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How Do You Want Your Steak Cooked? A Field Guide to Flavor
Eating a good steak is a breezy task, but ordering one you want to eat can be tricky. Learn more about meat doneness with Groupon’s exploration of steak temperatures.
Raw: Uncooked, steak is red, soft, and somewhat spongy. Although this isn’t a particularly popular way to eat, say, a T-bone, raw beef is key in ground steak tartare and thin-sliced carpaccio.
Seared, Blue Rare, Very Rare, or Blood Rare: Any of these terms will get you meat that’s cooked very quickly so that the outside is seared, but the inside remains red and barely warmed.
Rare: Rare means lightly charred on the outside, browned around the edges, red in the middle, and slightly warm throughout. Given that any steakhouse can pull this off, what’s so rare about the style? In fact, nothing. “Rare,” as in uncommon, is derived straightforwardly from the Latin rara, whereas “rare,” as in meat, has an Old English source, and means only “undercooked.” Before the late 18th century, the word was applied primarily to underdone eggs.
Medium Rare: If you refuse to tell your waiter how you want your steak, medium-rare is likely what you’ll get. Expect a steak that’s charred on the outside, browned around the edges, fully pink and warm in the center with just a hint of red.
Medium: As things heat up, the center of a medium steak becomes hot and light pink; the rest is mostly browned.
Medium Well: Only a hint of pink remains in the center of a steak cooked medium well.
Well Done: A well-done steak is uniformly browned throughout. It should feel solid to the touch, unless it’s plated on a bed of Jello.
If you’re curious how your steak has been cooked before biting in—and you don’t have a meat thermometer in your pocket—you can use your hands. Raw steak feels approximately as soft as the fleshy part of your palm below the base of your thumb when your hand is relaxed. Now press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb, and you’ll feel that the same area is slightly firmer—about as much as a rare steak. Simply repeat with the next three fingers to get a feel for the texture of medium-rare, medium, and well-done meat.