more people to wash up after it – surely it must be possible to cook a decent steak at home without an £18,000 Josper grill?

In fact, I decided to rule out any kind of chargrilling, because in our climate for much of the year it’s just not practical to suggest getting the barbecue out; this is to be a strictly kitchen-only affair. And while obviously opinion will differ as to the “perfect” cut, I’ve decided to go for rib-eye, on the basis that it seems to be the one favoured in the vast majority of steak recipes, from London’s Hawksmoor to New York’s April Bloomfield. And if it’s good enough for the chefs …


Wall Street Journal recipe steak. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Food science boffin (as the popular press would term him) and general genius Harold McGee reckons there are two secrets to successful steak cookery: “warm meat and frequent flips”. The second I’ll come to in a moment, but apparently the best way to ensure the first is to wrap the steaks in cling film then immerse them in warm water for 30–60 minutes before cooking.

A recipe from the Wall Street Journal based on tips from some of New York City’s finest steakhouses recommends allowing them come to room temperature before cooking, as does Michelin-mega-chef Alain Ducasse and Hawksmoor at Home, the recipe book from the widely-worshipped London steakhouse group. I can see McGee’s solution is a good one if you only get home an hour before you want to cook your steaks or if you’re bound by draconian food hygiene regulations, but otherwise, allowing them to sit for two hours seems to reap exactly the same results.


Hawksmoor recipe steak. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

The Wall Street Journal, Hawksmoor and Cook’s Illustrated’s New Best Recipe Book all recommend patting the surface of the steak dry before cooking it, which makes sense to me after my experience hair-dryering a joint of pork in the search for perfect crackling.

Hawskmoor explains that wet steak will “struggle to form a decent crust and can pick up some unpleasant boiled-meat flavours”. It does seem to help a little with the initial browning process, although once the steaks have been at room temperature for a couple of hours they’re already slightly drier than they would be straight from the fridge in any case.


Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe steak. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

In his book Kitchen Mysteries, French chemist Hervé This recommends not salting the meat “because the phenomenon of osmosis causes the juices to escape the meat when muscular fibres are cut and open” – but Cook’s Illustrated, Ducasse, the Wall Street Journal, Hawksmoor, the Leiths Meat Bible and April Bloomfield of New York’s The Spotted Pig, all disagree.

Indeed, in her book A Girl and her Pig, April suggests “generously” seasoning the steaks all over with salt and letting them stand for 10 minutes – “this will help the steaks cook evenly”. Nigel Slater and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall both salt halfway through cooking. The Hawksmoor boys, meanwhile breezily dismiss the notion, urging the reader to season the meat “well. More than you probably think sensible. It will help build up a delicious salty crust. Some say you shouldn’t season the steak until after you’ve cooked it. We think they’re wrong.”

After cooking my way through seven steaks in quick succession, I have to agree with them: salt definitely seems to help build up a crisp, savoury layer on the outside of the meat, and doesn’t seem to have resulted in any significant loss of juices, possibly because of the brief cooking time involved.


Alain Ducasse recipe steak. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Hervé This suggests you can “improve the contact and transfer of heat” by brushing the meat with oil or clarified butter before cooking – an idea also favoured by Slater in Appetite (though “not too much, just enough to give it a good gloss”). The Wall Street Journal, Fearnley-Whittingstall and the Ginger Pig Meat Book prefer to grease the pan instead: the WSJ with flavourless canola oil, Fearnley-Whittingstall suggesting butter, dripping or lard, and the Ginger Pig going, like Slater, for olive oil.

I use dripping, but conclude that any fat is unnecessary, if not downright bad news – although Fearnley-Whittingstall’s steak sizzles as it hits the pan, it then seems to bubble away for the first 30 seconds rather than browning. There should be enough fat on a good rib-eye to keep it from sticking in any case. Bloomfield drizzles her steak with olive oil and lemon juice as it rests instead, which seems to me an infinitely better idea if you really like the flavour, though again, not strictly necessary.

Cook’s Illustrated recipe steak. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Ducasse uses butter – but instead of adding it to the empty pan, or brushing it on the steak, he waits until the steak is browned on all sides before introducing it. The rapidly melting butter, flavoured with crushed garlic, is then used to baste the steak as it finishes cooking. This gives it a gorgeous richness – even the Hawksmoor book, which doesn’t bother with any cooking fat in the restaurant recipe, admits that steak in butter is one of the authors’ “favourite, most indulgent ways of cooking them at home”. Importantly, the browning of the butter helps to impart some lovely savoury flavour to the crust along with the garlic; it’s not in the pan long enough to burn. Steak is an occasional indulgence for most of us, so you may as well enjoy it to the full.


Nigel Slater recipe steak. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

The recipes are split broadly between those who cook the steak on a very high heat (Slater, Hawksmoor and Hervé This), and those who suggest a more moderate heat (the Ginger Pig, Fearnley-Whittingstall, the WSJ and Bloomfield). Cook’s Illustrated superheats the pan, then turns the heat down after adding the steak. The argument seems to be whether charred flavours are desirable, as Hawksmoor believe, or, in Hugh’s words, “a distraction from the sheer joy of eating the very best steak”. Personally, I like a little bit of charring, so in general, I’d recommend getting the pan as hot as you dare before adding the steak: you shouldn’t be able to hold your hand above it for more than a second before you begin to scorch.

However, Ducasse’s ideas change everything again. His method depends on a really thick steak; but then, many of the recipes I try specify the steaks should be cut at least 4cm thick (Ducasse, Fearnley-Whittingstall, Cook’s Illustrated, WSJ, Hawksmoor), with April Bloomfield going up to 6cm. Nigel suggests choosing one as thick as one’s thumb – I suspect his may be larger than mine, because I’m not going to bother with a steak 1.5cm thick: as Hawksmoor observes, getting the requisite contrast between charred outside and juicy interior is “very difficult with a thin piece of meat”. Because the steak is so chunky, it can stand a more moderate heat for longer without overcooking, during which time “you get good caramelisation”. The steaks may not be quite as black as, say, Slater’s, but they do boast a very healthy crust.

Flippin’ steak

April Bloomfield recipe steak. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Back to our old friend McGee, who claims that frequent flipping is the key to moist steak – “frequent turns mean that neither side has the time either to absorb or to release large amounts of heat. The meat cooks faster, and its outer layers end up less overdone.” If you’re only cooking it for a couple of minutes on each side, like Slater, I’m not sure the extra juiciness is worth the sacrifice of a crust, but it makes sense with longer cooking methods, like April Bloomfield or Ducasse. It also allows you to keep a careful eye on how the cooking is coming along: steak is too precious a commodity to risk incinerating.

Nigel is also the only chef to take any notice of McGee’s eminently simple suggestion of pressing down on the steak as it cooks, “to improve thermal contact”. I don’t find his steak at all dry, and the crust is the best of any save the Ducasse masterpiece. For quick, weeknight cooking, you can’t go far wrong with his recipe (although I’d pre-salt the steak, rather than oiling it) – but for a steak that really qualifies as perfect, read on …

Perfect steak

For each steak

Felicity’s perfect steak. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

1 rib-eye steak, at least 4cm thick
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g butter
1 garlic clove, skin-on and crushed
1 sprig of thyme

1. Take the steaks out of the fridge 2 hours before you’re planning to cook, and allow them to come to room temperature.
2. Heat a heavy-based griddle pan or frying pan over a medium-high heat. Pat the steak dry with kitchen towel and then use tongs to press the fatty edge on to the hot pan until nicely browned. Meanwhile spread a thin layer of salt and a sprinkle of coarse pepper on a plate. Put the steak on the plate, and turn to coat the steak lightly, then put it flat-side down into the pan. Cook for 90 seconds on each side, pressing down with a spatula, until both sides are well browned.
3. Add the butter, garlic and thyme to the pan and, when melted, use them to baste the steak, turning it every minute until it’s done to your liking: a 4cm steak should take about 6 minutes for medium-rare, but always do it by eye.
4. Take out of the pan and leave somewhere warm to rest for 5–10 minutes, then serve.

Would steak be part of your final meal, or is it overrated? What are your must-have accompaniments (painfully hot crispy frites, steamed spinach and English mustard for me, please), and given our proudly beefy heritage, why are American steakhouses so much better than most British ones?

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