You might think there is nothing much to grilling a steak, but you might be surprised at how much is involved if you want to get this right.
The following variables all impact how long it takes to cook your steak:
- Type of steak
- Thickness of steak
- Heat of grill
Whether you’re cooking a New York strip steak or a ribeye, the internal temperature of the steak will determine its doneness level.
As we’ll outline today, each of the 6 degrees of doneness has a preferred target temperature, and the best way to establish this is to use a meat thermometer.
I. How Do You Use a Meat Thermometer?
If you’re serious about cooking steaks with precision, you should invest in an instant-read thermometer to make your life easier and to guarantee consistent results.
Checking the internal temperature of your steak couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is push the probe of the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak. Make sure you steer clear of the bone, gristle, and fat in the meat.
It’s vital to consider that the meat will keep cooking even after it’s removed from the grill thanks to the residual temperature from cooking. This means you should always remove your steak from the grill about 5F before your target temperature. With a medium steak, for example, you’re aiming for an internal temperature of 140F to 150F, so remove it as it hits 135 if you want the lower end of that range.
Before you get that far, though, you need to prepare properly by allowing your steak to come up to room temperature before you think about throwing it on your gas grill. This will take from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the steak. By ensuring that the whole steak is the same temperature throughout, you’ll cook it evenly rather than scorching the outside and leaving the inside of the steak too cold.
Now, we appreciate that everyone likes their steaks done differently, but by far the most popular choice of doneness level is medium, so we’ll sketch in a few basics on this crowd-pleasing steak. After that, we’ll highlight the other options at your disposal when you’re grilling steak.
II. Medium Steak Basics
Any time you’re grilling for a large gathering, cooking your steaks to a medium level of doneness is likely to please most people. Even carnivores who love nothing more than blue or rare steaks are still liable to wolf down a medium without complaint.
Medium steaks have less pink meat than browned meat. You’ll typically see a thick band of pale pink running through the center of a medium steak. The sides of the steak should be deep brown. The top and the bottom of a medium steak should be darkly charred, but not blackened. If you press a medium steak, it will feel quite firm to the touch, but you will find some play through the middle of the steak.
The recommended doneness level for a prime steak is medium-rare. This is the choice of most chefs looking for the optimum slab of steak. With medium-rare steaks, you’ll find them warm right through to the middle. Most of the center will be pink, except for a trace of red running through it. Look for sides that are well browned, while the top and bottom of a medium-rare steak should be deep brown and studded with grill marks. These steak will have some give in the middle and a firm surface.
A bit more on these two types of steak next, as well as four other options to deliver something for everyone.
III. Six Degrees of Doneness: What Do They Mean?
The timings recommended below are based on a sirloin steak an inch thick at room temperature cooked in a hot pan.
Here are the six degrees of doneness, along with their target temperatures:
- Medium well-done
With a blue steak, all you need to do is sear the meat for 1 minute per side in a hot pan. Use some tongs to sear the outer edges.
Everything except the outside of a blue steak looks raw.
- Internal temperature: Less than 84F
Sear a steak for 2 ½ minutes per side to get it rare. Again, use tongs to sear the outer edges. All you’ll need is 10 seconds for each edge.
If you press a rare steak, the flesh will give a fair bit when you push it.
- Internal temperature: 86F to 124F
3) Medium rare
Searing your steak for 3 ½ minutes per side gives you medium-rare. The outside of a medium-rare steak should be brown, with the inside pink and moist. The center of the steak should be red.
- Internal temperature: 135F to 145F
If you sear your steak for 4 minutes per side, this means only the inside of the steak will stay pink and moist.
- Internal temperature: 145F to 155F
5) Medium well-done
For medium well-done steaks, grill each side for 5 minutes.
- Internal temperature: 160F to 170F
If you sear a steak for 6 minutes per side, it ends up well done. Firm to the touch and dark on the outside, the steak will be cooked so it’s gray-brown throughout, with a markedly dry texture.
- Internal temperature: 170F+
IV. Alternative Methods of Cooking Steak
As well as these six common levels of doneness, there are two other ways to prepare steak:
- Steak tartare
- Pittsburgh rare steak
With steak tartare. you use minced or finely chopped raw beef steak. Steak tartare is typically served with onions, capers, raw egg yolk, and Worcestershire sauce.
A Pittsburgh rare steak, also known as a “black and blue”, is cooked very briefly at a very high temperature. This serves to char the outside of the steak while leaving the inside raw.
In closing, it’s worth pointing out that you need to let your steak rest for a few minutes after cooking. Resist the temptation to slice into it immediately. Why is this?
Well, when meat is cooked, the muscle fibers inside contract and become tougher. This drives the moisture to the surface – this is why you hear your pan sizzling as the juices are released from the steak. Failing to allow the steak the rest prevents these juices from working their way back through the meat. If you don’t let your steak rest, the juices will pool on the plate.
Remember, too, to whip the steak off the grill when it’s 5F from your target temperature.
When grilling your steak, flip it and also move it around the grill so it’s evenly cooked throughout.
Keep these tips in mind and get your steak just the way you want it, whether that’s medium, rare, or well-done.
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