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How to Tell If Your Steak is Done

Do you like your meat pink, medium, or straight up burnt? How ever you like it, this handy guide to doneness will help.

In this article, we look at how to tell if your steak is done.

Cooking Steak

When cooking steak, you’re a bit of a scientist. You are accomplishing several things:

  • You sear the surface of the steak.
  • And, you heat the inside of the steak.

With your scientist hat on, you are producing the Maillard reaction. This happens when meat and other foods reach about 285-325 degrees Fahrenheit.

When they reach this temperature, amino acids and sugars react to create flavor compounds and delicious aromas. In addition, your meat turns brown. Hence, you have the classic smell we’re used to as meat cooks.

Why the Perfect Sear?

You want the perfect sear for several reasons. First, it heats the outside of your steak to 285 degrees. This browns your meat, making it more appealing. It also gives your meat a slight crunch as you bite into the moist insides.

Searing is also important because it kills surface bacteria. Searing is a quick cook, though, as you don’t want tough meat on the inside.

Cooking the Perfect Insides

You’ve got that great Maillard reaction on the outside of your steak, and now it’s time to turn to the inside. The USDA says 145 degrees is the magic number for meat that’s safe to eat. While many steak lovers like meat a bit less cooked than that, the lowest recommended internal temperature for steak is 120 Fahrenheit.

Do note that as your steak’s internal temperature rises, you risk overcooking the meat near the surface. It pays to know your meat temperatures so you get steak that is done just how you like it – whether it’s rare, medium, or well done.

Steak Temperatures

Back we go to science. Here’s what you get at certain temps:

Steak Doneness Internal Temperature Grill Time at 400 °F (Mins. Per Side) Center Color
Rare 120-130 °F 2:30 Red
Medium Rare 130-135 °F 3:30 Pink
Medium 135-145 °F 4:30 Some Pink
Well 145-155 °F 5:30 Sliver of Light Pink
Well Done 155-165 °F 6:30 Mostly Brown
What Have You Done? 165 °F+ 8-10 Brown Throughout

Let’s break it down a bit more.


You just want a minimal sear on the exterior of the meat.

  • Internal Temperature: 120-130℉
  • Grill Time: ~2.5 minutes per side
  • Center Color: Red
  • Center Temperature: Cool


This is a truly seared steak. This is recommended because at this temp, you get the natural flavor of the meat. Steak aficionados usually eat it this way.

  • Internal Temperature: 130-135℉
  • Grill Time: ~3.5 minutes per side
  • Center Color: Pink with thin brown stripes on top and bottom.
  • Center Temperature: Room Temperature


Most people like medium steaks because the blood is nearly non-existent.

  • Internal Temperature: 135-145℉
  • Grill Time: ~4.5 minutes per side
  • Center Color: Some pink
  • Center Temperature: Lukewarm


While this is well-cooked, you can still taste the flavor of your steak.

  • Internal Temperature: 145-155℉
  • Grill Time: ~5.5 minutes per side
  • Center Color: Sliver of light pink
  • Center Temperature: Warm


It’s simply browned and cooked throughout.

  • Internal Temperature: 155-165℉
  • Grill Time: ~6.5 minutes per side
  • Center Color: Mostly brown
  • Center Temperature: Warm throughout


Yuck. Literally no one likes it this way.

  • Internal Temperature: 165+℉
  • Grill Time: ~8-10 minutes per side
  • Center Color: Brown throughout
  • Center Temperature: Hot off the grill


You want to always buy the best cut of meat you can because it has the best flavor. Here are a few tips:

  • The thicker the steak, the easier it is to cook. And, it tastes better.
  • Buy from the butcher and tell him just what you want. A two inch steak is superb.
  • Pre-heat your grill and make sure the temperature is set to it’s highest temperature (400-500℉). Grilling steak can be a quick and easy process. Also, thick cut steak has more forgiveness with cook time and tenderness.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to test doneness, head on over to our recipes section on our blog for some great steak recipes. Here are a few:

Photo and source Traeger.