Using a Meat Thermometer to Find the Ideal Steak Cooking Temperature

Steak cooking temperature

A steak’s cooking temperature determines its tenderness, taste and texture. The ideal cooking temperature depends on your personal preference.

There are three cooking temperatures a steak should reach to achieve the ideal doneness: rare, medium-rare and medium. If you’re unsure of your steak’s cooking temperature, use a meat thermometer.

Ideal Temperature

A steak’s ideal cooking temperature is a matter of taste, but proper cooking involves balancing a high external heat with a lower internal temperature. This balance allows the steak to be browned and tender on the outside while still being juicy and flavorful on the inside.

Ultimately, the optimal temperature for a steak depends on the cut and thickness of the meat. Thicker cuts of meat should be cooked at a higher temperature than thinner ones.

For example, a half-inch-thick steak should be grilled at 425 to 450 degrees while a one-inch-thick piece of steak should be cooked at 325 to 350 degrees.

The most popular level of doneness is medium rare, which is seared on the outside and results in a bright red center. It is also the most tender and juiciest, and it gives very little resistance to touch.

Using a Meat Thermometer

Whether you’re making steaks on the grill, roasting chicken or even cooking pork chops, knowing how to use a meat thermometer is essential to getting it just right. The right temperature ensures your meat is juicy, tender and utterly safe to eat.

To get an accurate read, insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of your steak or other cut. Avoid putting it near bone or fat, which can alter the reading.

Next, watch the thermometer’s display as it moves toward the coolest part of your steak. If it stops climbing, it’s time to remove the meat from the heat source.

Thermometers are available in either analog or digital versions, so choose the one that best suits your needs. If you’re looking for a quick-read, digital thermometer, try an instant-read stick-in type (which you insert into the food for a few seconds), or a probe model that remains in your meat during roasting.

Pulling the Steak Off the Heat

When a steak reaches its ideal cooking temperature, it should be pulled off the heat. This can be done using a fast-read meat thermometer or by judging it with your hand.

A digital thermometer is an excellent choice as it can read the temperature quickly and accurately. Stick the probe into the thickest part of the meat, avoiding any bones or gristle, to get an accurate reading.

Steaks should be removed from the grill when the thermometer shows them to be about 5 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the desired doneness. This will give them time to reach their final temperature while they rest.

When steaks are rested, the juices pushed out of the muscle fibers redistribute through the entire piece, ensuring that every bite has juicy, tender meat. Cutting into a steak immediately after it comes off the grill will leave the outside of the meat drier and tougher than it should be.

Resting the Steak

When a steak is pulled off the heat, it needs to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing into it. This process allows the meat to cool slightly and redistribute its juices throughout its fibers, resulting in a tender, juicy steak.

However, the amount of time a steak needs to rest depends on how thick it is and how long it took to cook. Thicker cuts like ribeyes, tenderloins, and sirloins need to rest for longer to ensure proper temperature distribution and tenderness.

Similarly, thin cuts like skirt steaks and flank steaks need to rest for shorter periods of time. This is because these cuts are more susceptible to overcooking and undercooking.

During the resting process, the muscle fibers set and the meat juices pool in the center of the steak. The enzymes in the meat reabsorb these juices, making them more tender and flavorful. This process also makes the meat more resistant to drying out when it’s cut into.