Well-Done, Medium-Rare, Rare...What Do They Mean? Explanations and a Quick Tip for Cooking Your Meat

Well-Done, Medium-Rare, Rare...What Do They Mean?  Explanations and a Quick Tip for Cooking Your Meat

Medium-rare, well-done, rare…sometimes it seems like these terms are all relative. When you ask for a well-done steak at a restaurant and it comes back pink, is it okay to complain? If you’re preparing meat for guests, how can you cook it to their desired doneness? We’ll tell you exactly what each term means and share a helpful tip for perfectly cooking your meat!

Here are the generally accepted definitions of each level of doneness:  

Rare: A rare piece of meat will have a bright red center, and its outside will be brownish-gray.  The center will be warm, but not hot.  (approximately 125 degree core temperature)

Medium-rare: The center of a medium-rare piece of meat will be slightly warmer and reddish-pink instead of red.  (approximately 130 degree core temperature) 

Medium: A medium piece of meat will have a large band of pink through the middle, but will be primarily grayish-brown throughout.  (approximately 145 degree core temperature)

Medium-well: A medium-well piece of meat will just have a slight hint of pink in the middle.  Otherwise, it will be primarily cooked through and will feel quite firm.  (approximately 155 degree core temperature)

Well-done: A well-done steak should show no hint of pink whatsoever.  Its center will be grayish-brown throughout and the outside will be nicely charred.  (approximately 165 degree core temperature)


If you want to tell how done your meat is without cutting into it, use this easy trick:
Feel the heel of your hand (that’s the fleshy part between your thumb and your wrist).  When your hand is open and relaxed, a rare steak will feel as soft and tender as the heel of your hand.  Now pinch together your thumb and forefinger and feel the heel of your hand again.  It’s a bit firmer now.  This is what a medium-rare steak feels like.  You can then move down the line, pinching each finger, and feel the heel of your hand get firmer and firmer.  When you pinch with your middle finger, the heel of your hand is the firmness of a medium steak, your ring finger a medium-well steak, and your pinky a well-done steak.  Now all you’ll have to do is poke your steak a little bit and you’ll be able to tell its level of doneness.

Try out your new skill using these great steak recipes!
Ultimate Grilled Steak
Grilled Steak
Grilled Pepper Steaks
Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Blue Cheese Topping
Mexican Grilled Steak

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