How to Cook the Perfect Medium Rare Steak (with Video)

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Steak is always a great choice for a special occasion, and this super simple, step-by-step guide on How to Cook the Perfect Medium Rare Steak allows you to have steakhouse-quality meals at home, for a fraction of the price – and without the hassle of hiring a babysitter!

How to cook the perfect Medium Rare Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet. Includes tips on getting a delicious, crunchy sear, the best steaks to use, and whether to use the stove or the oven for best results

Perfect Medium Rare Steak with a Cast Iron Skillet

Is there anything better than being served a perfect medium rare steak, with that warm, pink center, crunchy, caramelized “bark” and juicy, amazing flavor?

I think not.

The reason why many people are fans of medium rare steak is that it allows your steak to be fully warmed through, the fat in the meat will melt and add to the flavor and juiciness, but the proteins have not fully denatured – denaturing meat dries it out, changes the naturally buttery-soft texture of a good steak, and makes it firm (and harder to chew). (To read more about the science of denaturing meat, check out this informative article.)

A perfect medium rare steak should melt in your mouth, have a rich, beefy, buttery flavor and no cold spots. It should be tender with only a slight chew and personally, I need that crunchy sear on the outside.

This simple method for home cooked steak results in a meal that tastes straight out of a steakhouse. Once you realize how easy it is to cook a perfect steak at home, you’ll never want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a steak dinner ever again.

My preferred way of cooking steak for my family is using a cast iron skillet. You can use these same directions for cooking on a grill, as long as the steak you are cooking is about 1″ in thickness. I prefer the skillet because I can control the heat, it helps develop that amazing caramelized bark, and also, I’m usually preparing our side dishes as I go so I prefer to cook in the kitchen.

I’ve included how to cook a medium rare steak on the stovetop and in the oven – if your steak is less than 1″ thick, I recommend just cooking on the stovetop and skipping the oven.

Cooking Temperatures for Steak

  • Below 125ºF – Blue
  • 125ºF to 130ºF – Rare
  • 130ºF to 135ºF – Medium Rare
  • 136ºF to 145ºF – Medium
  • 146ºF to 155ºF – Medium Well
  • 160ºF – Well Done

Keep in mind that the steak will continue to cook about 5 additional degrees while resting, so remove it from the pan or grill when it’s 5 degrees less than your desired level of doneness.

How to tell when steak is medium rare? The most foolproof way to know the “level of doneness” for your steak is to use a meat thermometer. This is the meat thermometer I have been using for the past 6 years – I’ve never had to change a battery and it’s super sturdy and reliable. It was a bit pricey, but unlike the $15 models that you can buy, this one isn’t going to need replacement. It is waterproof and comes with a two-year warranty. (Thermoworks also has a $15 pocket-sized model if you want to try that out first before investing in the MK4.)

You can also use a touch test – the center of a medium-rare steak should have the bounce and resistance of the fatty part of your hand between your thumb and forefinger – but a meat thermometer is obviously a better gauge. 

Insert the meat thermometer into the center of the steak, away from any bones and being careful not to go through the steak to the pan.

How to Develop a Crunchy Bark on Steak

Steak needs a few things to ensure it gets that crunchy bark:

  • it needs to sit out at room temperature so it doesn’t seize
  • it needs all moisture removed from the outside of the steak (sitting it out uncovered and/or patting dry with paper towel)
  • cooking in fat (like butter) at a high temperature

Your pan must be searing hot to sear your steak.

If you follow these tips and are still having a hard time, you can “hack” your way to a good char on your steak by sprinkling some brown sugar on the steak before searing. The brown sugar will aid in the caramelization and won’t drastically affect the taste of your steak. (The sear on the second side of the steak is never as nice as on the first, so this tip can come in handy then.)

 

Best Cuts of Steak for Medium Rare

Sirloin: lean, juicy and tender, sirloin has more flavor than a fillet and is less expensive.

T-bone: usually a larger cut of meat, T-bone steaks are best finished in the oven. It has less fat and marbling than a rib-eye, but is usually cheaper.

Fillet: a lean, tender cut of steak – but usually one of the most expensive. The low amount of fat in this steak means that it cannot be overcooked or it will be dry.

Rib-eye: There are two types of rib-eye: boneless or bone-in (“côte de boeuf”). They usually have a good amount of fat and marbling, allowing them great flavor and juiciness. Rib-eye is my favorite cut – I usually grab a bunch when they are on sale and freeze.

How to Serve Your Medium Rare Steak

Or, if you’d prefer to just enjoy as-is with some delicious side dishes, check out:

This quick video shows an overview on how to cook the perfect medium-rare steak – check it out, and then don’t forget to scroll down to grab your free printable recipe card:

 

Medium Rare Steak Ingredients

Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.

Tip: you can swap out the salt and pepper for your own preferred seasonings or marinades.

Second tip: you can also use a cooking oil with a high smoke point, either with the butter or in its place.

Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful

  • Cast Iron Skillet <– I love the versatility of a good cast-iron pan – you can make everything from eggs to dessert in them and they transition easily from the stove to the oven. This one is pre-seasoned and great for even heating
  • Meat Thermometer <– this is the one I use and it’s been awesome. Sturdy, accurate, batteries last forever, and super easy to clean.
  • Tongs

 

How to Cook a Medium Rare Steak in a Cast-Iron Skillet

To cook your steak, dry the outside by pressing a paper towel or napkin onto it to absorb moisture. Let the steak sit out until it reaches room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, or your preferred seasonings.

Place your cast iron skillet in your oven at 400ºF to warm it fully.

Remove and place over medium-high heat. Add your butter and when it starts to sizzle, add your steak.

Place the steak in the pan away from you to prevent splatter. Do not overcrowd the pan or the steak will not develop that caramelized sear.

If just using the stovetop, cook the steak for 2 minutes on each side to sear it, and then continue cooking, until your meat thermometer reaches your desired temperature for doneness.

If using the combined stovetop-oven method, cook the steak for 2 minutes on each one side to sear it, and then flip over and sear for 30 seconds before carefully moving the skillet into the oven to continue cooking, until your meat thermometer reaches your desired temperature for doneness. It will be approximately 6 minutes, but keep checking it.

Keep in mind that the steak will continue to cook about 3-5ºF as it rests, so remove it when its slightly lower than what you want.

Remove the steak from your heat source and cover with tin foil for 5-10 minutes before slicing. (Ideally, form a little “foil tent” over the steak.)

 

 

Pin this Step-by-Step Tutorial for how to cook the perfect medium rare steak at home:

An informative, step-by-step guide on how to cook a PERFECT Medium Rare Steak using a cast iron skillet, from selecting the best cut of steak, to how to get that crunchy, caramelized bark, and how to test without using a meat thermometer

Grab our free printable for how to cook a perfect medium rare steak:

Yield: 4 steaks

How to Cook the Perfect Medium Rare Steak

How to Cook the Perfect Medium Rare Steak

A step-by-step guide for how to cook a perfect steak in a cast iron skillet.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • Steak
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Butter

Instructions

  1. To cook your steak, dry the outside by pressing a paper towel or napkin onto it to absorb moisture. Let the steak sit out until it reaches room temperature, about 20 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and pepper, or your preferred seasonings.
  3. Place your cast iron skillet in your oven at 400ºF to warm it fully.
  4. Remove and place over medium-high heat. Add your butter and when it starts to sizzle, add your steak.
  5. Place the steak in the pan away from you to prevent splatter. Do not overcrowd the pan or the steak will not develop that caramelized sear.
  6. If just using the stovetop, cook the steak for 2 minutes on each side to sear it, and then continue cooking, until your meat thermometer reaches your desired temperature for doneness.
  7. If using the combined stovetop-oven method, cook the steak for 2 minutes on each one side to sear it, and then flip over and sear for 30 seconds before carefully moving the skillet into the oven to continue cooking, until your meat thermometer reaches your desired temperature for doneness. It will be approximately 6 minutes, but keep checking it.
  8. Keep in mind that the steak will continue to cook about 3-5ºF as it rests, so remove it when its slightly lower than what you want.
  9. Remove the steak from your heat source and cover with tin foil for 5-10 minutes before slicing. (Ideally, form a little "foil tent" over the steak.)

Pin this Recipe for Later

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I hope your family loves this delicious homemade steak recipe! I love that I can now cook the perfect steak at home and steakhouses have completely lost their appeal to me.

For more delicious steak recipes, check out our Blue Cheese Steak recipe or Steak Oscar with Bearnaise Sauce recipe.

Check out our other Beef Recipes here:

Beef Recipes

Everything you need to know to cook a perfect Medium Rare Steak. Step-by-step guide plus tips on best cuts, how to get a crunchy, caramelized sear, and how to check doneness without a meat thermometer.  How to cook the perfect Medium Rare Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet. Includes tips on getting a delicious, crunchy sear, the best steaks to use, and whether to use the stove or the oven for best results  An informative, step-by-step guide on how to cook a PERFECT Medium Rare Steak using a cast iron skillet, from selecting the best cut of steak, to how to get that crunchy, caramelized bark, and how to test without using a meat thermometer  Everything you need to know to cook a perfect Medium Rare Steak. Step-by-step guide plus tips on best cuts, how to get a crunchy, caramelized sear, and how to check doneness without a meat thermometer.     

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