Can Steak Be Too Rare? (Food Safety vs Taste)

Steak lovers often disagree on the perfect level of doneness for a well-cooked steak. Some relish the robust, earthy flavors of a well-seared and robustly cooked steak. Others, however, lean towards a rare steak’s succulent tenderness and juicy, rich flavor.

But is there a point at which a steak can be too rare – not merely in terms of taste and texture but, importantly, in terms of safety too? This article delves into the topic of steak doneness, aiming to determine can steak be too rare? 

can steak be too rare? all you need to know
Can steak be too rare?

Can steak be too rare?

Yes, steak can be too rare. While personal preference plays a role in determining the ideal level of doneness, consuming an excessively rare steak can put you at risk of foodborne illnesses. Bacteria, like E. coli or salmonella, may be present on the surface of the meat and, if not cooked properly, can lead to illness. Cooking steak to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C) effectively kills harmful bacteria

Here’s a research report of National Agricultural Library: That basically suggests, Muscle tissues in animals are usually sterile, but when preparing cuts for steaks, the surface may come in contact with bacteria from butchering practices. These bacteria can include harmful pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. When rare steaks are cooked, only the surface is heated enough to potentially kill bacteria, while the inside remains uncooked. This differs from ground meat products like hamburgers, which require thorough cooking to eliminate bacteria.

The safety of rare steaks relies on the assumption that the interior muscle is sterile and minimal surface cooking kills bacteria. Research shows that cooking rare steaks properly can reduce aerobic bacterial counts and eliminate vegetative pathogens such as E. coli. Cross-contamination is a concern when using tongs, but using alcowipes or hot water can prevent this issue. Based on these results, guidelines can be developed for safely cooking rare steaks and preventing bacterial risks.

Highly rare steak might not reach this temperature, thus, serving as a potential safety hazard. Additionally, a too rare steak might be challenging to chew and digest due to its raw texture. In conclusion, balancing your desired texture and flavor while ensuring food safety is crucial when determining your steak’s ideal level of doneness.

How rare is too raw steak?

A steak is considered too rare when its internal temperature is below the USDA recommended minimum of 145°F. Rare steak typically has an internal temperature of 120°F to 125°F2. Therefore, any steak cooked to an internal temperature lower than 120°F would be considered too rare and more susceptible to potential pathogens. For food safety, it is best to cook steak within the recommended temperature range for your desired level of doneness.

How do you make steak less rare?

To adjust the degree of doneness of your steak, you’ll need to continue cooking it until it reaches your desired level. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make steak less rare:

How do you make steak less rare
How do you make steak less rare?
  1. Check the Current State: Start by checking the current internal temperature of your steak using an instant-read thermometer. This will help you understand how long you must cook the steak to attain your desired doneness.
  2. Return the Steak to Heat: Place the steak back on the pan, grill, or oven. If you’re using a pan or grill, the heat should be turned down to medium to prevent the outside from burning while the inside gets up to temperature.
  3. Recheck Periodically: Every couple of minutes, re-insert the thermometer to read the internal temperature. This step ensures you don’t overcook your steak.
  4. Reach Desired Temperature: Follow these general temperature guidelines for doneness1 (though note everyone’s preference may vary): 
    • Medium-rare: 130-135°F
    • Medium: 135-145°F
    • Medium-Well: 145-155°F
    • Well-Done: 155°F and above
  5. Rest the Steak: After reaching your target temperature, remove the steak from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. This step allows the juices to redistribute within the steak, making it more flavorful and juicy2.

How do you cook a medium rare steak?

Cooking a steak to medium rare involves careful temperature control to ensure a warm, red center. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Preparation: Take your steak out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature — about 15-30 minutes. This helps the steak cook evenly.
  2. Seasoning: Drizzle some oil on the steak (not the pan to prevent smoking) and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Pre-heating: Heat a pan, ideally cast iron, over high heat. The pan should be very hot before you add in the steak.
  4. Cooking: Add the steak to the pan. For a 1.5-inch thick steak, cook the steak for about 2 minutes on each side for a seared exterior and medium-rare finish1.
  5. Checking the Temperature: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. It should read between 130°F and 135°F for a medium-rare steak1.
  6. Resting: Remove the steak from the pan and let it sit on a cutting board or plate for about 5 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the steak.
  7. Serving: After resting, slice against the grain and serve.

Remember, every stove, grill, and oven can heat differently, thus affecting cooking times. It’s smart to check the steak’s internal temperature regularly to prevent overcooking.

Why is my steak tough but rare?

If your steak is both tough and rare, it’s likely due to one or more of the following reasons:

Why is my steak tough but rare

1. Type and Quality of Meat

Different cuts of meat have distinct texture profiles. Tougher cuts like shoulder or chuck have more connective tissue and require longer cooking to break down those tissues at lower temperatures. On the other hand, cuts like tenderloin, rib-eye, or sirloin are naturally tender and hence better suited for a quick, high-heat cook to a rare finish.

Moreover, the quality of the meat also influences the tenderness. Higher quality grades (ex. USDA Prime or Choice) have better marbling (fat distribution), contributing to a more tender and flavorful steak.

2. Improper Temperature Control

If your pan or grill is excessively hot, the outer layers of the steak can become overcooked and tough while the interior remains rare. For a tender, rare steak, you want to sear it rapidly on high heat to achieve a beautiful crust, then continue cooking on medium to allow the heat to permeate the steak more evenly.

3. Not Allowing Meat to Rest

Resting your steak once it comes off the heat is as crucial as cooking. During the resting period, the juices, which have migrated towards the center of the steak during cooking, get a chance to redistribute and reabsorb into the muscle fibers. This results in a juicier, more flavorful steak. If you cut into the steak too early, those delectable juices will be lost, leaving your steak drier and tougher.

4. Over- or Under seasoning

Lastly, seasoning correctly can have a notable impact on the steak’s tenderness. Salt acts to tenderize steak by breaking down its muscle structure. However, it’s a delicate balance. Under-salted steak can lead to bland, tough meat, whereas overly salted steak might pull out too much moisture, making it tough.

You May Also Read: Is Grilled Steak Healthy? | Wagyu Steak vs Angus

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it safe to eat blue rare steak?

Although blue-rare steaks are seared quickly and typically cool in the center, they’re usually safe to eat if handled and cooked properly. There is, however, a higher risk of foodborne illness as the internal temperature doesn’t get hot enough to kill off potential bacteria1. Therefore, those with weaker immune systems should avoid consuming blue rare steak.

Why would anyone eat rare steak?

Many individuals prefer rare steak due to its juicy and tender texture. Additionally, rare steak can maintain a more natural flavor than more well-done steaks as less of its juices are lost during cooking. The choice is often down to personal preference.

Is rare steak considered undercooked?

The definition of undercooked depends on food safety regulations and personal preference. A rare steak isn’t necessarily undercooked if it’s seared properly and reaches an internal temperature of 120°F – 125°F3. However, there’s an elevated risk of bacterial contamination compared to steaks cooked to medium or above.

Is medium rare steak bloody?

No, a medium-rare steak’s red or pink juice is not blood. It’s a mixture of water and a protein called myoglobin that gives meat its red color4. During cooking, these juices get pushed out of the steak, leading to what people commonly mistake as blood.

Can kids eat rare steak?

Although it’s usually safe for healthy adults to eat rare steak, it’s generally not recommended for children, as their immune systems are not as robust. Cooking steak to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F is recommended to kill potential bacteria and ensure the steak is safe for children to consume5.


Whether a steak can be considered “too rare” is largely subjective and depends on individual preference, cultural norms, and safety considerations. While some people enjoy the juicy tenderness of a rare or even blue-rare steak, others may find it undercooked. It’s important to remember that the rarer the steak, the higher the risk of potential foodborne illnesses due to the lower cooking temperatures.

Therefore, one must ensure proper handling and cooking to enjoy a rare steak safely. As with all things culinary, it’s about finding a balance that suits your taste and comfort level while keeping health and safety in mind.

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