People enjoy steaks in a variety of ways, almost as many ways as there are types of steak. While some may disagree on what constitutes rare, medium, well done and everything in between, there are standards in the cooking industry. Suggested cooking times are different based on the thickness of the steak.
Discerning the difference between rare and medium rare is difficult by looking at the steak. Rare is often described as being pink on the inside. Medium rare is slightly less pink, which is obviously a difference open to interpretation. Professional chefs cook to temperature, not look. Rare steak has an internal temperature between 125 and 130 F. Medium rare reads between 130 and 140 F on a meat thermometer. Since the fat from a steak begins to dissipate above 140 F, thus releasing flavor, lean cuts of steak are better suited for rare or medium rare preparation.
Filet Mignon, Rib Eye and New York Strip
Filet mignon is tenderloin steak cut into pieces. One of the leanest cuts of steak, filet mignon is best served rare or medium rare. Rib eye, a much fattier steak, is better suited to medium well. New York strip steak comes from the short loin of the cow and is often cooked to medium. A 1- to 1½ inch fillet, 1-inch rib eye, and 1¼ to 1½-inch New York strip all require similar cooking times. For a very rare or rare steak, cook for 4 to 6 minutes; cook a steak 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare; and cook a steak for 7 to 10 minutes for medium.
Sirloin is a tougher cut than a filet or rib eye. For a ¾- to 1¼-inch sirloin, allow 5 to 8 minutes for a very rare or rare steak. The same size sirloin requires 8 to 12 minutes to reach medium rare temperatures. Medium takes 12 to 16 minutes.
Porterhouse and T-Bone
The T-bone and porterhouse steaks each feature a "T" shaped bone that separates the tenderloin on one side from the short or top loin on the other. In the T-bone, the tenderloin section is the smaller side, while the porterhouse features a larger tenderloin piece. Porterhouse steaks are more tender than T-bones.To cook a 1¼-inch cut of either steak very rare or rare, allow 6 to 9 minutes. Cook 9 to 12 minutes for medium rare; and cook 12 to 15 for medium.
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Kathy Mair has been writing professionally since 1994. As a member of the Kinston Indians front office, she was responsible for all team press releases and articles, a duty she subsequently held for two other minor league baseball teams. Mair also spent time as a copy editor for "TV Guide." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Elizabethtown College.