Cooking a steak to temperature is an important rule to follow no mater what cut you’re cooking. It applies to any of the standard steak cooking methods – pan searing, grilling, reverse searing or finished in the oven.


Checking the internal temperature of a steak starts with a good quality thermometer. In this digital age, battery powered units are easy to come by for less than $20. The two factors that make a great thermometer are its accuracy and how quickly it reads temperature.

We’ve found the thermometers from ThermoWorks perform well in both these categories. Our go to thermometer is the Thermapen® ONE. It’s accurate within ½ of a degree F and displays the temperature in one second. It is also backlit to make it easy to use at night. This unit retails for $99.95, but is worth its price over the long haul. 

Regardless of your choice, the important thing is to get a good quality, accurate thermometer.


With your accurate thermometer in hand, you’re ready to cook steaks just the way you love them.

Here are our recommended temperatures to measure doneness:

RareRed Center, Very Cool110°F
Medium RareRed, Warm Center120°F
MediumPink Throughout    130°F
Medium -WellPink Center140°F


Check the temperature of your steak so the probe is in the direct center. For a steak that’s 1.5” you want the tip of the probe to be at ¾” (or as close as possible!)

A technique used by many pros is to push the probe all the way through the steak so the tip hits the pan or grill, then pull it back and look for the coolest reading. 

Check the temperature of the steak in several places. Don’t rely on a single part of the steak.

Steak Temp


The recommended temperatures are to indicate when to remove your steak from the heat. Once you hit your target temperature, place the steak on a cutting board or wire rack and let it stay put for at least 10 minutes. 

As an option, you can very loosely tent the steak with a piece of foil. Don’t wrap the steak. Leave a gap of air between the steak and foil to help maintain the heat. Some folks prefer to not cover it. The rationale is that foil traps steam and heat. We have not found that to be the case, particularly if the surrounding air is cool. If it’s summertime and the surrounding air temperature is warm, there’s not much need for the foil.

Resting the Steak

Why rest? This allows the steak to continue to cook (sometimes called “carryover cooking”) and the internal temperature will rise 3 to 5 degrees. So the steak you removed from the heat with an internal temperature of 120°F will be closer to 125°F when served.

Resting also allows the juices to be reabsorbed by the steak. The final result is a more juicy and flavorful steak.


The temperatures we list for each level of doneness might not exactly match your personal idea of how a steak should be cooked. Not to worry. Think of our temperatures as a starting point. 

The more you cook steaks, the more you’ll be able to adjust the temperature to achieve a finish that is exactly the way you prefer. Make a mental note, or better yet, keep a notebook and jot down your thoughts. 

With your thermometer and experience, you’ll cook a perfect steak every time.