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Use the Touch Test to Check Your Steaks Temperature

A cutting board loaded with a freshly grilled steak and grilled vegetables.
Natalia Lisovskaya/Shutterstock

While an instant-read thermometer is the safest way to check for internal temperature, there’s a simple traditional trick to test your steak. Here’s how you can give your steak a poke to get a rough idea of how done it is.

What Is the Touch Test?

After carefully selecting a gorgeously marbled bone-in ribeye (our favorite), you’ll want to enjoy that steak cooked to your desired temperature. Well, when it comes to overcooking steak, there really are no second chances—well done is well done, and there’s no turning back.

Lucky for you, there is a way to conveniently check your steak’s degree of doneness without offensively cutting it right down the middle. Yeah, that one is kind of a crime in the culinary world.

The touch test is merely using both hands to compare the way meat feels by poking a section of your palm as you touch different fingers together. Keep reading, and we’ll explain.

An Instant-Read Thermometer is Most Accurate

An instant-read thermometer is an affordable way to ensure your steak is cooked to the correct (and preferred) temperature. When a steak sits on a hot grill for some time, it begins to develop beautiful char lines. But, unfortunately, looks can be deceiving.

Although your steak looks like it’s cooked through, it may still have a raw or underdone center. Simply place the thermometer into the side or the thickest part, and away from the bone, fat, or gristle.

Wait until the temperature stops rising (which takes up to 20 seconds) and voila. For a more in-depth explanation of how to use an instant-read thermometer, check this out.

Degrees of Doneness

Knowing the accurate temperatures corresponding to the doneness is the next step if you plan to use an instant-read thermometer. According to Certified Angus Beef, here they are:

  • Rare: 125° F or 52° C (cool red center)
  • Medium-rare 135° F or 57° C (warm red center)
  • Medium: 145° F or 63° C (warm pink center)
  • Medium-well: 150° F or 66° C (slightly pink center)
  • Well Done: 160° F or 71 ° C (little or no pink)

How to Use the Touch Test

Using an instant-read thermometer is the most precise way to measure the temperature of the meat, but there’s a simple hands-on way to ballpark estimate it.

Your hands are the two most essential tools when it comes to cooking. Who would have thought you could even check the doneness of beef just by using your fingers? Here’s how.

Rare

Using both hands to demonstrate what a rare steak should feel like.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Start by opening your non-dominant hand and keep it relaxed. With your dominant hand, use your index finger to touch the fleshy part of your palm under your thumb. That’s what a rare steak feels like.

Medium-Rare

Using both hands to demonstrate what a medium-rare cooked steak should feel like.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Open your non-dominant hand, and keep it relaxed, and lightly press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. With your other hand, use your index finger to touch the squishy part of your palm under your thumb. That’s how a medium-rare steak should feel.

Medium

Using both hands to demonstrate what a medium cooked steak should feel like.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Open your non-dominant hand, and remember to keep it relaxed. Lightly press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. With your other hand, use your index finger to touch the fleshy part of your palm under your thumb. That’s what a medium steak should feel like.

Medium-Well

Using both hands to demonstrate what a Medium-well steak should feel like.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Follow the same steps as we’ve explained, but this time lightly touch the tip of your ring finger to the tip of your thumb. This is how a medium-well steak should feel.

Well Done

Using both hands to demonstrate what a well done steak should feel like.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Now, lightly press the tip of your pinky finger to the tip of your thumb. This is how a well-done steak should feel.

Keep Safety in Mind

While the touch test is a great way to avoid overcooking your steak, the absolute safest method to check for accurate internal temperature is by using an instant-read thermometer.

The USDA recommends cooking all beef to a safe internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit (or or 63° C). So, while many of us enjoy a juicy red steak, it’s safer to cook it to a medium temperature.

It’s also vital to understand that the touch test is should not be used for any other type of meat, including ground beef, chicken, or pork.

Practice your touch test, and show off your new skills as you become a little more experienced around the grill. But, also use a thermometer to keep yourself and others from becoming ill.

Finally, don’t touch a steak right after you flip it, to avoid burning your fingers. You need those little guys for just about everything.


Now that grilling season is officially here; we hope you practice this fun trick and show others how it’s done. Now, pour yourself a cold brew, and grill up a few juicy steaks.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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