For some chefs, using a meat thermometer in the kitchen is like admitting they still use training wheels on a bike ride. It’s a badge of honor for a chef to cook steaks to perfect temp without assistance. Or crack eggs one-handed. Or chop an onion faster than anyone else in the kitchen. You get the point.
But our own master of meat, Chef Peter Rosenberg, warns chefs who don’t use thermometers: Well done? Medium? Rare? Without a thermometer—say a prayer. This is especially true for home cooks who most likely don’t make their living cooking 100 steaks a night for guests. You see, for as talented as you may think you are at cooking meat to a desired temperature, there is really only one way to know for sure.
Probe it. Meat thermometers can be found just about anywhere and most times for $10 or less. The problem, at least as I theorize it, is that while most people know how they like their steak cooked, they don’t actually know to what temperature to cook it. So, therefore, they have no need to own a meat thermometer. But fear not, friends. Chef Peter and I are here to help.
Know your temp. The chart above contains the official degrees of doneness as deemed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Perhaps the best way to achieve these levels of doneness (and not overcook your meat) is to pull your steaks off the grill a few degrees early, and then let carryover cooking bring them up to those temperatures on the chart. Of course, continue to cook all burgers to 160°F (well done) as a means of food safety.
How to temp. So, you’ve got your grill or cook-top raging, your steaks are seared, flipped and seared again, and it’s to the point you’re starting to worry you might miss the sweet spot. Overcook the steaks and you risk a poor eating experience (although choosing a well-marbled Certified Angus Beef ® brand cut is your insurance policy, just in case); undercook them and, well, some finicky guests may be turned off. So it’s time to temp.
NOTE: If, by now, you’re thinking you don’t need a thermometer because you’ll just cut the steak open and look inside to see how done it is, please stop right there. Under no circumstances should you ever cut open your meat on the grill. You’re letting all the juices spill out, and probably making your grandmother cry. Don’t make grandma cry.
Using tongs, gently lift the steak off the grill and take out a trusty thermometer. Place it carefully into the thickest part of the steak, from the side. Be careful not to touch bone or fat, as that will give you a false temperature reading, Chef Peter shares.
fruits beef of your labor. After removing the steak from the grill, place it somewhere to rest, about 3-5 minutes for an average steak. This lets the juices redistribute evenly throughout the meat. I even like to make a little tent over my steak out of tin foil to keep the heat in.
Once rested (both you and the steak), grab your fork, knife and an umbrella, because your guests are going to shower you with compliments. Now, let’s put these tips to work. You procure the meat. I’ll give you a Chef Peter-recommended recipe. Try this:
- 4 (12-ounce) Certified Angus Beef ® strip steaks
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cracked red pepper
- ½ teaspoon cracked white pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Combine peppers, salt and onion powder and rub into both sides of steaks.
- Place steaks on a preheated grill
- Grill to desired doneness, checking temperature with an instant-read thermometer.
- Let rest 5 minutes before serving.