How well do you like your steak done? How do they cook steak and measure its doneness in an accurate way? (Yes, that is a proper phrase used in kitchens all over the world nowadays). Also, how are the different types of doneness unique? This is a crash course about just that, our steak 101 class.
A Gauge of Flavor
Doneness is a gauge of how thoroughly cooked a cut of meat is based on the color, juiciness and internal temperature when cooked. This also determines the flavor and texture of your steak. The gradations of cooking are most often used in reference to beef, especially steak and roasts. However, this option is also applicable to lamb, pork, poultry, veal and seafood.
These levels of how thoroughly a piece of steak is cooked and the associated temperature ranges vary regionally from cuisine to cuisine and from country to country. For steaks, common gradations include rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, and well done.
A rare steak is often referred to as the perfect steak and most steak lovers choose this. It is seasoned and seared, and the insides are 75% red. After cooking and a brief resting period, the steak will be tender and juicy.
A medium rare steak takes the concept of the rare steak just a little bit further. The insides should appear 50% red. This level of steak doneness should still result in a juicy and tender steak.
A medium steak is seasoned and seared well on the outside so that just 25% of the insides are light pink. After cooking and resting, the steak will have a tougher texture and a less-juicy inside.
A medium well steak is cooked throughout, with only a touch of pink inside, barely noticeable. This steak will be chewy and have very little moisture inside.
A well-done steak is crispy on the outside and the inside is completely cooked with a leathery texture.Some would say a well done steak is a waste of a good-quality piece of beef but some do enjoy it.
Testing the Temperature
The best way chefs carefully monitor the doneness is by testing the temperature. You can do this yourself at home by using a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer. It should be inserted through the side, with the tip in the center of the cut, not touching any bone or fat. Remove steaks and burgers from the heat when the thermometer registers 5°F lower than the desired doneness, and roasts 5-10°F lower, as the temperature will continue to rise while resting.
The USDA, however, recommends steaks and roasts to be cooked to 145°F (medium) and then rested for at least 3 minutes. To ensure food safety, ground beef should be cooked to a minimum 160°F (well done). Be sure to check with a thermometer, as color alone is not a foolproof indicator.