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How Done is Done

From Rare to Well Done

You love a big, juicy steak, but does your steak love you back? It depends, at least in part, on how you like your steak cooked. If you listen to some foodies, the only way to eat a great cut of beef is medium rare, but there are some folks who simply have to have their steaks cooked well done. Cooking your steaks to different levels of doneness certainly affects that taste and texture of the meat, but when it comes to your health, does it really make a difference?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yes! Harmful food bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli, just love hanging out in undercooked meat, and if you get infected you could experience nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, and a bunch of other nasty symptoms.

But just exactly what is “undercooked?” Glad you asked.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fresh beef steaks are safe to eat after they have reached an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees (F) and have rested for at least three minutes. The rest time is important, because the internal temperature will typically remain constant or even continue to rise and kill harmful bacteria. The challenge is, you can’t tell a steak’s internal temperature by look or feel. The only way to be sure is to check your steak with a meat thermometer.

How internal temperature relates to doneness:

Rare – cook time: 5-8 minutes. A rare steak will be warm at the center, lightly browned on the outside and bright red in the middle. Internal temperature will be between from 120 to 130 degrees.

Medium Rare – cook time: 6-9 minutes. Long considered by chefs to be the only way to cook a steak, a medium rare cut will be warm throughout the center, dark brown on the outside with good grill marks, and pink inside with a hint of red at the center. Internal temperature will be between from 130 to 135 degrees.

Medium – cook time: 8-10 minutes: A steak cooked to medium doneness will be a rich brown in color with a bit of char on the top and bottom. The inside will be light brown with a thick band of light pink at the center. Internal temperature will be between from 140 to 155 degrees.

Medium Well – cook time: 9-12 minutes. If you can’t stand the sight of blood, this is the doneness level for you. A medium well steak will be dark brown all over the surface, with a nice char on the top and bottom, and there will be a hint of pink at the very center. Internal temperature will be between from 155 to 165 degrees.

Well Done – cook time: 20-24 minutes. Contrary to popular belief, this steak is not burnt, but it does require a bit of finesse to grill without burning. Cook over a medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes per side. The outside will be dark brown, charred but not burnt, and there will be no hint of pink on the inside. Internal temperature will be at least 170 degrees.

When it comes to your health, there is simply no safe way to eat a steak that is not cooked to at least medium doneness. Sorry to all you steak purists out there.

Food Safety

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