The six degrees of “doneness”

As you probably already know, there are six grades of cooked steak, from blue to well-done. The key to cook them to perfection is their preparation times and the little-known, yet very practical ‘touch test’. Inevitably, the touch test is a rule of thumb so timings for cooking are estimated and based on a 1-inch-thick sirloin steak, at cool room temperature, cooked in a hot pan. It’s advisable to lightly brush both sides of the raw steak with oil beforehand, to avoid it sticking, and afterwards, to rest the cooked steak for 3-4 minutes prior to serving, as this improves its overall texture.


The touch test for blue steak is the same as for raw meat, meaning that there should be very little resistance. The steak should be seared for one minute each side in a hot pan and for a few seconds on each of the outer edges using tongs. Blue steak is barely cooked, because that’s how serious carnivores like it. All but the outside of the steak will look raw. Use a meat thermometer to determine its doneness (or lack thereof).


Lightly press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The flesh beneath your thumb will give quite a bit when poked. It should also be cool or warm red centre. It’s nearly like raw meat, but obviously cooked on the outside. To achieve this result, the steak needs to be seared on both sides for 2½ minutes and using tongs. The narrow outer edges should also be seared for 10 seconds each. The inner two-thirds of the steak will remain blood-red.

Medium Rare

Lightly press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. The flesh beneath your thumb will feel slightly firmer. The steak should be warm and mostly pink-to-red centre, firm on the outside, soft and juicy on the inside. To achieve this result: the steak should be seared on both sides for 3½ minutes. When cut, it will range from brown on the outside, to pink and moist with a narrow, blood-red centre.


Bring together the tip of your ring finger and thumb and the flesh beneath your thumb starts to feel firm. Notice a more distinct band of pink in the middle of the steak. However, there should still be slightly more grey-brown than pink colouration. The steak should be seared for 4 minutes on each side. Only the inner 25% of the steak will remain pink and moist.

Medium Well

Mostly grey-brown throughout, with a hint of pale pink inside. Perfect for someone who wants an ever-so-slightly juicy steak, but hates any sign of “blood” in their meat. For medium to well, the steak should be cooked for 5 minutes per side.

Well Done

Cooking a good steak to this level of doneness is a challenge. And unless you want to end up with a texture similar to shoe leather, it needs to be done slowly on low heat. To check, place your little finger and thumb together, the flesh beneath your thumb will become noticeably firm. Greyish-brown in colour, with no sign of pink, and normally somewhat charred on the exterior, such a steak should be seared for 6 minutes on each side.

Have these past couple of blogs inspired you enough to acquire the skill of cooking the perfect steak? Well, if you feel you still need some more inspiration, come on over to the Malta’s top steakhouse, and let our chefs whet your appetite at Sciacca Grill Valletta. Contact us, to book your table today!

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