Why do you cook steaks to different temperatures?
Honestly, it's a personal preference. The general rule of thumb is that medium-rare steaks are the most flavorful, but you can enjoy a steak cooked medium-well just the same. Some people prefer not to eat steaks with any pink whatsoever, and that's fine as long as you don't overcook the meat and scorch it. You want grill marks, no burn marks.
The five basic steak cooking temperatures include:
Here’s a quick explanation of each cooking temperature to give you an idea of how home chefs consistently make juicy, savory steaks.
Those just entering the grilling world will most likely cook their steaks well-done to ensure that the meat is safe to eat. And let’s be honest, cooking a well-done steak is inevitable to every grill-master, whether on purpose or by accident. Additionally, a well-done steak also works great for kids or someone who doesn't usually eat steak as there are no red drippings that usually scare off infrequent meat-eaters.
The steak needs to reach at least 160° Fahrenheit to cook through the center when using a meat thermometer. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an overcooked medium-well steak. An advanced technique is to judge the steak’s “doneness” by comparing the meat to how your palm feels at different points.
But the general technique to cook a well-done steak is to cook it for at least 10-12 minutes on each side without drying out the meat entirely or burning the outer edges. If you start to notice char in odd places, you've probably already overcooked the meat.
The process is the same for cooking a steak medium-well. You just don’t cook it the same amount of time on each side. Temperature-wise, you want to get up to 150° Fahrenheit, and you can tell you cooked the meat perfectly if it’s cooked all the way through with little noticeable pink.
Still, the trick to a medium-well steak is that you cook it on one side for seven minutes, flip it and then grill it for another five minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches the 150° Fahrenheit mark. In other words, you need to cook a well-done steak about twice as long as a medium-well steak.
A medium steak means that the internal temperature reaches about 140° Fahrenheit, and you know you’ve mastered steaks when you can consistently cook medium-well and medium steaks without thinking about it. The main difference is that medium steaks will have a hot pink center, and the trick is to cook the meat on one side for six minutes but only four minutes on the other.
Medium-rare steaks are ideal for the more expensive cuts of beef like filet mignon or a ribeye, but why? The bottom line is that medium-rare brings out more flavor (i.e., the meat's natural fat). It's a perfect balance between a proper cooking temperature and taste, so that's why chefs will almost always recommend it.
The internal temperature of a medium-rare steak should never exceed 130° Fahrenheit for very long, or you’ll end up with a great medium steak instead. Indeed, the difference in cooking temperatures between all of the “mediums” isn’t vast, and that’s the main reason why it takes practice.
Either way, you cook a medium-rare steak for about five minutes on each side, barely different from a medium steak.
Here’s a tip: a rare steak doesn’t necessarily mean you’re about to eat a bloody cut of beef. Occasionally, you might meet someone who likes to prepare extra rare steaks, but it’s not the norm. If you want to try a rare steak, be ready for a different experience because it’s a taste you acquire over time.
Ultimately, if you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll be cooking steaks like a world-class chef in no time. And starting with premium-quality Market House cuts will give you a leg up the next time you hit the grill.