How can you be sure your steak is medium-rare or medium-well?
The best answer is an instant thermometer.
I am a big fan of instant thermometers. I knew they were great tools especially if you are a novice to cooking without the experience to "touch" food and know when it is done but now I know they are essential to any level cook.
Rare or Medium-Rare?
According to my meat doneness chart, the difference between a rare and medium-rare steak is 5º F. If you think your touch can accurately differentiate 5º, then forget the instant thermometer. But if I'm spending big $$$ for a good piece of steak or veal, I want it cooked just the way I like it with no mistakes and the only way you can be sure is by using an instant thermometer.
You've grilled hundreds of steaks in your lifetime and think you can tell when it is done just by pressing your finger on it. "Oh, it feels like base of my thumb with my hand open, it must be medium-rare." I don't think so especially if you compare my hand to my wife's hand. Who's steak do you think will be more cooked?
So I use my magic fingers to tell me exactly when the steak is done but I'm not completely sure. So what do I do? Cut into it to take a peak? Bad answer. By cutting into it your are allowing juices to bleed out resulting in a tough, dry steak.
A better answer is to probe it with an instant thermometer. In seconds you will know exactly what the internal temperature is and if it's reached the desired target. Remember, you can't cook a steak to medium-rare if you don't know what medium-rare is.
Be sure to read my blog post, How Do You Know When The Meat Is Done
What Instant Thermometer Should You Buy?
There are some really good, reasonable products on the market today. I started with a non-digital model but now own a digital brand with a quick read probe. It is so much better than my older instant thermometer and gives a reading in much less time. Here are some of the features you want to be looking at when purchasing yours.
- Response Time - How fast does the thermometer giving you a reading? The faster the better as long as the reading is accurate. A instant thermometer that can read boiling water accurately in 10 to 20 seconds is good, 20 to 30 seconds is fair and over 30 seconds poor.
- Accuracy - A fast response time without accuracy is not what you are looking for. A good instant thermometer needs to measure accurately. You can test your own thermometer by sticking it in boiling water and see if it reaches 212º F or in a slurry of ice water at 32º F.
- Readability - The digital models are much easier to read than the older models. Find one that has a big enough face that you can read it for a couple of feet away.
- Features - My thermometer has some nifty features, most of them I don't use but I do like the hold button that locks the temperature when I hit the button. It's also a good idea to have an automatic off feature.
Taylor Digital Instant Read Thermometer
Here's one of the top rated digital instant thermometers from Taylor.