After ordering a steak meal, the first question coming from a server is usually: “How would you like your steak cooked?” For some steak enthusiasts, how you order your steak can say a lot about you – which is either met with an enthusiastic amicable agreement or judgemental disdain. Yet, for the most part, medium rare is considered the most universally accepted way of ordering steak. But why is ordering medium rare so popular? With varying ways to cook steak, what sets it apart from the rest? Get the answers here by understanding how a medium rare steak is cooked and what it entails for why it’s generally the most favoured order.
Table of Contents
How is Medium Rare Cooked?
What does it mean when steak is cooked medium rare? Officially, most food and agriculture departments collectively agree that medium rare is beef with an internal temperature between 130–135°F (54–57°C). These internal temperatures are easily achieved within a short amount of time.
Naturally, how you cook your steak (e.g. barbeque or pan fry) can influence cooking time. However, for the most part, you can expect to cook a steak for approximately 3 minutes on each side. You can easily check this with a meat thermometer for temperature accuracy.
Yet, there are more intuitive approaches to indicate a steak is medium rare.
Medium rare steak is generally warm in the centre, making it very soft and tender, but the exterior will begin to firm up. King of the Hill’s Hank Hill demonstrates this to his son, Bobby Hill, by pressing his tongs against a steak grilling on his barbeque and stating it’s “firm with a little give.” Beyond the feel of a medium rare steak, it’s easy to spot from how red it will be in the centre and a small ring of pink developing around the edge.
Why Do People Order Medium Rare?
World-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay attests to being team medium rare by asserting if “a steak has no colour, it has no taste.” Ramsay has no problem speaking his mind when it comes to food quality. After all, he tells the truth no matter how painful it can be for some to hear. When regarding medium rare, there is some truth backed to his statement.
Understanding what makes steak delicious is the best way to highlight this truth.
The criteria regarding a high-quality, delicious steak boil down to tenderness and flavour. You can achieve these qualities in various ways. One stems from the factors influencing the marbling of a steak cut, which is intramuscular fat that helps give an amazing taste and softness.
These include elements such as:
- Breed: Some breeds of cattle, like Japanese Wagyu, are genetically dispositioned with more marbling.
- Feed: The time and the type of food cows are fed. For instance, cattle that feed on grain typically have more marbling.
- Muscle Use: The less muscle is used, the more marbling there is—for example, parts of the body between the hips and the lower ribs (e.g. loin). Active muscles will have less marble to them.
- Age: Age plays a factor in the marbling amount. Too young or too old, cattle don’t have enough. Yet, young and old enough to have developed enough intramuscular fat.
When a steak cut has rich marbling, the flavour and tenderness are enhanced when ordered medium rare. “How so?” you might ask. It makes your steak’s natural flavour apparent since its internal temperature helps retain some moisture. In turn, it gives your steak that juicy, tender taste.
Meanwhile, rare steaks don’t allow for them to caramelise. Then, on the other end, more well-done steaks have a notorious reputation for tasting tough, chewy, flavourless, and dry. As a result, it’s one of the least favoured orders from most chefs at a steakhouse. They see it as sucking out all the rich flavour and tenderness. Consequently, ordering a medium rare steak is ideal since it’s a happy in-between that gets all elements right.
It’s an order you can’t go wrong with any steak cut you choose since it’s sure to bring out a natural taste with a softened mouthfeel. However, if you want to know what cuts are best-ordered medium rare, they are typically either ribeye, top loin, or strip.
Medium rare steak orders are popular for good reasons. Namely, it elevates whatever steak cut you order by helping to enhance its natural flavour and tenderness. In turn, it leaves you enjoying a mouth-watering steak that’s ultimately delicious. No wonder people prefer it!