Different Levels of Steak: A Guide to Perfect Doneness

In today’s jam-packed guide, I will show you how steak can be cooked ideally for every level of doneness. This way, you can make the ultimate steak precisely to your liking!

Different Levels Of Steak close up on black background.

If you are looking for other meat-cooking guides, you’ll love my tutorial on How to Cook Sirloin Steak in an Air Fryer and How To Make Medium-Rare Burgers.

What Are The Different Cooked Stages Of Steak?

As many of you are likely aware, there are numerous ways to cook steak. And I’m not talking about different cuts or different cooking methods.

This means that as a steak cooks, it reaches a different degree of doneness which, in turn, affects its texture and flavor.

How are the different degrees of doneness for steak achieved?

It all comes down to the cooking technique used. First, the heat will affect the steak’s final texture (and doneness). High heat will instantly sear the outside but keep the inside uncooked. This is the technique used to make blue rare steaks.

Cooking Different Levels Of Steak

However, let’s consider a scenario where all the steaks are cooked at the same level. In this case, the cooking time will affect the stage of the cooked steak. The longer it is cooked, the more done (less juicy) it will be. So, a medium rare steak only cooks for 4-5 minutes per side, whereas a well-done steak will cook for about 6-8 minutes per side.

New grill masters often ask, “Why do we need different levels of doneness for steak?”

Each level has different characteristics, such as flavor, texture, and juiciness. 

Some people love a little bit of juice in their steak but not a chewy texture. In that case, a medium steak would be perfect! Others don’t like the juices and slightly rubbery texture at all. Here, a well-done steak would be best.

There are 6 main types of cooked steak when it comes to doneness.

Different doneness Of Steak

Blue Rare (Bleu)

We start with the least cooked option of them all, blue steak. This is a classic French dish that only quickly sears the edges of the steak over high heat. It’s not completely raw, but it’s also not thoroughly cooked.

It’s not as popular in North America and other parts of the world, mainly because of the misconception about this meat. It could also be because this is arguably the most complex steak level to pull off.

The name “blue” comes from this cut turning purplish blue when exposed to oxygen. 

Blue Rare Steak lose up.

How To Make Blue Rare Steak

To start, you will need to preheat the pan over high heat. You can add oil, butter, herbs, or aromatics (like garlic).

Once heated, a sirloin steak of 3/4-inch thickness will need to cook for 1 minute on each side. On each side, a 1 1/2-inch fillet steak will cook for 1 1/2 minutes.

The exact cooking time depends mainly on the cut and thickness you use.

Blue steak should have an almost purple, dark color. It is generally quite spongy and doesn’t resist when pressed on. 

You can check the internal temperature of the cut at its thickest part. It should be 129.2°F (54°C). This is part of why this steak is so difficult to cook perfectly. The shallow temperature required makes it very easy to overcook.

Will You Get Sick From Blue Rare Cooked Steak?

Unlike pork or poultry, beef is less susceptible to dangerous bacteria and is often served completely raw or barely cooked.

The secret to making it uber-safe is ensuring you sear the outside completely. This high heat will instantly kill all the potential E-coli on the outside.

Rare

Most people recognize rare steak as the “least done form of steak”. Nonetheless, it is slightly more cooked compared to blue steak.

This steak is darker in color on the outside and is about 75% red (less cooked) on the inside. It is quite juicy and feels soft and spongy as well. This steak offers more resistance when pressed than blue steaks.

Rare steak.

How To Make Rare Steak

Again, you can preheat your pan or grill over high heat. Incorporate any spices or herbs of your preference.

Once hot, add the steak and cook it for roughly 1 1/2 minutes per side for a 3/4-inch sirloin steak. A thicker fillet steak will cook for 2-2 1/2 minutes per side.

The ideal internal temp for rare steak is around 134.6°F (57°C).

Rare Steak fryng in a black pan.

Medium Rare

Next up, we have arguably the best rare plus steak doneness, medium-rare. 

This steak is more cooked than a rare steak but still has a spongy texture and a ton of juicy flavors. It has a more pink color with some juices still flowing around. It’s soft, spongy, and slightly springy (resists a bit).

These steaks offer the best of both worlds. They don’t have a raw steak texture, which many people hate! But they are also not dry and juice-less like a well-done steak.

This makes them especially popular for sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

pieces of Medium rare steak

How To Cook Medium-Rare Steak

Medium-rare meat has to be cooked until the internal temperature reaches 145.4°F (63°C).

This will take about 2 minutes of cooking per side for a 1-inch sirloin steak and 3 – 3 1/2 minutes for a 1 1/2-inch fillet steak.

Medium

Next, we have the most universally ordered level of doneness, medium.

This cut has a pale pink center and not a lot of juices. Thoroughly cook most of the steak, leaving only a thin pink “strip” in the center, slightly undercooked. It is firm to the touch and quite springy. Because it’s not raw, it’s not spongy at all.

pieces of Medium steak.

How To Make Medium Steak

The process stays the same as for the other doneness of steaks.

Depending on the cut and thickness, the medium steak will cook for 4 minutes on each side. A sirloin steak only needs about 2 1/2 minutes of cooking per side (if it’s 1 inch thick).

The ideal internal temperature for medium steaks is roughly 159.8°F (71°C). As you can see, that’s significantly more cooked than medium-rare steaks. 

Medium Well

Next, we have a less frequently chosen option (typically, people prefer the well-done alternative).

Nevertheless, it’s a stage worth mentioning!

Medium-well steaks lack juices and are frequently described as dry, chewy, and less flavorful. Why is it less flavorful? Because ultimately, the juices help add the most flavor. And because this steak has no, it’s automatically less tasty than less-cooked options.

pieces of Medium well steak

How To Cook Medium-Well Steak

This cut of steak cooks for roughly 3 1/2 minutes per side if you are working with a sirloin steak of 1-inch thickness. It would be best if you never cooked a fillet steak over medium.

The internal temp for medium-well steaks is around 163.4°F (73°C).

Well Done

Lastly, and certainly not least, if you don’t like spongy meat cuts, you’ll likely order your meat well done. 

These steaks have no juices at all. They are completely dry and only have hues of pink. They are quite firm in texture and only slightly springy.

Getting well-done steaks tender without prolonged cooking is almost impossible like in stews. But for grilling, don’t expect a ton of flavor other than the seasoning on the outside.

pieces of WELL DONE steak.

How To Cook Well-Done Steak

I don’t love cooking any cut of meat to this level. But, if you do, only use cuts like sirloin steaks. If you use a special cut like fillet, you are ruining its purpose: to be soft, flavorful, and uber-juicy.

A well-done steak has a core temperature exceeding 167°F (75°C).

The cooking times for a sirloin steak will vary between 4-6 minutes on each side, based on the steak’s thickness.

Different Levels Of Steak on a board.

How To Cook Different Levels Of Steak – The Ultimate Guide

Keesha
For this recipe we will be using basic garlic butter and rosemary seasoning, but feel free to play around with other flavors as well. I'll also include the cooking times and temperatures for different doneness of steaks.
5 from 26 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 346 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 sirloin steak (1-inch thick)
  • Sea salt flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the cut by removing it from its package and patting it dry using paper towels. This removes excess moisture, which makes the steak cook more evenly.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on both surfaces of the meat for flavor. If you have other spices and dried herbs, you can add them as well. Allow your meat to reach room temperature before cooking.
  • Warm up a sizable frying pan over a medium-high flame. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat as well.
  • Once heated, lower the temperature to medium and add the steak. Leave the steak to cook for the correct amount according to the guide below. Only flip the steak once!
  • Once you flip over the steak to cook on the final side, add the butter, garlic, and rosemary. Tilt the pan so all of the juices run to the side. Then, baste the steak until you're happy with its doneness.
  • Finally, remove the steak from the heat and leave it to rest for 5-10 minutes. Keep in mind to always cut the steak against its grain.

Blue Steaks

  • Cook the steaks for roughly 1 minute per side or until the internal temperature has reached 129.2°F (54°C).

Rare Steaks

  • Cook your sirloin steak for 1 1/2 minutes per side until the internal temp for rare steak has reached 134.6°F (57°C).

Medium-Rare Steaks

  • Medium-rare steaks are done at 145.4°F (63°C) internally, which is about 2 minutes per side.

Medium Steaks

  • Your medium steak is done when the internal temperature has reached 159.8°F (71°C). This is about 2 1/2 minutes per side of cooking.

Medium-Well Steaks

  • A medium well steak will cook for 3 1/2 minutes per side or until the internal temp is 163.4°F (73°C).

Well-Done Steaks

  • Finally, a well-done steak is finished when the internal temp is at least 167°F (75°C). This will take between 4-6 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 346kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 50gFat: 36gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 168mgSodium: 106mgPotassium: 749mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 356IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 83mgIron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!

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One Comment

  1. Amy Liu Dong says:

    5 stars
    The meat looks so tender and delicious. I can’t wait to make this at home.