The absolute easiest ways to ruin beef is to overcook or undercook it. Thankfully, it’s an easy problem to solve with a digital meat thermometer.
However, we know that many people may not have or want to use a digital meat thermometer for two reasons.
First, those that don’t have a thermometer typically think they’re too expensive (they’re not … one of our personal favorite meat thermometers is only about $30).
Second, those that have a thermometer and don’t want to use it say it’s because they don’t want to puncture beef before they eat it because they don’t want to loose any juices. There have been lots of studies on this. And although you may loose a little juice by testing it with a thermometer, that’s much better than ruining the entire steak by overcooking it.
If you fall into either of these camps, there are some DIY methods you can use to test beef for doneness. But please know that at our house we always verify the touch tests with a digital instant read meat thermometer.
There are three basic DIY touch tests for doneness — touching the palm of your hand, your fist, and your face. Again, keep in mind that touch tests are very subjective and the only way to make sure you’re not overcooking or undercooking beef is with a meat thermometer.
Touch Test Method 1: Palm of your Hand
Hold your hand out, palm up. Poke the base of your hand by the base of the thumb. What does it feel like? If you guessed raw meat, you’re right.
Now, make an OK sign with your hand by touching your forefinger and thumb together. Feel the same part of your hand. It’s a little firmer. This is how meat feels when it’s rare.
You’re now going to move to your other fingers, and as you do, you’ll notice the pad of your hand will get progressively firmer.
Touch your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. That’s how a medium rare steak feels.
Next, touch the tip of your ring finger to your thumb. This is what a medium-well will feel like.
Last but not least, touch your pinky to your thumb. That’s the equivalent of a well-done steak.
Touch Test Method 2: Make a Fist
You can also do a touch test by making a fist.
First, make a relaxed fist. The fleshy area of your hand between your thumb and forefinger is soft, which is how a rare steak feels.
If you slightly clench your fist, it’s a little firmer like medium doneness.
Clench your fist tightly and the area will feel like well-done.
Touch Test Method 3: Face Test
Your third option is the face test. Personally, we like methods 1 and 2 the best, but some people really like touching their face.
When your face is relaxed (don’t smile), touch your finger to your cheek. A rare steak is soft like your check
Next, touch your chin. Notice that it’s fleshy with some resistance. This is similar to medium doneness.
If you like a steak that’s medium, or with a pink center, you’ll want it will be similar to when you touch the end of your nose.
Lastly, touch your forehead, it’s firmer, which is like well done.
Touch Test & Digital Thermometer…
So, what’s our recommendation for testing a steak for doneness? Should you do the touch test or use a digital meat thermometer?
At our house, we always use an instant read digital thermometer, specifically the Thermapen Mk4. A thermometer is the only way to guarantee that you’re cooking your steaks with accuracy. You may think you know when beef is done based on cooking time or color, but a thermometer is the only way to guarantee that your beef is done to the appropriate temperature.
When checking for doneness with a thermometer, remember the temperature of cooked beef will continue to rise as it rests. Remove beef from heat when the thermometer reads about 5-10°F lower than the desired doneness. The USDA recommends steaks and roasts be cooked to 145°F and then rest for at least 3 minutes. Ground beef should be cooked to a minimum 160°F.
Here are your temperatures for doneness:
|Rare||120°F||Cool, bright red center|
Soft to the touch
|Medium Rare||130°F||Warm red center|
Beginning to firm up with red juices
|Medium||135-145°F||Warm pink center; outer portions beginning to brown|
Completely firm to the touch with red juices
|Medium Well||145-155°F||Slightly pink center|
Completely firm to the touch with brown juices
|Well Done||155-160 °F||Very little or no pink or red|
Firm to touch
|Ground Beef||160 °F||Fully brown throughout with no pink|
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One more thing!
Do you want to learn more about beef? Below are a few popular beef posts and recipes you may like. In addition, we have an entire ebook about beef that goes through purchasing and preparing beef from a farmers perspective.
- Buying a Cow. How Much Beef Is It?
- Is It Done Yet? Why Every Kitchen Needs a Digital Meat Thermometer and the Best One
- 10 Best Beef Rub Recipes
- An Essential Guide to Beef ebook
We have a weekly e-newsletter where we share about farm happenings, beef recipes, and when our next beef will be available to order. When you sign up, you’ll get a cheat sheet with 9-must-ask questions before buying beef directly from a farmer.
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Want to learn more about cooking beef? Check out our ebook – An Essential Guide to Beef — where we share secrets on how cattle farmers and ranchers purchase and prepare beef.
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