How to Determine Cooking Time for a Steak

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Grilling a great steak isn't hard, but many folks get confused as to how long to cook it. While there is room for a chef's personal interpretation, there are recommended guidelines as to steak cooking time. Get started by preheating your grill.

  • Take a look at how thick your steaks are. The thickness is one of the deciding factors of cooking time. Common measurements are 3/4 inch, one inch, one and a half inch and two inches thick.

  • Grill thicker steaks on a lower temperature; the thicker the steak, the lower the heat you'll use. Turning the heat up too high can cause the outside of the steak to crisp while the middle is still rare. High heat is recommended for steaks less than two inches thick; whereas medium heat is recommended for a thickness two inches or greater.

  • Figure out how you want your steak cooked. If you're hosting guests, get their preferences as well. Options include rare, medium rare, medium, medium well and well. Many people prefer their steaks cooked to medium rare or medium.

  • Cook a medium rare steak (one inch) on high heat for four minutes, and then flip it over. Cook it for another three and a half to four minutes. Add one to two minutes per side to go up a "step" (a medium rare steak to a medium one). Likewise, increase cooking time by one to two minutes per side for each half-inch of additional thickness.

  • Use a thermometer to check temperature. Medium rare steak is cooked to 150 degrees. Add or subtract 10 degrees to go up or down a step.

Tips & Warnings

  • Steak doesn't need to cook the exact same time on each side; since you've already heated the steak through, you can slightly reduce cooking time after you flip it. This allows it to cook evenly so you get a nice pink strip running horizontally through the center of the steak (depending on how you like your steak cooked).
  • Don't flip the steak a lot, as this causes heat loss. Only flip it once. This is a common mistake.
  • Be aware that the FDA recommends you cook beef to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to properly kill any bacteria that may have contaminated the meat during processing. The only way to cook a steak that meets this criterion is to cook it well (170 degrees Fahrenheit).

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