Cooking Tips

How Do I Know When a Steak Is Done?

Tried-and-true test kitchen tricks to ensure perfectly cooked steaks.

Published Apr. 11, 2023.

In terms of pulling off a restaurant-worthy meal in less time than it takes to drive to a restaurant, not much beats a perfectly seared steak. Nice steaks aren’t cheap, though, so to make sure you get your money’s worth, you’ll want to guarantee that it’s cooked to perfection.

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

For Perfectly Cooked Steak, Use an Instant-Read Thermometer

The most important tool in a meat-cooker’s arsenal is an instant-read thermometer. Following a recipe’s timing and heat level will get you most of the way to a perfectly cooked steak, but in order to navigate variations in stove output, skillet material, and steak thickness, the precision of an instant-read thermometer is paramount. (The test kitchen’s—and my personal—favorite is the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE.)

 It’s true that you can learn to tell how cooked a steak is by pressing it with your fingertip, but this method takes a lot of trial and error to accurately calibrate your squish-o-meter. Why risk it? 

To accurately take the temperature of a steak, lift it with tongs and insert the thermometer probe through its side (aiming for the center of the thickest part if the steak is uneven). Pull your steak off the heat when it’s 120 degrees (for rare), 125 degrees (for medium-rare), or 135 degrees (for medium)—the temperature will continue to climb about 5 degrees as it rests.

Resting Is Important for Perfectly Cooked Steak

That rest is another important aspect of steak cookery. Besides providing a convenient window to finish your side dishes, resting also gives the muscle fibers time to relax and reabsorb any released moisture, ensuring the juiciest end result. Rest your steaks on a wire rack so that the gorgeously browned crust you worked for won’t steam and sog. Tent the steak with aluminum foil to retain some heat but still allow steam to escape, and don’t touch it for 10 minutes.


Steak, Potatoes, and Broccolini with Scallion Sauce

A charred scallion sauce takes steak and potatoes from everyday fare to something special.
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Top Your Perfectly Cooked Steak with a Sauce

All that’s left to do is to slice and serve it . . . perhaps with a delicious sauce? I’m partial to the combination of horseradish and charred scallions from this recipe for Steak, Potatoes, and Broccolini with Scallion Sauce. I hope you’ll give it a try!

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