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Have you ever seen a steak menu warning? It usually goes something like this: Well-done meat may lose its natural juices and flavor – we cannot be held responsible for well-done steak orders. The bottom line is, the longer you cook a steak, the harder and drier it becomes.
If you’re a person who enjoys non-juicy meat, and, according to consumer surveys, just about one fourth (24%) of Americans do, then odds are that’s the way you’ll order it out and cook it at home. Opposite to the well-done crowd, a good percentage of the population prefers their steak cooked Medium Rare with another 11% preferring Rare cooked steak. Chefs and grill masters recommend cooking steak medium rare because it provides the best balance of heat, juice and tenderness. That, and the fact that steak fat (“marbling”) does not burn off at these cooking levels – it’s all about the buttery, mouth-watering experience for medium rare steak lovers.
Cooked steak temperatures are usually presented at five different levels:
RARE Seared crust, 75% red and cool throughout center
MEDIUM RARE Seared crust, red and warm at 50% of center
MEDIUM Seared crust, pink and much warmer at 25% center
MEDIUM WELL Seared for the most part, slightly pink and a bit hot in center
WELL-DONE Cooked throughout, no pink or cool areas and becomes fully brown
If food safety is most important to you, the rule of thumb for killing bacteria is to cook your steak to an internal temp of 145°. Cooking steaks to medium rare, is also generally accepted as being safe for consumption. For people who like to eat rare meat, Chefs recommend sticking to high quality beef choices.
The USDA provides the following food safety guidelines for consumers:
Refrigerate meats at 40° F or below.
Always wash hands and surfaces before and after handling raw meat.
Keep meat away from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
Never buy meat or poultry with packaging that has tears or leaks.
Do not buy or use meats that have passed their "Sell by" or "Use by" dates.
Refrigerate meats 2 hours after buying, or one hour, if it's 90° F or more outside.
Cook or freeze fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb & Pork within 3-5 days of purchase, Poultry within 2 days.
Discard any food left out at room temperature for longer than two hours.
Letting a steak “rest” when it comes off the heat also makes a big difference. During the cooking process the proteins push the steak’s juiciness toward the center; resting allows those juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Ultimately, you will lose less juice when you cut into a rested piece of beef and have a more tender eating experience.
Overall, our steak preferences are split between three groups among surveyed consumers: 24% well done, 29% medium and medium well and 36% rare and medium rare. What’s your best temp?
Check out Little Wolf's buttery steaks here.