Using a Meat Thermometer To Cook a Steak Perfectly

steak-grilling-thermometerThumb Or Meat Thermometer? – Grilling Steak Perfectly

I love a freshly grilled rare steak. Emphasis on the the rare. Just past mooing! Blood red and juicy! “Oh, Yuck” (that was the peanut gallery looking over my shoulder who obviously doesn’t like her steaks the same way).

When grilling steaks one of the hardest things to get right is the desired steak doneness for your dinner companions. No pink, just a little pink, medium rare, rare, black and blue, all just as picky as me and how can I be sure it will be spot on without slicing into the soon to be juiceless steak?

Amazon ImageStop! Step back with that steak knife! Let’s try some less invasive techniques, shall we. You can use the time tested manual method or today’s modern digital meat thermometer.

Maverick 2 Probe BBQ Smoker Meat Thermometer – Read the Reviews


For the past few weeks we have been receiving payback steak nights with a group of friends. (I love to entertain by steak) Now, THEY have to worry about getting it right. I know how. I’ve been grilling steaks for a long time. (and I sometimes cheat)

Well, William and Mary (really, I call them my college friends) had the group over for some beautiful looking thick boneless ribeyes. It also included some great dark brown Belgian Ale so it looked like a great feed.

Willy was grilling a couple of these ribeye steaks for the kids who were soon off to the movies. So I kept him company at the grill. Willy asked exactly how I got my steaks medium rare because that’s how the young crew wanted it.

Now these ribeye steaks were well marbled with tasty ribbons of fat and way over an inch thick and he had no meat thermometer so I said grill these steaks 3 minutes on each side on a very hot grill that is covered.

As I finished my ale, the rib eyes were done the required 6 minutes and they honestly looked great. OK Will, just take your thumb or the back of a tablespoon and press down lightly while moving in small circles to see how much side to side resistance there is. If it is soft and spongy and easy to wiggle it is at the rare stage. At six minutes that’s what I would expect.

Reduce the grill heat to medium and cook another 2 minutes per side and test it again. If there is a bit of firmness when you press down and the side to side resistance is also a bit firm it should be medium rare. Pink but not red.

For medium just cook another 2 minutes per side and when you check this time, if it is pretty firm with little side to side movement it is in the no pink zone.

This step by step process is the easiest way to check the doneness in a non-technical way and come out with a steak that is done just about right for each desire. But that is for ribeyes that were fresh cut and thick, on a 500 degree gas grill.

A quick story here. In a past lifetime I ran a small budget race team. I was also the suspension guy, the tire guy, sometimes the driving guy, the timing guy and the chuckwagon guy. We had enough to race but no luxury hotels or weekend nightlife, it was the camping life for us and the grill was my weapon of choice.

To make a point here, you test suspension by tire temperatures across the tire after a practice session using an instant read thermocouple thermometer probe. It tells you the effectiveness of your suspension settings and you can adjust the caster, camber, toe-in, tire inflation, etc…, to get the most contact patch for adhesion (you go faster and smoother). Well there were several thermocouplers with thin one and a half inch probes that I cleaned up a bit and stuck it into the center of a fat NY strip steak we were grilling and it told me the temperature exactly, digitally, and almost immediately.

I had an A’HA moment. The probe was thin so although piercing the meat it wasn’t letting a gob of juices out of the steak. If I knew the different recommended temperatures for a rare, medium rare, or medium steak, I could always cook a steak perfectly. All I had to do was practice my timing. Cool. I like to practice.

This was 1987, and I was using an industrial thermometer used for medical and industrial applications and adapted to checking tire temperatures and the doneness of my steak. Since then the manufacture of bbq meat thermometers have taken off. Instant read digital meat thermometers, wireless meat thermometers, remote meat thermometers-some with alarms, some that will talk at you, and all available to help you with how to cook a steak and have it come out just right. The benefit of course is grilling the perfect steak every time.

In my way of thinking, grilling steak using a meat thermometer mostly takes the guessing out of how long to cook a steak. A little more practice with grill temperatures and timing your searing just right and bingo, you are good to go.

Mel Griffon has been grilling steaks and getting it right for a long time, keeping guests, patrons, family, and friends well fed and entertained. Hop on over to for other great grilling secrets.

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