The Finger Test to Check the Doneness of Steak

Justin Levy

There are three ways to check the doneness of steak: using a thermometer, the finger test, or just taking a guess.  Using a thermometer is the best way to cook steak to an exact temperature however sticking a thermometer in and out of a steak will cause the juices to run out.  Obviously, just taking a guess at how done your steaks are isn’t the brightest option.  Therefore, what we prefer, and most chefs use, is the finger test to check for the doneness of steak.  With a little practice you can master cooking a steak to the level of doneness you like without ever having to cut into it or prod it with a thermometer.

All tests will be done with the palm of your hand.  It is important that your hand is relaxed and not tense or else the pressures you will be checking for will be off.  Each test will involve you using the index finger of your other hand and pressing on the meaty area between your thumb and base of your palm.  You will be comparing the feeling in this area of your palm with that of the center of the steak you’re cooking.

Raw
Your hand is open.

Rare
Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your index finger.  The meaty area between your thumb and the base of your palm should give and not be firm.

Medium-Rare
Press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb.  This will feel more firm and less giving but still spongy.

Medium
Touch the tip of your ring finger to the tip of your thumb.  It should still give a little but getting more firm.

Well-Done
Touch the tip of your pinkie to the tip of your thumb.  This should feel hard yet springy kind of like a tennis ball.

Before you ask about medium-well, it will be the slight difference between medium and well-done.  If you are trying to achieve medium-well as the level of doneness for your steak, you should pull the steak off when it is about medium and let it rest for approximately 5-10 minutes.  As the steak rests it will continue to cook to medium-well.

Now, run out to the grocery store, buy some steaks and start testing!

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