Truth be told, grilling steak on a portable pellet grill can be like making a deal with a shady business partner.
Sometimes you get away with the perfect crime and end up with the perfectly cooked steak.
Other times you get caught and end up in steak jail eating an overcooked steak because your grill was way too hot.
Another shady steak crime is not knowing how we want them cooked.
There are those who think a medium steak is superior, while others believe medium-well steak is king.
Nevertheless, to find out which steak temperature is best, we must explore both steak temperatures in depth.
- What Is Medium Steak?
- What Is Medium Well Steak?
- What Are the Six Levels of Doneness for a Steak?
- How Do You Check the Doneness of a Steak?
- How Do You Cook Beef Steaks So They Are Tender
- Medium vs. Medium Well
- Is Medium or Medium-well Better?
- Final Thoughts
What Is Medium Steak?
In short, a medium steak is one that features a noticeable pink ring in the center of the steak.
The top and bottom layers of the medium steak are brownish greyish in color.
The exterior of the steak is fully cooked and has a rich deep brown color that is loaded with beefy flavor.
Medium steaks have a temperature between 140°-150°F.
Medium steaks are a happy medium for most steak lovers.
They are not so cooked that all of their moisture has evaporated, but they are not so raw that your plate will be crunched in blood-like juices.
What Is Medium Well Steak?
Medium-well steaks are mostly cooked through. However, there is a slightly pink color to them.
Medium-well steaks should be cooked to 145°F.
Most steaks, such as rare and medium-rare, are safe to consume.
However, specific populations like the elderly or persons with compromised immune systems should be very cautious when eating rare or medium-rare sticks as their stomachs may not be able to handle it.
In contrast, a medium-well steak is perfect and much safer for individuals with compromised immune systems.
What Are the Six Levels of Doneness for a Steak?
There are 6 levels of doneness for steak: blue-rare, rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, and well-done.
These levels of doneness are determined by the meat’s flavor, color, temperature, and texture.
I’ve already mentioned medium and medium-well above, so let’s dig a little deeper into the remaining steak temperatures.
Blue rare steak has a temperature of 115°F. Blue rare steak is quickly seared.
In fact, blue rare steak only spends about two minutes on the kamado grill.
It is seared for 1 minute per side, so the center of the meat can maintain is deep purple-like color.
Rare steak is easily identifiable due to its warm red interior.
The center of a rare steak is often compared to raw meat.
Rare steak ranges between 120°F-130°F. Most people cook rare steak for about 2-3 minutes on the first side, then 2-3 minutes after it is flipped.
Ultimately the goal is to cook it 25% percent so that 75% of the steak remains uncooked, leaving you with the perfect rare steak.
Medium-rare steak has a warm but pinkish reddish interior.
Medium-rare steak is probably the most popular level of doneness.
The meat is soft and tender, and incredibly juicy. However, the exterior of the steak is firm and cooked.
The temperature of a medium-rare steak can range between 130°-135°F.
Medium rare steaks are cooked for 3 1/2 minutes per side to create a steak that’s 50% pink and 50% percent light brown on the interior.
This results in a steak with a chewy yet tender bite.
Well-done steaks are the least popular level of doneness for steaks. Well-done steaks have a greyish, brownish color.
Well-done steaks do not have a pink color.
Well-done steaks have a temperature of 160°F. They are cooked for 6 minutes per side.
If a well-done steak is cooked for more than 12 minutes, you won’t be able to chew it.
Compared to medium or rare steaks, well-done steaks barely have any moisture levels left in them.
However, well-done steaks are still relatively popular with folks who do not want any streaks of pink or red in their steak.
How Do You Check the Doneness of a Steak?
The best way to determine a steak’s doneness is by using a thermometer.
Do not use probe thermometers when measuring a steak’s internal temperature.
The probe creates a hole in the steak allowing its juices to spill out and leaving you with a dry steak.
You can also use the finger test to measure steaks’ doneness. E
ssentially, it involves pressing two fingers together and feeling around the base of the thumb near the palm with your free hand.
The texture of your palm is said to mimic the texture of a steak at different levels of doneness.
For example, when you press your thumb and ring finger together and feel the base of the thumb, it will resemble a medium steak.
However, the finger test is highly inaccurate.
Alternatively, some steak enthusiasts and chefs depend on the cooking time to determine the doneness of steaks.
Nevertheless, an infrared thermometer will always be the best way to determine a steak’s doneness.
How Do You Cook Beef Steaks So They Are Tender
Since we are talking about medium vs. medium well, I figured I give a few tips to ensure you end up with the perfect steak regardless of which temperature you choose.
Allow your steaks to sit on your countertop 30-60 minutes before you plan to cook them.
Letting the steaks sit out allows them to come to room temperature.
This will also make sure the steak cooks evenly and you get an accurate reading.
If you were to cook the steaks as soon as you pull them out of the fridge, they would cook unevenly.
Some parts of the steak will be medium, while other parts are rare or well-done.
Always keep the seasoning light when cooking steaks. Steaks are already flavorful on their own, so a little salt and pepper is all you really need.
Do not use table or iodized salt to season steak. Since iodized salt has a fine grain, you can easily overseason the steak.
It’s best to use kosher salt or sea salt that has a medium grain.
If you pulled out your natural gas grill to cook your steak, flip it often to develop the perfect crust.
Due to carryover cooking, the steaks will continue to cook once you remove the steaks from your portable pellet grill.
A steaks temperature can rise 5-10 degrees after it is removed from the grill.
Therefore, to avoid an overcooked steak, remove it from the grill 5-10 degrees before it reaches medium or medium-well.
Place the steaks onto a platter and let them rest for 5 minutes. They will be the perfect medium or medium-well.
Medium vs. Medium Well
Who would have thought there would be a debate over medium and medium-well.
Nevertheless, let’s compare and contrast each temperature.
Medium steak has a slightly chewy with little moisture.
In contrast, medium-well steaks are not moist at all.
While they have a chewier center, the center of a medium-well steak will still be tender.
The meats are often still soft with only a slight amount of chewiness.
Medium steaks have a brown exterior with a pink layer in the center.
In contrast, medium-well steaks are mostly brown, with light, faded pink streaks in the center of the steak.
Medium steaks are cooked for less time than medium-well steaks.
Medium steaks take about 5-7 minutes to cook medium steak.
On the other hand, it takes 8-10 minutes to cook medium-well steak.
Type of Steak
Medium vs. medium-well can also be compared in terms of the type of steak. Ribeye steaks are a good steak to cook to medium.
Since they have rich levels of fat, the fat will render, allowing the medium steak to maintain its moisture levels.
The heat will only bring out the steak’s flavor even more.
Chuck flap, skirt steak, chuck short rib, as well as bone-in strip steak, or any cut of Wagyu are best if you desire a medium-well steak.
The steaks will not be void of moisture, and the heat will help to break down the muscle fibers making the steaks tender with a slight chew.
Short rib steak, skirt steak, and hanger steak are also good candidates for medium-well steaks.
In contrast, fine-textured steaks such as tenderloin or filet mignon should not be cooked to medium or medium-well.
Anything above medium-rare for fine-textured steaks will result in a dry, unappetizing steak.
Is Medium or Medium-well Better?
Whether medium or medium-well is better depends on two factors: the cut of steak and your preference.
Both medium and medium-well steaks are delicious. Plus, they are safe to consume.
However, if you prefer a juicer steak, it’s best to cook your steak to medium.
In contrast, if you prefer a more cooked steak, medium-well is probably best.
Both medium-well and medium steaks are equally delicious.
The only way you will find out which steak is best is by firing up your kamado grill and cooking a medium and a medium-well steak.
Of course, you can also visit your favorite steak house and order a medium-well and medium steak if you don’t have a grill.
Nevertheless, you will have some delicious steaks on your hand, so savor every bite!
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I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.