Is my meat done yet?

Photo by Benjamin Horn from Flickr, CC BY 2.0

I’ve never known how to order my steaks. Do I get it medium? Do I get it rare? Who knows. I started reading about meat doneness and here’s some info for us both.


Most Steakhouses won’t serve a truly raw steak to you. There is some fear of contamination with uncooked meat and more importantly, the fear of legal repercussions keeps owners from serving what you want. If you want a truly raw meat meal, you can find them in many ethnic restaurants. Raw beef is eaten in all corners of the globe. American steakhouses just haven’t gotten the memo yet.

Here are some dishes that are prepared using raw beef:

  • Steak Tartare (France)
  • Kitfo (Ethiopia)
  • Kibbeh Nayyeh (Lebanon)
  • Carne’ Apache (Mexico)
  • Basashi (Japan)


If you are lucky enough to find a steakhouse that will do it, a steak that has been barely heated on a warm skillet is called blue. Really, the only difference between raw and blue is that raw never sees the skillet and blue only gives it a quick visit. Blue should be warmed on the outside and cool on the inside.


Technically, rare beef is heated to between 120 to 125 F. Visually, it should be gray-brown on the outside with plenty of blood seeping through. When you cut into it, the rare steak is still blood red and cooler than the outside. It takes only one to two minutes to cook a rare steak.

The difference between blue and rare is that blue still has the consistency of raw meat while a rare steak has become soft and and easier to chew.

Black and Blue

If you want a bloody rare steak but can’t find a restaurant that will serve it, you should consider opting for the black and blue instead. The black and blue is a steak that is seared in a very hot skillet for a short period of time- usually just long enough to seal the meat. As the name implies, the steak is usually blackened on the outside. The pan is so hot, however that the inside of the steak is still raw and cool.


For all intents and purposes, the Pittsburgh is the same as a black and blue. The name “Pittsburgh”, “Pittsburgh Rare” or “Pittsburgh Blue” is a carry over from the days when the Workers in the Pittsburgh Steel Mill would bring raw meat in for their lunch and cook it on the still hot metal. The metal was so hot it would sear it to a charred black within seconds.

Medium Rare

The medium rare steak differs from the rare in that the meat will be browned on the outside and warmed through. Instead of bloody raw center, the meat will be pink with a little red in the middle and with only a hint of blood when you cut it. Technically, the medium rare is 130 F. in the center. This is accomplished by cooking it on high heat for two or three minutes maximum per side.


The center of a medium done steak is completely pink. It’s not cooked through yet, but there should be no red. The outside should be dark brown all the way around but not blackened. At high heat, this effect will take between five and six minutes and should result in a finished product that is 145 F in the center.

Medium Well

A medium well steak only has a thin line of pink still visible. The steak will be firm and the outside should be well browned with a little charring on the top and bottom. To achieve best results, the steak should be seared on high heat for one minute on each side and then transferred to medium heat for five or six minutes on each side to bring it up to 155 F.

Well Done

Steak enthusiasts often dislike well done steak, but still some people insist on fully cooked meat. That’s accomplished easily enough with just a little time and patience. There should be no hint of pink in a well done steak. The outside should be well browned with dark char but not burnt. The well done steak will feel firm with little give and will register at around 165 F. Well done steaks are cooked on medium heat for 10 minutes. Longer cooking times on lower heat is the key- not to low or you will dry out the meat but low enough to prevent burning. If you want a moister steak, try splashing a little water or wine in the pan and covering it.

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