From Rare to Well-Done: Understanding Steak Doneness Levels and Cooking Times

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Are you a steak aficionado who knows the difference between rare and well-done? Or are you someone who likes their steak cooked to perfection but feels a bit lost when it comes to understanding the various levels of doneness? Fear not, because we’re about to embark on a culinary journey to demystify steak doneness levels and provide you with the ultimate guide to cooking your steaks just the way you like them.


First up, we have rare, the pinnacle of steak indulgence for those who love a juicy, tender, and lightly seared steak. A rare steak is cooked to an internal temperature of about 125°F (51°C) and has a bright red center. It’s a delicate balance between retaining the steak’s natural flavors and achieving a seared exterior.


Moving on, we have medium-rare, the most popular choice for steak lovers. With an internal temperature of around 135°F (57°C), a medium-rare steak is characterized by a warm red center with a hint of pink. It offers a great balance of tenderness, juiciness, and a slightly caramelized crust.


Next, we have medium, which is cooked to an internal temperature of approximately 145°F (63°C). A medium steak features a warm pink center and is slightly firmer compared to the previous doneness levels. It offers a balance between tenderness and a more pronounced flavor.


If you prefer a steak with a faint hint of pink throughout, then medium-well is the way to go. Cooked to an internal temperature of about 155°F (68°C), a medium-well steak has a small amount of pink in the center, but is mostly cooked through. It tends to be firmer and less juicy than the previous doneness levels.


Lastly, we have well-done, the choice for those who prefer their steak thoroughly cooked. A well-done steak is cooked to an internal temperature of around 160°F (71°C) or higher. It has no pinkness left and is cooked all the way through. While it may lack the juiciness of rarer steaks, a well-done steak can still be enjoyed when cooked properly.

Cooking Times

Now that we’ve covered the doneness levels, let’s dive into cooking times. It’s important to note that cooking times can vary based on factors such as steak thickness, cooking method, and personal preference. As a general guideline, here’s an approximate range of cooking times for a 1-inch thick steak:

  • Rare: 2-3 minutes per side
  • Medium-rare: 3-4 minutes per side
  • Medium: 4-5 minutes per side
  • Medium-well: 5-6 minutes per side
  • Well-done: 6-7 minutes per side