How to Tell If Steak Is Cooked: The Foolproof Guide

Steak is best enjoyed when it is cooked just right. Whether you like it rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, or well-done, making sure you cook it to the perfect temperature is essential for both the taste and safety of the steak. In this article, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide to ensure you always know how to tell if your steak is cooked exactly to your desired doneness.

Step 1: Selecting the Right Cut of Steak

Selecting the right cut of steak is essential before you even begin cooking. Different cuts will require different cooking times and techniques, and choosing the right one will help you achieve your desired level of doneness. Some of the most popular cuts of steak are:

  • Ribeye: Rich, juicy, and well-marbled, ribeye is a favorite among steak lovers.
  • Sirloin: This lean cut is less expensive than ribeye but still packs a flavorful punch.
  • Fillet: Known for its tenderness, fillet is a popular choice for steak enthusiasts.
  • New York Strip: Also known as shell steak, this cut has a good balance of tenderness and flavor.

Step 2: Preparing the Steak

Before cooking your steak, there are a few steps you should take to ensure it cooks evenly and reaches your desired level of doneness. Here’s what you should do:

Remove the Steak From the Fridge

Take the steak out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. This will help the steak cook more evenly.

Season the Steak

Season the steak with salt and pepper or any other seasonings you prefer. Be sure to use enough seasoning to flavor the steak but not so much that it overpowers it.

Preheat Your Grill or Pan

Preheat your grill or pan to a high heat. You want the cooking surface to be hot so that when you put the steak on, it sears and caramelizes on the outside while staying juicy on the inside.

Step 3: Cooking the Steak

Now that you’ve selected the right cut of steak and prepared it, it’s time to cook it to perfection. Here’s how:

Sear the Steak

Place the steak on the grill or pan and let it sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. This will create a crust on the outside of the steak, locking in the juices and flavor.

Cook to Temperature

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the steak. Here are the temperatures you should aim for:

Doneness Internal Temperature
Rare 125-130°F
Medium-Rare 130-135°F
Medium 135-145°F
Medium-Well 145-155°F
Well-Done 155°F and above

Once the steak reaches your desired temperature, remove it from the grill or pan and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. This will allow the juices to redistribute, ensuring that each bite is juicy and flavorful.

Step 4: Testing for Doneness Without a Thermometer

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, there are a few other ways you can test for doneness:

Finger Test

Press on the steak with your finger. If it feels soft and squishy, it’s rare. If it feels firmer, it’s medium-rare. If it feels even firmer, it’s medium-well, and if it feels very firm, it’s well-done.

Color Test

Cut into the steak and look at the color of the juices. If they’re red, the steak is rare. If they’re pink, it’s medium-rare. If they’re light brown, it’s medium, and if they’re dark brown, it’s well-done.


Now that you know the foolproof guide to telling if steak is cooked, you can cook up a delicious steak every time. Remember to select the right cut of steak, prepare it properly, cook it to temperature, and test for doneness. With these tips, you can enjoy a perfectly cooked steak that is both safe and delicious.

Common Questions and Answers

  • What is the best way to cook a steak? The best way to cook a steak is to grill or pan-sear it to create a crispy crust and lock in the juices. Cook it to your desired level of doneness using a meat thermometer.
  • How do I know if my steak is rare, medium, or well-done? Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Rare is 125-130°F, medium-rare is 130-135°F, medium is 135-145°F, medium-well is 145-155°F, and well-done is 155°F and above.
  • How do I make sure my steak is juicy? Let the steak rest for 5-10 minutes after cooking to allow the juices to redistribute. This will ensure each bite is juicy and flavorful.
  • What cut of steak is the most tender? The most tender cut of steak is fillet, also known as tenderloin.
  • Can I cook a steak in the oven? Yes, you can cook a steak in the oven. Sear it on both sides in a hot skillet, then transfer it to a preheated oven at 425°F and cook until it reaches your desired level of doneness.


1. “How to Cook Steak in the Oven.” Delish, Hearst Magazine Media Inc., 25 Feb. 2021,

2. “Steak Doneness Chart.” Certified Angus Beef, 2021,

3. “How to Cook a Steak Perfectly Every Time.” Food Network, Discovery, Inc., 2021,

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