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Steak Temperature Guide

Steak Temperature Guide

  1. Want to learn how to cook a steak to your desired doneness? You’re in the right place.

Feed your meat-tooth with a juicy thick-cut Traeger grilled steak. Whether you like it fresh from the field or with some pink, we’ve got you covered. We’ll teach you how to cook the perfect steak to your preferred doneness.

Here are the basic steak doneness ranges.

How do you know when the center of your steak has reached the proper temperature? The best way is the surest — scientific measurement.

Steak Doneness -


  • Internal temperature: 120-130°F
  • Center color: red

Medium Rare:

  • Internal temperature: 130-135°F
  • Center color: pink


  • Internal temperature: 135-145°F
  • Center color: some pink


  • Internal temperature: 145-155°F
  • Center color: sliver of some pink

Well Done:

  • Internal temperature: 155-165°F
  • Center color: mostly brown

What Have You Done!

  • Internal temperature: 165°F+
  • Center color: brown throughout

Steak Doneness By Internal Temperature

The USDA says 145 Fahrenheit is the safe internal temperature for cooked steak, but most steak lovers prefer 130-135 °F, a perfect medium-rare.

Rare Steak

120-130 °F internal temperature. Just a minimal sear on the exterior of the meat. The center is pink and cool to the touch. At 400°, cook for 2:30 minutes per side.

Medium-Rare Steak

130-135 °F internal temperature. Seared on the outside. The center is pink with thin brown stripes on top and bottom. It’s room temperature to the touch. At 400°, cook for 3:30 minutes per side.

A medium-rare steak is the recommended doneness to taste the meat's natural flavor. It’s usually how meat connoisseurs and chefs like to eat it.

Medium Steak

135-145 °F internal temperature. Seared on the outside with a lukewarm pink center. At 400°, cook for 4:30 minutes per side.

Most everyone is happy with this doneness. It’s not bloody or as dry as the Sahara desert.

Medium-Well Steak

145-155 °F internal temperature. Cooked on the outside with a warm, light pink center. At 400°, cook for 5:30 minutes per side.

It’s definitely cooked still showcases the flavor of the meat.

Well-Done Steak

155-165 °F internal temperature. Brown on the outside with a mostly brown center that is warm throughout. At 400°, cook for 6:30 minutes per side.

How do you know when the center of your steak has reached the proper temperature? The best way is to measure the internal temperature.

For the best steak every time, invest in a digital thermometer with a thin probe and know for sure when that pricey cut is at the peak of perfection.

Steak is safe to eat when it reaches 145 °F internally, which is considered medium-well. But to achieve your desired doneness, you may have to alter the temperature accordingly.

How to Buy the Perfect Steak

First, always purchase high-quality meat. The quality determines the texture, tenderness, and how flavorful the steak will taste.

The thicker the steak, the easier it is to cook and the better it will taste. Stop by your local butcher shop and ask for exactly what you want, i.e., a 2” thick-cut steak. Most grocery stores stock steak that is ½” to 1” thick. Thin steak cooks faster and has less flavor.

How to Prepare Your Steak

When you're cooking a steak, you're doing two things:

Searing the surface of the steak — which you want to get up to at least 285 degrees Fahrenheit, and heating the inside of the steak which you want to keep much cooler.

To get the perfect sear, you need to get the surface of your steak up to (and a little bit past) 285 degrees Fahrenheit. This will initiate the Maillard reaction, giving your meat a pleasing color.


The Maillard reaction is a cascade of chemical changes that happens when meat (and other foods) reach approximately 285 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, certain amino acids and sugars react to create hundreds of delicious flavor compounds and pleasing aromas. The meat also begins to turn brown as a result of this reaction.

To get the Maillard reaction, you need a dry steak. Here are a few ways to banish moisture from your steak:


Take your steak out of any wrapping it came in, set it on a plate, and let it sit, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

The low humidity of the fridge will start evaporating the moisture, and the coolness will keep it safe. You'll want to make sure your fridge doesn't have any funky smells like last month's leftover sushi — that aroma could transfer to the meat.


Salt the steak at least one hour before cooking or immediately before putting it on the grill.

Never salt the meat and let it sit for less than an hour because during this time the salt is drawing out moisture. It needs extra time to absorb the moisture.


Pat the steak dry with a paper towel. You'll want to do this if you used a steak marinade.

Now it’s time to grill your steak.

Best Temperature to Grill Steak

There are two ways to cook the perfect steak, the direct-heat method (fastest) and the reverse-seared method (easiest).


To grill over direct heat, set the grill to 450 °F, close the lid, and allow it to preheat for 15 minutes.

Place the steak on the grill grate and cook for approximately 3.5 minutes per side until the steak's internal temperature is 135 °F degrees (medium-rare).


For the reverse-sear method, set your grill to 225 degrees °F, close the lid, and preheat for 15 minutes.

Put the steaks on for 60 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 110 °F.

Take the steaks off the grill, then set the grill's temperature to 450 °F. Allow it to preheat with the lid closed for about 10 minutes, and put the steaks back on the grill.

They'll sizzle and brown, getting that terrific Maillard reaction aroma and color. Cook for approximately 4 minutes per side to allow the sear to form and get the steak's internal temperature to 135 °F (medium-rare).

See all of Traeger's steak recipes for more ideas on how to cook a steak on a pellet grill.

How to Rest Your Steak

Once your steak is done, you need to let it rest on a plate or cutting board at room temperature. Let it rest for half of its cooking time, up to 10 minutes. The rest will help the steak retain its juices and give it an amazing flavor.

How to Measure Steak Doneness by Touch

You may have read about the "poke test" for determining whether a steak is done. The idea is that you find a place on your body that corresponds to a steak doneness level. You press that place — sometimes a part of the face, sometimes a fingertip, sometimes the meaty part of your hand below your thumb — note the "springiness," then touch the steak to see if it has the corresponding "springiness."

Chefs who cook many steaks a day, usually of similar cuts on the same equipment indoors, can get pretty good at using simple touch tests to see if steaks are done.

But as an outdoor griller, you've got other factors to consider, including the outside temperature, the cut of the steak, whether you marinated it or not, how soft your hands are — so unless you cook the exact cuts of meat, prepared the same way, at the exact temperature, many, many times, the poke test will let you down.

That’s why recommend using a digital thermometer so you can nail the perfect doneness every time.

How to Cook Steak on a Pellet Grill

When you cook steak on a pellet grill, you have the best of both worlds.

You can grill a steak in a hurry using the direct heat method. Or, you can use the oven capabilities of the pellet grill to do the increasingly-popular reverse sear method. With this method, your steak will get a nice dose of wood smoke while it cooks.

Direct-heat method - Set the grill to 450 °F, preheat for 15 minutes. Cook for approximately 3.5 minutes per side until the steak's internal temperature is 135 °F (medium-rare).

Reverse-sear method - Set your grill to 225 degrees °F, preheat for 15 minutes — cook the steaks for 60 minutes or until an internal temperature of 110 °F. Take the steaks off the grill, set the grill's temperature to 450 °F, preheat for 10 minutes. Cook for approximately 4 minutes per side until the steak’s internal temperature is 135 °F (medium-rare).

Recommended Products

To cook the best steak, you need the right tools.

Steak Recipes

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