Learn the easiest way to tell when your steak is cooked to the perfect level of doneness.
When it comes to steak, everyone has their own idea as to how it should be cooked. Some people like their steaks rare, while others can’t stand seeing any pink remaining and want their steak cooked well done. There are actually lots of different methods you can use to tell when you steak is done.
Many folks recommend using an instant-read meat thermometer – and it IS a very accurate way of testing the internal temperature of a steak. But the main disadvantage is that once you pierce the steak, a lot of the juices will leak out and that is not ideal. Additionally, depending on the thickness of your steak, it can be challenging to get the thermometer inserted just-right into the middle of your steak.
While we love using meat thermometers – especially probe thermometers that can stay in your meat as you roast, so you avoid the leaking juice issue – we mostly recommend using those when you are cooking roasts.
Instead, the easiest way to tell when your steak is done is to use what is called either the “Poke Test” or “Finger Test”.
Throughout your cooking or grilling process, poke the steak with your finger – then match it up to the picture below.
Hold out your non-dominant hand (not the hand you write with), relaxed with the palm facing up. With the index finger of your other hand, poke near the base of your thumb. That is what raw meat feels like.
With the same non-dominant hand, touch the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. Poke your finger near the base of your thumb. This is what rare meat feels like.
The inside of your steak will be very red.
Do the same thing with the tip of your middle finger, touching it to the tip of your thumb. Poke your finger near the base of your thumb. This is what medium rate meat feels like.
The inside of your steak will be warm on the inside but still red to pink in color.
Repeat with the tip of your ring finger, touching it to the tip of your thumb. Poke your finger near the base of your thumb. This is what medium well meat feels like.
The inside of your steak will still be mostly pink in color with some brown around the edges.
Finally, do the same with the tip of your pinky, touching the tip to the tip on your thumb. Poke your finger near the base of your thumb. This is what well done meat feels like.
The inside of your steak will be (mostly) brown in color. *Some of you may still feel that the steak shown here really isn’t well done because some pink is still showing. In full disclosure, we aren’t fans of well done steaks, and we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to (in our opinion) over cook and ruin 😊 a really good steak. Feel free to cook longer if you’d prefer no pink at all.
There are actually a couple of other poke or touch tests you can do to tell when your steak is done, although we think the method above is the easiest and most accurate. But in reality, everyone’s hands are different and even my husband Jack does it a little bit different (as shown below), just running his thumb across his palm, because the Finger Test doesn’t give him quite enough of a guide to test the doneness.
You can also try the “Fist Test”. If you make a relaxed fist, then poke the fleshly part of your hand between the thumb and index finger, that is how a rare steak feels. If you clench your fist a little bit more – that is similar to medium. And, finally, a tightly clenched fist will feel similar to a well done steak. We personally feel there is a lot of room for error in this method because everyone’s hands and ability to make a fist are different.
Finally, some chefs recommend what’s called the “Face Test” where you relax your face, then poke different parts of your face. Poking your cheeks is “rare”, poking your chin is “medium”, and poking your forehead is “medium well.” We also think there is a lot of room for error in this method because both facial structure and weight can really impact the softness of a person’s face.
Drooling over those steak photos in this post?