For a college student, a steak is often a delicacy. As much as I might like to take a trip down to Maklemore’s and drop $22 on a ribeye, I might as well take a bite out straight out of my credit card. So, when the time comes to cut into that beautifully marbled beef, I want it cooked as best as can be, and so should you.
Today, we’re going to learn all about what happens to steak on a hot skillet, the level of doneness to best enjoy your meal and why you’re wrong if you don’t order medium-rare. I will die on this hill.
Before we get there, lets explore the science of cooking your meat. Depending on the internal temperature, the texture and flavor will change, as well as the composition of the meat itself. Heating proteins causes the proteins to denature. This pushes the water out of the meat and sizzling can be heard as it begins to evaporate.
The myoglobin within the steak is what gives it a red color. Myoglobin is not blood. According to exploratorium.edu, myoglobin is a protein that is found more prominently in red, or dark meat. Less myoglobin=less water=less juicy meat. If you are one of many mixing up hemoglobin (blood) and myoglobin, please don’t be scared. Red meat does not make you a vampire.
The primary purpose of cooking meat is to kill harmful bacteria that could make you sick upon digestion. According to HealthLink BC, “During the butchering process, E. coli sometimes gets onto the surface of the meat. Whole cuts of meat such as steaks or roasts usually have E. coli on the surface, which makes the E. coli easier to kill by cooking.”
This is why rare steaks, while under the FDA recommendations of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, are still safe to digest when left whole.
Now that we understand the basics of cooking steak and how to avoid an extended trip to the restroom, we can figure out my personal opinion the undeniably best way to cook your meat.
The most common terminology used to indicate internal temperatures are blue-rare, rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well and well-done. What does your preference say about you? This is my world and I am the judge, jury and executioner so I won’t be taking it easy on you.
Blue-rare indicates 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a light sear on the outside, leaving the inside uncooked. If you order blue-rare you are pretty much eating a cow who forgot to bring its sunscreen to the beach. Do you know how long it’s been since we discovered fire? Get with the times. 2% of Americans prefer their steak blue-rare
Rare indicates 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This steak is mostly red in the center but is warm throughout. You’re cutting it close, but you get a passing grade if you order rare. It’s less chewy than blue-rare, but not by much. If you’re a slow eater your steak won’t be warm by the end of your meal. And when it comes to steak, less is often more. 11% of Americans prefer their steak rare.
Medium-rare indicates 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Medium-rare steaks are red and pink in the center and has reached the melting point for the fats within the meat. If you order medium-rare, I can only assume you are an individual of superior class and taste. We’ve moved from chewy to tender and stopped before tough, perfection. You have my utmost respect, and you are always welcome at my dinner table. 23% of Americans prefer their steak medium-rare.
Medium indicates 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The reds have gone at this point, but there is still a good amount of pink left in your meat. I respect you more than rare, but you’re straying from the light. If you prefer a slightly tougher texture than medium-rare but want to maintain the flavors of the steak, this might be the steak for you. 13% of Americans prefer their steak medium.
Medium-well indicates 150 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s still some pink, but it’s entering tougher territory. Medium-well is the point of no return and is your last chance to stay in the promised land. At this point much of the steak’s water content has evaporated, leaving you with a drier texture. 16% of Americans prefer their steak medium-well.
Well-done indicates 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Well-done steaks have lost any signs of a pink interior and have a tough and dry texture. The meat has gone from a beautiful crimson slab to something I had to identify in a Geology lab. If you order well-done because you feared the blood, immediate repentance can save your soul. If not, the only beef left on the table is the beef I have with you. I will swap your steak for a salad bowl before it gets to your table because you’ve lost your protein privileges. A whopping 24% of Americans order their steak well-done. Every day we stray further from God’s light.
I hear you; I hear you. You get to choose what you enjoy the most. That’s your undeniable right. However, I encourage you to move up and down the temperature scale occasionally, to see what your sweet spot is. You never know if you’ll land on something you enjoy more without giving it a shot.
At the end of the day, understanding the way food works inside the kitchen is important in maintaining your physical health, and has a tremendous impact on your dining experience.