BY MICHAEL JOHNSON
The month of May is National Beef Month. But let us dial back the years to 1992 when one might switch on the television to hear a commercial campaign telling you what many already knew: ‘Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.’
The latest figures from the USDA and statista.com show a tally of over 27 billion (yes, billion) pounds of beef consumption in the United States for the year. That is a staggering amount of red meat and that amount has stayed fairly consistent since the turn into the 21st century. There is no doubt that in today’s world there are a number of viable meat alternatives; however, for many there is no debate about the need for a carnivorous indulgence.
Dive deep into the catalog of Julia Child and you will see an array of beef recipes. Watch any episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” and you will quickly learn that the spirited and sometimes sadistic host, Gordon Ramsey, almost always features elegant Beef Wellington on his menu to challenge the contestants. It can be excruciating to watch as the hapless participants struggle with undercooked or overcooked results. Oftentimes, when people speak of a restaurant for a special occasion it can mean a ‘place for a great steak.’
Personally, I distinctly remember that as a child I was always told I would certainly grow up to be a butcher as I insisted on raising up each morsel of beef I was to eat and inspecting it to make sure I trimmed the fat. I wanted to taste nothing but the purity and succulence of the meat itself.
As a former hospitality industry veteran, let me personally assure you that one of the great heartaches in the restaurant industry is the interpretation of meat temperatures. There were many passionate chefs who often would love nothing more than to remind some patrons lovingly of what a true ‘medium-rare’ steak looks like. However, whenever the steak was delivered to a table and the customer was pleased, it was a bit of magic and a mental round of applause rang out as chef and customer shared a victory. So, let me ask the reader here. “How do you personally like your steak?” And then let us set forth with a quick review of the various temperatures available for your steak.
Blue steak, also known as blue rare steak, is one you don’t hear about as often as others, like rare steak and medium rare steak, but it exists nonetheless. Simply sear the outside to get a nice crispness. The inside remains raw, although slightly elevated in temperature, with a purplish-red center. This steak only gets cooked to 108°F.
A rare steak has a center that’s cooked a bit, so it becomes a deep red and very juicy when it’s done. The internal temperature of a rare steak falls at about 120°F. To achieve a rare internal temperature, you’ll remove the steak when it reaches 115°F.
Medium rare steak is the golden standard. This is the most common steak ‘doneness’ ordered at a restaurant and cooked at home. A medium rare steak is ultimately rested to a temperature of 130-135 degrees. It has a warm, red center, making the meat have more of that tell-tale steak texture than blue steak and rare steak. Remove a medium rare steak from the heat when it reaches 125°F.
With medium steak, you’ll see no red in the center. This doneness level is a popular option for people who prefer not to bite into red or have too many juices flowing out of the meat. Medium steaks need to come off the heat when they reach 135°F and they need to reach a final temperature of about 140°F.
Medium well has a center that’s only lightly pink, and there’s little to no pink color on the outer edges of the meat. The core temperature is, on average, about 150°F when fully cooked, but you’ll need to remove it from the heat when it reaches 145°F.
Well-done steaks get cooked to 160°F, making their centers have little to no pink color.
You will notice that the above descriptions detail at what temperature to remove a steak for a particular level of doneness. It is essential for steaks to have a rest period after being removed from the heat. This short nap for the steak allows the internal juices to be redistributed and retained; hence, creating a more mouth-watering experience.
So go ahead! Pick up your tongs, Forsyth County, and dive deep this grilling season into that juicy (or so we hope) steak of your choice.