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I'd like to know when to take my steaks off the grill and please everybody.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Extra-Rare: 125F (52C)

Rare: 135F (57C)

Medium-Rare: 145F (63C)

Medium: 160F (71C)

Well-Done: 170F (77C)

Note: Extra-Rare and Rare are not recommended by USDA

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6  
Also note, you'll want to remove steaks from the heat when they're about 5 degrees below the temperature you're aiming for. The outside of the steak will continue to cook the inside of the steak while it sits on the plate. –  Judy Jul 9 '10 at 19:24
    
In my state, many restaurants will not serve medium-rare so I also assume there is a potential danger there also. –  Dinah Jul 9 '10 at 19:55
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Several resources, including the Culinary Institute of America's "The Professional Chef" recommend that all meat reach an internal temperature of 160°F to be considered safe. This is why most restaurants now print the disclaimer about undercooked meats on their menus. (amazon.com/Professional-Chef-Culinary-Institute-America/dp/…) –  JYelton Jul 9 '10 at 20:18
    
@Dinah: Wow. What state is that? I'll know never to order a steak there. I always order rare, and tell them to err on the side of raw. I send medium-rare's back. –  hobodave Jul 16 '10 at 14:28
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It's much different for ground meat, which is far more prone to bacterial infections. Ground meat has had a vastly greater proportion exposed to surface area and in contact with potentially unclean surfaces and handlers. Steak, on the other hand is basically sterile except for the exterior. Exterior temps on even rare steaks typically reach well above 160, since they are seared. –  Ocaasi Jul 31 '10 at 6:52

I agree with the temperatures given for doneness by @BarrettJ, but especially when grilling flat cuts of meat like steak, pork chops, chicken breasts, etc., it's difficult to use even an accurate instant read thermometer to determine doneness. In my case, I grill on charcoal most often, and it's practically impossible to avoid hotspots. If I always relied on a thermometer reading, I'd have to test each steak or chop to know when I was done.

So, I'd recommend using the thermometer a few times, but pay close attention to how the steak feels when pinched or poked with a finger. Here is an example of an article that describes this with rules of thumb for how to tell roughly how done a piece of meat is. But rather than comparing how your steak feels with the firmness of the palm of your hand (as per the article), I'd recommend taking the thermo reading, feeling the steak, looking at how well done the meat is when it's cut open and adjusting accordingly on your next grill session. Soon it will be second nature, you can save the instant read for roasts, and your friends will deem you "The Grill Whisperer".

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There are the temperatures recommended by the USDA and then there are the temperatures recommended for taste.

For Taste:

  • Rare: 120-125F
  • Medium Rare: 130-135F
  • Medium: 140-145F
  • Medium Well / Well: not appropriate when talking about taste
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