Skip to Content

Master Steak Levels of Cooking for Perfectly Done Steak Every Time

Whether you’re a beginner or a master of the grill, understanding the steak levels of cooking, or doneness, is key to creating a steak that’s cooked to perfection. From rare to well-done, we’ll take you through the six different levels of steak doneness and explain how to achieve each one. So fire up the grill and let’s get cooking!

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my affiliate policy here.

Sliced steak on a black board, showing different levels of doneness.

Steak is a favorite dish for many, but it can be intimidating to prepare. The key to getting your steak just right is understanding the different steak levels of cooking (also called ‘doneness’, or ‘rarity level’), and how to know when you have achieved each one.

From rare to well done, there are five steak levels of steak that you should be aware of. In this article, we’ll take a look at each of these levels, how to achieve them, and what to expect when you cut into your steak.

Scroll down for our steak doneness chart, or read on for all the details.

Why Steak Doneness Matters

Steak doneness matters because it affects the texture, flavor, and overall enjoyment of the steak.

Different levels of doneness produce steaks with different textures and flavors, and the right level of doneness can make a steak more tender, juicy, and flavorful. However, overcooked steak can be dry, tough, and unappealing.

Different people have different preferences for cooked steak levels. Some people prefer their steak very rare, with a cool red center and a seared exterior, while others prefer their steak well-done, with a browned exterior and no pink in the center.

If you are not sure what level of steak doneness you prefer then it is a good idea to start with a medium or a medium-rare steak.

The Different Levels of Steak Doneness

1 Blue/bleu steak

Blue steak is achieved by quickly searing the steak on high heat, just long enough to sear the outside, but not long enough to cook the inside. The result is a steak that is very rare and has a cool, almost raw, center.

Blue-rare steak is not recommended for everyone, as it can be a safety concern if it is not cooked correctly. Additionally, the texture of blue-rare steak can be unappealing to some people, since it is basically raw in the center.

2 Rare steak

Rare steak has been cooked for a little longer than blue-rare steak, however, it still has a bright red interior.

It is seared on the outside, then cooked until the center is 120°-130°F / 49°-54°C.

Rare steak is a popular choice for many steak lovers, as it provides a tender and juicy texture with a bold, beefy flavor. However, the flavor and bloodiness may be too intense for some.

3 Medium-rare steak

Medium-rare steak has a warm red center, but is mostly pink, with a slightly firm texture.

This level of doneness is achieved by searing the steak on high heat and then cooking it until the internal temperature reaches 130°-140°F / 55°-60°C.

Medium-rare steak is a popular choice for many steak lovers, as it provides a good balance of flavor and tenderness.

4 Medium steak

Medium steak doneness is a term used to describe a steak that is cooked until the center is pink and firm, with no red or raw areas, and a well-done exterior.

This level of doneness is achieved by searing the steak on high heat and then cooking it until the internal temperature reaches 140-150°F / 60°-65°C.

Medium steak is a popular choice, as it provides a flavorful and satisfying steak experience without being too rare or too well done.

5 Medium-well done steak

Medium-well-done steak has a slightly firmer texture than medium-rare steak, but still retains some moisture and tenderness.

It is cooked to an internal temperature of 150°-160°F / 66°-71°C, resulting in a pink center with some browning on the outside.

The flavor is slightly more pronounced than a well-done steak, but not as intense as a medium rare steak.

6 Well-done steak

Well-done steak is cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F/ 71°C or higher, resulting in a completely browned exterior and no pink in the center.

This level of doneness provides a very firm texture, with little moisture or tenderness. The flavor is the least intense of the steak levels, as the meat has been cooked for a longer period of time.

Well-done steak is a popular choice for those who prefer their steak cooked through with no pinkness in the center.

Steak levels of cooking chart

Use this chart to estimate the cooking times according to the level of doneness you want.

How well done?6-8oz steak (1 inch thick)Internal
Temp.
Rare2 minutes each side 120°F/ 49°C
Medium-rare3 minutes each side 130°F/ 55°C
Medium4 minutes each side 140°F/ 60°C
Medium-
well done
5 minutes each side 150°F/ 66°C
Well done6 minutes each side 160°F/ 71°C

Remember the steak will rise another few degrees while resting, so the final cooked temperature will be slightly higher, but should still be in the correct range for the steak level.

An infographic showing the cooking times and temperatures for the different steak levels chart above.

How to Measure Steak Doneness

There are two main ways to monitor and measure steak doneness.

1. Use a meat thermometer

A meat thermometer is the most accurate way to measure the internal temperature of a steak and determine its doneness.

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak, making sure it doesn’t touch the bone or any fat.

>> Related post: How to Use a Meat Thermometer

Tip

Use an instant read thermometer to measure the temperature in the center of the thickest part of the meat for an accurate temperature reading.

2. Use the touch test

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can use the touch test to determine the doneness of your steak. This technique allows you to check the firmness of the steak to estimate its doneness, compared to the firmness of part of your hand.

However, this technique can be tricky to get right for beginners, so we’d recommend using a meat thermometer to confirm the temperature if you have one.

  • Raw steak: With your hand completely relaxed, press the fleshy area at the base of your thumb. This has the same texture as raw meat when you press it.
  • Rare steak: Now touch your thumb to your first finger and with your other hand press the same area at the base of your thumb.
  • Medium rare steak: Touch your thumb to your middle finger, and with your other hand press the same area. This is what medium-rare steak feels like.
  • Medium steak: Touch your thumb to your ring finger and with the other hand press the spot at the base of your thumb. This is what medium-done steak feels like.
  • Well done steak: Touch your thumb to your pinky finger and with your other hand press the same area. This is what well-done steak feels like.

Mastering the Art of Steak Doneness

Here are some tips for achieving the perfect cooked steak level of rarity.

Choose the right cut of steak

The type of steak you choose will affect the cooking time and doneness. Thicker cuts of steak, such as ribeye or sirloin, will take longer to cook and can be cooked to a higher level of doneness without drying out.

Thinner cuts of steak, such as filet mignon or skirt steak, will cook more quickly and are best when cooked to a medium-rare or medium doneness.

Use the right cooking method

Different cooking methods can produce different levels of doneness. Grilling or pan-frying steak will produce a well-done exterior with a pink or red center, while sous-vide cooking or slow cooking will produce a more evenly cooked steak.

Use a meat thermometer

A meat thermometer is the most accurate way to measure the internal temperature of a steak and determine its doneness.

Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the steak periodically during cooking, and remove the steak from heat when it is approaching the temperature of the desired level of cooking.

Let the steak rest

After cooking, it’s important to let the steak rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving. To rest a steak, simply remove it from the heat, cover it loosely with kitchen foil, and let it sit for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Resting the steak after cooking allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you cut into a steak immediately after cooking it, the juices will spill out onto the cutting board and the steak will be less juicy and flavorful.

Another reason to let steak rest after cooking is that it allows the steak to finish cooking. When you remove a steak from the heat, the internal temperature will continue to rise for a short time. This is known as carryover cooking.

By letting the steak rest, the internal temperature has a chance to even out, which can help to ensure that the steak is cooked to the desired level of doneness.

Sliced steak on a black board, showing different levels of doneness.

How to cook steak to the perfect level of doneness

How to cook steak to the perfect level of doneness.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 oz steak, 1 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooking oil

Instructions

  1. Remove steak from the fridge ahead of time, and allow it to reach room temperature.
  2. Mix salt and pepper together on a plate. Oil the steak on both sides, then press into the salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat a skillet, frying pan, or barbecue grill until very hot.
  4. Place the steak into the hot pan. It should sizzle when added to the pan.
  5. Cook steak over a medium-high heat, turning only once until it is done to your liking. See notes for estimated cooking times.
  6. Check the internal temperature and remove of the heat when it is a few degrees below the desired doneness (it will continue cooking while resting).
  7. Remove the steak from the pan and allow it to rest for five minutes.

Notes

  • Rare: cook 2 minutes each side, 4 minutes total cooking time. Internal temp 120°F/ 49°C.
  • Medium-rare: cook 3½ minutes each side, total 7 minutes cooking time. Internal temp 130°F/ 55°C.
  • Medium: cook 4 minutes each side, 8 minutes in total. Internal temp 140°F/ 60°C.
  • Medium-well: cook 5 minutes each side, 10 minutes total cooking time. 150°F/ 66°C.
  • Well-done: cook 6 minutes each side, for a total cooking time of 12 minutes. 160°F/ 71°C.

Looking for more recipes?

Check out our recipe index where you can browse recipes by category and meal type!

Welcome to Love Food Not Cooking!

I’m Eliza, busy mom, home cook, and blogger. My goal is to help everyone cook good food. Whether you are short on time, skills, or motivation, there is something here for you! We have dozens of quick and easy recipes for dinner, lunch, side dishes, and more. Our recipes use everyday ingredients, for quick delicious meals your family will love! Read more…

Cartoon drawing of the author.

*This blog post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a cent more – thanks in advance for your support!

Skip to Recipe