How temperature impacts taste when cooking steak

Cooking a good steak can be more complicated than it seems. There are many different cooking options that people subscribe to, along with a menagerie of ingredients added along the way to change the flavor, all of which can change based on the particular cut. However, the temperature is perhaps most directly related to taste when cooking steak. Take a closer look at how different cooking options will impact the final result.

Taste According to Steak Temperature

The internal temperature of steak directly changes taste and texture:

  • Rare: The steak will have a juicy surface and just a touch of firmness. The warm red center is very tender. The internal temperature should be 120-130°F.
  • Medium rare: The steak is a bit firmer than rare, but still quite juicy. It has a lighter red, tender center. The internal temperature should be 130-135°F.
  • Medium: The steak becomes firmer and shrinks just a bit when reaching this temperature. It may be slightly drier and chewier, with a center color that appears light red. The internal temperature should be 135-145°F.
  • Medium well: The steak continues to shrink and becomes stiff in texture. There is less juice and the center appears pale pink in color. The internal temperature should be 145-155°F.
  • Well done: The steak will be considerably smaller due to shrinking. The texture is noticeably tough and dry, and the center color is a grayish brown. The internal temperature should be 155°F or higher.

Cooking Different Steak Cuts and Types

Different types of steak will cook differently, which is important to know in order to reach your desired doneness level. Steak with lots of fat marbling and a tender texture, such as A5 Japanese Wagyu beef, are best cooked very quickly over high heat.

Tougher cuts may need more time over a lower heat to ensure even cooking throughout. If you're cooking a bone-in steak, remember that the meat near the bone will cook more slowly than the rest of the steak.

The Importance of a Good Sear

While temperature undeniably impacts taste, it's also the cooking process itself that can have a direct impact on how good your steak is. Many professional and home chefs go to great lengths to get the perfect sear on a steak. That's because it plays an important role in delivering certain tastes and textures to complement the meat.

Should I Rest My Steak After Cooking?

Another way to enhance the taste of your steak is to make sure you give it time to rest after you're done cooking. While some home chefs skip this step, it's important to allow the meat to sit for about 5-10 minutes before you make a single cut.

During this time, the muscle fibers relax a bit, and it can even reabsorb some of the lost moisture. This results in a steak that tastes juicier and tenderer compared to one that's eaten as soon as it comes off the grill, off the stove or out of the oven.