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The Easiest Way to Tell When Your Steak Is Done

Your face is the only tool you need to tell if your steak is done.
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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Your face is the only tool you need to tell if your steak is done.

There are more than a couple ways to check if your steak is done. Many people will tell you to stick an instant-read thermometer into your steak to see if it's done. But sometimes, you just can't find your thermometer—or you don't have one. Others may tell you to use the palm method, in which you compare the feeling of your steak with the meaty part of your palm when your thumb is touching various fingers (index being rare to pinky being well done). But I find it a bit difficult to tell the difference in palm fleshiness, and I'd rather use one hand to touch the steak for an accurate comparison.

Which brings us to an easy, straightforward method for telling if your steak is ready: Touch your face. Your forehead, chin, and cheek feel noticeably different, regardless of how thin or plump your face may be (indeed I fact-checked this by poking people's faces). So, with one hand pushing down on your steak, use the other to compare it to your forehead, chin, and cheek:

  • If you'd like your steak medium-rare, it should feel like your cheek: tender and soft but still fleshy (as opposed to raw, which would be just soft).
  • If you want a medium steak, touch your chin: The steak should still be tender, but with some resistance.
  • For a medium-well steak, it should feel like your forehead: fleshy but with a good deal of resistance.

We hope you'll be spending lots of time in front of the grill in the coming months—ideally, poking your face. Your guests may presume it's an odd party trick, but they'll think otherwise when you bring them a very well-cooked steak.

Tell us: Besides steak, what else are you grilling this season?

Graphic by Tim McSweeney