Prep School: The Science of Steak Temperature

Ordering steak can be tricky. This guide to the best temps should help.

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TJ's Tomahawk at Prime 47
TJ’s Tomahawk at Prime 47

Photo by Tony Valainis

Steak enthusiasts have differing opinions on how (or how much) a steak should be cooked. While some prefer their filets still moo-ing, others enjoy a bone-in cut with a little more char and chew. The official language of meat temps is measured in degrees, of course—a meat thermometer gets the final say in any dispute. But restaurant kitchens share a common dialect when it comes to cooking beef to the customer’s order. To avoid further misunderstanding (and drama), commit these distinctions to memory. (All temperatures are degrees Fahrenheit in the U.S.)

Rare:
120 degrees
Browned on the outside and red throughout, with a cool center

Medium-rare:
145 degrees
More brown at the edges, still red throughout, but warm from edge to edge

Medium:
160 degrees
Browned on the outside, but still pink throughout

Well-done*:
175 degrees
Browned from edge to edge, at the mercy of the kitchen

*And someone needs to say it: If you are ordering any good piece of red meat well-done, you might want to consider just going with the chicken.

 

We love steak, any way you slice it. In Indianapolis, there’s a steakhouse to cater to every occasion and level of sophistication, and after months of dining like wealthy cavemen, we present them to you here, in juicy detail. A la cartes include a primer on the king cuts (for those who don’t know a porterhouse from a portobello), tips on the best cheap chops in town, a cattle call of beefy terms, and a stab at defining that common condition among steak-lovers—the meat sweats. You want a piece of this? Dig in.

 

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