Should Steak Be Cooked On High Heat?

should steak be cooked on high heat

If you are a steak lover like me, you will know that there are many different types of steak out there.

And the main difference between them, other than their cut and shape, is the temperature at which they are supposed to be cooked.

The choice of temperature also depends on your desired doneness, texture, and cut of meat.

However, almost every steak must start the cooking process with high heat.

So, should steak be cooked on high heat? Yes, absolutely! Steak needs to be cooked on high heat to ensure the meat is cooked thoroughly from inside to out.

There is nothing worse than thinking you’ve got a lovely steak to the doneness you desire, and then realizing it’s undercooked when cutting into it.

Even if you’re a steak enthusiast or master chef, cooking them can still be an overwhelming process for most people because even the slightest mistake in heat can result in an undercooked or overcooked steak.

This problem not only affects its tenderness but also affects its taste and texture.

To cook a perfect steak, you must learn the different degrees of doneness and at what temperature to cook them.

Additionally, you should identify the doneness just by looking at the visual and textural cues.

What Is Meant By Steak Doneness?

Steak doneness is the term used to describe how thoroughly the specialized cut of meat is cooked.

The steak’s internal temperature, color, texture, and juiciness determine how thoroughly the steak is cooked.

The term doneness is usually used for beef steaks only, which can be cooked up to different degrees of internal temperature.

So, you must be wondering what the visual cues indicating different internal temperatures of the steak are?

It is not very hard to identify different doneness levels of steak. When cooking steak, the muscle fibers of meat are contracted, which results in a change of texture from spongy to dense, making it easier to chew.

The contraction of muscle fibers also results in a change of color of the meat from bright red/pink to brown.

During this process, juices are also released. Both the color and texture of the steak are great indicators of its internal temperature.

Why Is Doneness Important For Steaks?

The challenging part in ensuring steak doneness is that steak cooks at a rapid speed.

Raw meat is not chewable, which is why steak doneness is important to make sure the steak is cooked to a point where it can be easily chewed.

On the other hand, if it is cooked for a long time, then it becomes dry and hard again, making it hard to chew.

For example, if you have a steak that is 1 inch thick, the rate at which the temperature of its center changes can be more than 10 degrees F per minute.

It is important to note that steak doneness is also crucial to ensure the safety of your health. It is advised by expert chefs to cook the steak up to 160 degrees F to prevent you from any likelihood of foodborne sickness.

What Are The Degrees Of Steak Doneness And What Heat Is Used For Each Degree Of Doneness?

It is absolutely safe to serve the steaks at varying degrees of doneness ranging from raw to well done.

Raw Steak

There are dishes in which the meat is not at all heated, and they are served fully raw such as steak tartare and beef carpaccio.

The dishes served with raw meat mostly consist of steak taken from the tenderest parts of the cow, which are always carefully trimmed before they can be served.

Please note – eating raw steak can be very dangerous, so only do this if you’re eating from a restaurant and choose a dish that offers this meal. I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home in your kitchen.

Bleu Steak

Bleu refers to the doneness where steak is rapidly seared on high heat throughout the cooking; however, the inside of the steak still remains raw and cool with a red color.

The texture of the steak is soft when touched and feels like the muscle is in a relaxed state that exists between the thumb and index finger.

At this level of doneness, the internal temperature of the steak should be 110 degrees F.

Rare Steak

At approximately 120 degrees F, the steak is known to become firm and dense, and one of the two filaments in the muscle known as myosin begins to form a mass.

During the process of coagulation, the muscle also releases juices. Please note that the juices are not blood. Rather, they are protein-bound water, even though rare steaks are often called bloody.

Rare steaks are also cooked on high heat throughout, and this is the stage where most juices are released.

In raw doneness steaks, the steak’s internal temperature is supposed to be 120-130 degrees F, and the texture of the steak feels like the muscle in between the thumb and index finger in a state when both thumb and finger are stretched apart.

Medium Rare Steak

This level of doneness is most popular among steak lovers.

The medium-rare steak is firmer than the raw doneness steak yet without losing its juiciness.

To achieve the medium-rare doneness, the steak is initially seared on high heat for initial browning. Once the initial browning is achieved, the heat is lowered to medium for the rest of the cooking.

The internal temperature of steak at this doneness level is between 130 and 135 degrees F.

The texture also becomes more fibrous than rare steak, and juices are released upon cutting the steak. Additionally, the internal color of the steak turns into lighter red color.

Medium Steak

When the steak’s internal temperature is reached to 140 degrees F, the proteins thicken, making the meat firmer and juicier.

The collagen present in the meat cells gets smaller and releases a good amount of juices between 140 and 150 degrees F.

It is found that the steak shrinks almost 1/6th, making it become chewier and a little bit dry.

The doneness level of meat is considered to be medium by the majority of the cooks, but the USDA considers it rare rather than medium.

Like medium, to achieve this level of doneness, the steak should not be cooked on high heat throughout the cooking process; rather, it is only cooked on high heat to make its outer brown, after which it is cooked on medium heat.

The internal temperature of steak for this level of doneness should be 135-145 degrees F, and the texture of the meat feels like the muscle between the index finger and thumb in a state when both fingers are tightly squeezed.

Additionally, the internal color of the meat becomes pink from red.

Medium Well Steak

At this level of doneness, the color of the steak becomes brown, and any further cooking would make it well done.

The internal temperature of the steak at medium-well doneness is between 145-155 degrees F.

The steak becomes less juicy and stiffer. High to medium heat is used for cooking medium-well steaks.

Well Done Steak

When an internal temperature of 155 degrees F is achieved, the steak is considered to be well done.

At this stage, almost all the proteins of the meat are denatured.

It is essential to note that all microbes get killed at temperatures above 160 degrees F.

Just like medium-well, high to medium heat is used for well-done doneness.

Should I Start Cooking Steak On High Heat?

Should steak be cooked on high heat?

Yes, it is imperative to start cooking steak with high heat, no matter what level of doneness is desirable.

It is, therefore, one of the main mistakes made by most beginner chefs and cooks that they don’t begin the cooking process with high heat.

It is sometimes due to the lack of enough heat. Many of the stoves we use at home do not produce as much heat as is produced by commercial appliances.

Another reason is that high heat causes panic in most of the home cooks as a lot of smoke is produced at those levels of heat, resulting in lower heat, which is why they fail to achieve the brown crust on the outside of the steak.

Why Grilling Steak Requires High Heat

Since grilling takes place outside, therefore dealing with smoke becomes much easier, and you can grill the steak on your required level of heat.

Regardless of the type of grill you are using for cooking; it is vital to keep it smoking hot.

One measure of grill hotness is that if you hold your hand almost one inch above the grill, you should not be able to keep it there above the grill for more than a few seconds.

High heat is important for grilling because the steak will cook fast, and the steaks that are cooked fast mostly turn out to be more tender.

This is an expert tip that only seasoned chefs know and they usually don’t reveal their cooking secrets. However, if you follow it you will definitely see and taste the difference.

Another reason behind using high heat is that it is the only way to create a Millard reaction, making a brown crispy crust on the outside of the steak.

If the heat is not high enough, then that crust will not be made outside the steak.

I hope this article has cleared your confusion, and now you know why temperature is important for cooking steaks.

The next time you cook your steak, please make sure to start with high heat to get the brown crust, and then you can change the heat or temperature according to the level of the desired doneness.

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