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Rarely Well Done: The Perfect Steak

on October 15, 2017
The perfect steak. It all starts with the cattle. Then, the cut comes into play, and finally, it ultimately comes down to preparation. The most expertly-raised animal can be artfully cared for and cut into by a master butcher, but if the meat is not handled well once it goes to the flame, the whole operation can quickly be undone. When ordering steak in a restaurant, you likely ought to stick to rare and medium rare as your chosen temperatures. After all, the men and women behind the line in the kitchen are trained professionals, so what better time to see and taste steak done right? And, it is true that most culinary experts will tell you – steak is generally meant to be enjoyed at rarer internal temps. If you love your meat well done and can’t stand the sight of pink in your beef, we’ve got nothing against you, it’s just a well-known fact that keeping the meat rare goes the furthest to preserve its natural juices and provide a delightfully-textured example of mother nature’s finest meat offerings. You don’t always have the advantage of having world-class chefs at your disposal, of course. This shouldn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the luxury of a masterfully-made New York Strip or Porterhouse. Your local grocery store should have decent offerings in the butcher’s department, and fortunately for you, steak can be prepared in a pan, over an open flame, or just about any way you can think of. Baking a cut of steak is a great way to dry it out, however, so better to stick with the grill or your favorite cast iron pan. Regardless of your method, the end product should be more or less the same:
  • Rare (125 Degrees): Brownish-grey surface color with lots of bright red and pink in the middle. Not necessarily piping hot all the way through, but smooth in texture and mouth feel. Chew thoroughly, and take small bites!
  • Medium-Rare (130 Degrees): Much more pink than red internally, otherwise appears very similar to a rare steak.
  • Medium (145 Degrees): At this temperature, a piece of steak should begin to take on more brown than grey externally. Internally, it will still retain a sliver of pink.
  • Medium-Well (155 Degrees): Quite a different finished product from it’s previous three incarnations. Noticeably firmer at this hotter temp, there should be just the hint of a memory of a dream of what was once pinkness in the middle of the meat.
  • Well-Done (165 Degrees): Charred and blacker than any of the meat stages discussed so far, a well-done steak bears no resemblance internally to the rare color it once contained. Grey and brown throughout the cut, this temp is better saved for sandwiches and similar-style meals.
Pro Tips: If you like a nice, red center in your steak, but also prefer the surface of the cut to be charred and blackened, this is not a medium-rare steak. Rather, if you ask for it Black and Blue, you’ll get just what you want. Be aware that this order often gets seasoned a little more heavily with pepper to help it achieve that charred appearance and flavor. If you are wondering what the different steak temps actually feel like, just use this trick: With a gently closed fist, poke the fleshy heel of your hand. That’s what a well-done steak feels like. Now, open your hand, and feel the heel again. There you have the consistency of a rare steak. Pinch your pointer finger and thumb together to see what medium-rare feels like, then with each finger you add you move a temp up. In terms of cooking technique, we’ll have to save that for another blog! In the meantime, stop by Atlas Steakhouse any time for beautiful cuts prepared to perfection!