Medium vs Medium Rare: Want to Learn to Grill Your Steak Perfectly?

Nothing beats grilling the perfect steak in your backyard.

There there are six standard levels of doneness. However, most people prefer a medium-rare steak or a medium steak.

Continue reading on if you’d like to learn more about the different levels as well as the step-by-step cooking process of preparing them.

We’ll make sure to teach you everything you need to know.

medium vs medium rare

Medium vs Medium Rare: A Guide to Grilling a Steak

The first thing to note is that medium and medium-rare are two separate levels of doneness. While both levels include the fact that the piece of meat isn’t completely cooked through, both kinds are completely safe to eat. 

We’ll also address the topic of meat safety further in this article.

Medium vs Medium Rare: Which Is Best for You?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here, as both are completely good in their own right.

It comes down to your personal preference. If you prefer more of a juicier steak, then medium rare is the one for you.

And if you’re worried about meat safety but don’t want something as tough as a well-done steak, then go for the medium-done steak. 

We do always recommend tenderizing your steak, even if it is just with salt.

Did You Know That There Are 6 Levels of Doneness for Steak?

Yes, that’s right. In order of level of doneness, you have: blue rare, rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well done, and well done. 

So, what determines the different levels? Many factors come into play.

All of them differ in color, mouthfeel, toughness, and even taste! However, the biggest difference is their internal temperature.

That’s how you tell what level of doneness the meat’s at while it’s still on the hot grill. They all have a different target temperature that you’ve got to keep an eye out for.

rare or medium rare the difference between steak
Image from ThermoPen

Blue Rare

A blue-rare steak should have an internal meat temperature of 115 ℉; no higher.

When you cut into it, after letting it rest for a bit, the inside meat should be quite dark.

It doesn’t exactly look like a blue steak, but the color does look a little purple.

If it looks a little like raw meat, it’s because it is still practically raw.

You’ll still be left with undercooked meat. This is because the actual cooking process involves quickly browning both sides of the meat at high cooking temperatures. 


To cook rare steak, you should be looking out for an internal temperature of 120 ℉ to 130 ℉.

The inside of the steak should have a very pink, if not red, color.

You should also notice that there’s some red liquid coming out of the meat. It might look like bloody meat or a very bloody steak, but that liquid isn’t actually blood.  It’s actually a fluid consisting of myoglobin and some extra moisture from the meat.

Myoglobin is the name of a type of protein that specifically binds to oxygen. This myoglobin protein is completely safe to eat.

Many recommend that you should serve lean cuts of meat rare. This is because 130 ℉ isn’t quite hot enough to completely begin to break down the fats in the steak.

Medium Rare

A medium-rare steak should have a temperature of 130 ℉ – 135 ℉. Now, this temperature is hot enough to begin the fat-melting process.

When you remove it from the grill and cut it into it, it will look pink on the inside. But there will also be the faintest hint of red in the better middle of the cross-section.

The meat should still feel tender. You’ll be left with a soft and juicy piece of meat that has a slightly firm exterior. 

A good way to easily achieve medium rare is to sous vide your steak. it’s much easier than grilling.

It is said that this is the most ideal choice enjoyed by true steak lovers.


What if you’re looking to cook a medium-done steak?

Then you should remove the meat off the grill before its internal meat temperature reaches or goes over 155 ℉.

When you cut into it, the meat will appear brown with just a tiny hint of pink peeking through. When compared to a medium-rare steak, it should be less juicy and tender.

However, this is perfect for those who are conscious of the safety of their meats or are afraid of eating the undercooked meat. 

Medium Well Done

Let’s say that you leave the meat on the hot grill for a little longer (past 155 ℉) but take it off before it goes over 165 ℉.

Then what you’ll be left with is a medium-well steak or just well-done meat.

It’ll be much drier than all of the other previous steaks we’ve mentioned. And it will also lack the flavor that’s present in the cuts of beef that were cooked for a lesser amount of time. (This correlates with the lack of juiciness. The meat juice is a big contributor to flavor.)

Depending on the size and thickness of your steak, cooking it for around five minutes on each side should leave you with a medium well-done steak. (This estimate is perfect if you’re working with a 1-inch steak.)

Well Done

Now, if you want your steak completely cooked through, then take it off the grill right before the meat thermometer reads 170 ℉.

The cooking times for each side of the steak should be about 10 to 12 minutes. Of course, this completely depends on the type of steak you’re working with.

Since you’ll be leaving the beef on the grill for a longer period, you should make sure that you’re working with low heat.

This prevents the risk of burning the outside of the entire steak. 

Once you remove it off the grill, it should feel solid if you prod it with a utensil. 

It’s also important to note that well-done steaks have the most carcinogens compared to the others that were cooked for a shorter amount of time.

How to Check the Internal Temperature of Steak:

We can’t stress how important it is that you keep a constant eye on the steak while it’s cooking.

Specifically, you should be keeping an eye on the internal meat temperature. As you can see, the temperatures can be very specific for each level of doneness. This especially applies to the first three we’ve talked about — blue rare, rare, and medium-rare.

To get the most accurate readings we highly suggest that you invest in a digital instant-read meat thermometer.

An instant-read thermometer is quite an affordable meat thermometer. So, you don’t have to worry about these costing you an arm and a leg. 

It’s also important to remember that meat continues to cook even after you remove it off of the grill. If you wait until the meat hits the target on the grill before you take it off, you may find yourself with overcooked meat.

To overcome this, it’s always best to anticipate and remove it off of the grill surface accordingly

While you’re letting the meat rest, the steak will easily rise another 5 degrees on your thermometer before the temperature begins to drop. 

Types of Steak

Here’s a helpful list of the different types of beef cuts and steaks available:

Steps to Cooking a Medium-Rare Steak

(These instructions are specific to if you’re cooking a 1-inch thick steak)

1. Start up the grill and wait until the grill grates are hot.

2. Put the steak on the grill.

3. Wait for five minutes.

4. Flip the steak.

5. Cook it for another 4 minutes until the internal temperature reads 130 ℉ to 135 ℉.

Steps to Cooking a Medium Steak

(These instructions are specific to if you’re cooking a 1-inch thick steak)

1. Start up the grill and wait until the grill grates are hot.

2. Put the steak on the grill.

3. Wait for six minutes.

4. Flip the steak.

5. Cook it for another 4 minutes until the internal temperature reads 140 ℉ to 150 ℉.

What You Need to Consider to Ensure That Your Meats Are Safe to Eat

Even though most of the levels of doneness include meat that’s still technically raw, beef steaks are generally safe to eat. It depends on your source, how you’ve stored it before cooking it, etc. 

Beef isn’t like other meats. Most of the other meats like poultry or pork cannot be consumed raw.

However, this is not to say that all kinds of beef can be eaten raw. You should always make sure that your ground beef is completely cooked through before it’s safe to eat. 

You also still have to take the necessary precautions when it comes to serving steak to children or those with weak immune systems. Their stomachs may not be able to handle consuming raw meat in any form.

Get Grilling!

So, the answer is that there’s no ‘right way’ to cooking steak.

It all depends on personal preference. Some people may even like to change up their preferences from time to time. Either way, we hope that you found our article helpful in learning a little bit more about the different ways to prepare steak. 

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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