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Get The Perfect Steak Temperature Without A Meat Thermometer

Making a delicious, perfectly cooked steak at home is as rewarding as it gets. After all, just a  few distracted minutes away can lead to it being overcooked, and who wants to slice into a dry, rubbery cut of meat?  To make a juicy steak cooked the exact right amount is a precise task, which is why it's so important to find the correct steak temperature.

Checking the internal temperature of the thickest part of the steak is pretty easy to do if you have a meat thermometer, but doing this involves piercing the outer layer of your grilled steak, which can cause it to lose those flavorful juices and dry out.

Instead of reaching for an instant-read thermometer or, worse, slicing into your steak with a sharp knife, you can check the temperature with a trick that doesn't risk letting the juices out.

This trick, called the hand or press test, always helps give me an idea of a steak's doneness, and all you need is your hand. This trick is also super helpful if you're cooking a bunch of steaks at different temperatures.

Steaks seasoned with salt and pepper on an outdoor grill -Photographed on Hasselblad H3-22mb Camera

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Before you even get to the step of cooking your steak at the exact right temperature, there are a few tips to set you up for success. Start by buying the best meat possible from the butcher or grocery store; even if it's on the pricier side, it'll be worth the final result. When you're ready to use your cut of meat to make a succulent steak, allow the meat to come to room temperature and then pat the steak dry with paper towels.

Another essential step is heating up your grill or oven before cooking the meat. This will give your steak a nice brown sear. Lastly, when the steak is cooked, cover it with foil and set it aside for a few minutes to keep all those delicious juices in. For extra flavor, spread some butter or olive oil on top of the steak before digging in. 

Rare steak: Rare steak has a bright red color when you slice into it and has an internal temperature of about 125 degrees. With one hand, bring your thumb and pointer finger together and touch the soft, fleshy part just under your thumb with your finger from the other hand. That's how firm a rare steak should be when you touch it.

Medium-rare steak: Take your thumb and gently press it to your middle finger. When you touch the fleshy part under your thumb, you'll notice it firm up a little. That's how a medium-rare steak should feel when you touch it. It should have an internal temperature of about 130 degrees Fahrenheit and a warm red center.

Medium steak: I'm sure you know what's next! For medium-well steak, press your thumb and ring finger together. When you touch the part just under your thumb, you'll notice it's pretty firm with just a little spring to it. That's how a medium steak should feel on the outside with a cooking temperature of about 140-145 degrees.

Well-done steak: If you prefer a well-done steak with hardly any red color, press your thumb to your pinky finger. The fleshy part under your thumb should feel firm to the touch. The steak temperature should be around 160 degrees and evenly brown on the outside.

This post was originally published May 10, 2018

READ MORE: The Best Steak Knives for Any Budget