Is there anything better than a well-cooked steak? Not a well done steak, of course… I’m talking about steak that’s perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I like medium rare steak because it has a rich, buttery flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness that disappears as soon as it’s cooked any further.
It’s that exact moment of doneness that makes this task seem like a daunting feat. I’m a former restaurant chef, and I’d love to share a few steak-cooking secrets that will help you pull off medium rare.
What Is Medium Rare Steak?
A medium rare steak has a warm, red center that oozes with juicy, beef-forward flavor. You’ve officially reached medium rare when you hit 130° to 135°F, a temperature at which the proteins within the meat start to denature but can’t fully finish. The result is a steak with the perfect amount of tender chewiness.
Since the moisture inside the steak can’t escape at these low temperatures, your steak turns out as juicy as possible.
How to Tell When Steak Is Medium Rare
The most fool-proof way to know for sure that your steak is in the medium rare range is to use an instant-read thermometer. Sure, you could follow a time-and-temperature chart based on the thickness of the steak, or use the touch-test method (the center of the steak should feel like the space between your thumb and forefinger). But a thermometer allows you to know—not guess—that your steak has reached the medium rare range.
Simply insert the tip of the thermometer through the side of the steak and into the thickest part of the meat. If you’re cooking a bone-in steak, be careful not to touch the bone (which is hotter than the meat that surrounds it). Once it’s in, slowly move the probe back and forth to find the coolest pocket within the steak. When that spot reaches 130°F, it’s finished. The temperature will continue to rise an additional 5 degrees as the steak rests.
Test Kitchen Tip: You may have heard that a thermometer will release the steak’s juices. This is actually a cooking myth. Your steak isn’t a water balloon, so it’s not possible for all the juices to gush out from one poke!
How to Cook a Medium Rare Steak
My favorite way to prepare a boneless steak is in a smoking-hot cast iron skillet. If you prefer char-grilled flavor or you’re cooking a bone-in steak, take the steak outside and cook it on a preheated gas or charcoal grill. Either way, it should take about 4 to 5 minutes per side for a 1-inch steak. If you’re cooking a thicker steak, use our foolproof indirect heat method.
For the ultimate medium rare experience, you can sous vide your steak. (What’s sous vide cooking?) Simply vacuum seal your steak, set the temperature to 130°F and cook for about 90 minutes. Then, take the steak out of the bag, pat dry with a paper towel, season liberally with salt and pepper and reverse-sear on all sides in a hot cast iron pan. Enjoy!
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