How Long Do I Need To Cook The Steak?

One of the most commonly asked questions I receive from clients, especially anyone relatively new to cooking, is ‘how long should I cook the meat (or fish or chicken)?’.

Fair question, too, as, depending on what protein we’re talking about, and whether it’s even an option to eat it rare or raw, like it would be for sashimi grade fish or a local, grass fed cut of beef we’re using for steak tartare or carpaccio, compared to a protein that would typically not be eaten raw, like poultry.

(There is a school of thought which recommends eating everything raw, and the purpose of this post is not to create a stir about whether or not one should or shouldn’t engage in that approach.   Personally, I simply prefer to have my pastured chicken, turkey or pork cooked more toward the well done side, while fish and steak are two I tend to enjoy on the rarer side.  Just a balance of personal preference; enjoying the texture, flavor and temperature of your protein while not risking ingesting bacteria or parasites!).

So how do we tell when that beautiful grass fed filet mignon or pastured pork tenderloin is ready to eat without using the method in which we cut into it or stab it to take a peak, which results not only in a drier finished product, but one that looks rather butchered?

Simple!  Use a meat thermometer!   

  • As a general rule of thumb, the ‘safe’ number to remember is 160F for poultry and pork in particular.
  • Do keep in mind as well that many preparations involve letting the protein rest after time spent in the oven or stove top.  This allows some of the juices that have escaped during cooking to seep back into the protein rendering a moisture final dish.  Temperature will increase typically by 10 – 15 more degrees so factor that in when you’re considering when to remove that roast chicken from under the broiler.
  • If the fish you’re preparing is sashimi grade, you needn’t be as concerned with minimum temps; it’s simply personal preference.
  • For beef, veal, lamb steaks and roasts, refer to the following handy table from wikipedia:

Extra-rare or Blue (bleu) very red and cold 46–49 °C 115–120 °F
Rare (saignant) cold red center; soft 52–55 °C 125–130 °F
Medium rare (à point) warm red center; firmer 55–60 °C 130–140 °F 145 °F
Medium (demi-anglais) pink and firm 60–65 °C 140–150 °F 160 °F
Medium well (cuit) small amount of pink in the center 65–69 °C 150–155 °F
Well done (bien cuit) gray-brown throughout; firm 71–100 °C 160–212 °F 170 °F
Over cooked (trop cuit, carbonisé”)’ blacken throughout; hard > 100 °C > 212 °F 300 °F

All ovens and stove tops can vary a bit, so the more you cook, the sooner you’ll nail down the exact times you need for everything from a barely seared sashimi grade ahi to a perfectly cooked Jerk Chicken, and without the need to stab it and peak even once!