Undercooked Steak: Everything You Need To Know To Be Safe

Even if you’re a fan of rare steak, there are still some requirements when it comes to preparing it correctly. There is hardly anything worse than undercooked meat, but sometimes it is hard to determine the best cooking time and temperature.

If you prefer to prepare a steak at home, you already know how confusing and complicated the process can get. 

It can be rather challenging to cook the steak enough so that it preserves all its flavors and tenderness, while still not overcooking it to the point where it becomes dry.

Keep on reading to learn how you can recognize an undercooked steak and avoid any consequences to your health.

How to tell if steak is undercooked?

The best way to recognize an uncooked steak is to cut a slice and take a look before tasting the meat. An undercooked steak will usually have browned sides, which is what creates the biggest confusion when it comes to cooking it properly.

1. Meat thermometer

The best tool you can invest in if you love to prepare steak at home is a meat thermometer. This is hands down the best, most accurate method of determining whether the meat is cooked or not, and on top of it all, it is extremely easy to use. 

Depending on how cooked you like your steak, you will aim for different temperatures. Either way, everyone agrees that steak is properly cooked at about 75°C (which is 167°F). Anything below this temperature usually indicates an undercooked steak.

However, if the temperature reaches a point above 75°C, it usually signifies an overcooked steak. This is also something you should avoid. While you want the meat to be properly cooked, it should never be overcooked.

Overcooked meat will lose all of its moisture and fat, which are the sources of all the flavors and aromas. The texture of the steak will become rather rubbery, dry, and chewy. Even drenching it in sauce won’t make up for the lack of natural moisture. 

2. Test the steak

In case you don’t own a meat thermometer, you can always resort to more traditional methods to assure that the steak is properly cooked. You can simply press the steak to check the density, and if it is too soft you’ll know that it should be cooked some more.

This kind of testing method will only work if you’ve prepared steak before. And of course, if you know exactly what a well-done steak feels like. If the steak is too dense, you may have overcooked it. 

What does an uncooked steak look like?

Even though the steak may look done on the outside, it can still be quite raw on the inside. This usually happens when the cooking temperature hasn’t been properly adjusted. While the sides are cooked, the middle part will usually be completely raw.

The inside portion of the steak will usually have the color of raw meat. The steak will be soft to touch, while the sides may be a bit charred. Also, while the sides may be properly cooked and well-done, when you press the steak, it will be very soft.

If you have a steak raw in middle, it will also release bloody juices once you cut it, since the core of the cut hasn’t been cooked properly

Now, you may wonder how do you tell the difference between barely cooked steak and rare steak? Especially if rare steak is exactly what you were going for? Once again, the touch test comes to the rescue.

An undercooked steak will be very soft and even mushy to touch, even if the sides are browned. While rare steak will still be tender, you will notice that it is not as soft as raw meat, and it will have some texture. 

Also, there will definitely be a difference in the smell and aroma of these steaks. A properly prepared rare steak will have a charred smell. Undercooked steak usually smells straight-up like raw meat, as the flavors haven’t developed yet. 

Is a medium-rare steak safe to eat?

Generally speaking, yes. Medium-rare steak, as long as it’s red meat and never chicken, is safe if the inner temperature reached 145°F.

While a rare steak will often be cold and very pink in the middle, a medium-rare steak should be warm in the middle. In this case, the pink-reddish hue won’t be as drastic. However, a medium-rare steak will still be very soft and juicy on the inside. 

If you’ve been struggling to notice a difference between a medium-rare and medium-well steak, the main difference is in the color of the middle part, which signifies the level of doneness.

A medium-rare steak will still have a more pink core. Instead, a medium-well steak will mostly have a greyish-brown color with a hint of pink in the very center. 

However, if you like your steak thoroughly cooked and you want to avoid any signs of raw meat, you will go for a well-done steak. The inside of this steak is gray and brown, and there are no traces of pinkish hues and bloody meat.

One of the hardest things to achieve when cooking a steak is a well-done steak that isn’t too dry and chewy. In this case, we’d have to say that practice makes perfect, and a meat thermometer really comes in handy!

How to save an undercooked steak

In case the steak is undercooked, you could simply place it back into the oven, pot, or on the grill to cook it some more. However, if you’re short on time and you’d like to prepare it as soon as possible, the best way would be to cut it up into slices.

This way you’ll be able to tell when the meat is ready without performing any tests. Plus, you won’t have to worry about it being undercooked or overcooked.

Can you get sick from eating a rare steak?

When handling any type of meat, regardless of the dish you’re making and the cooking method you’re using, it is important to ensure that the meat is fresh and that it was stored properly, at the right temperature, following all the safety requirements.

Therefore, we wouldn’t recommend buying your meat, whether it be steak or any other meat cut, from unregistered sellers. Their product might have not undergone all the required quality tests, as well as sanitary protocols.

Now, you may wonder, how can you even tell that the meat cut you’re purchasing is fresh? Aside from relying on licensed, registered sellers, it is necessary to perform certain quality tests on your own to ensure you’re working with fresh meat:

  • the visual test: for beef or any other red meat, the meat should have a bright red color throughout the cut, without any color changes. If the meat is purple, it is possible that it has been thawed and then frozen again, which can be quite dangerous. 
  • the touch test: fresh meat cut should “bounce” right back when you press it. In case this doesn’t happen, it could mean that the meat isn’t as fresh and that’s causing it to lose its structure and elasticity.
  • the smell test: one of the most accurate tests there are to ensure that the steak you’re working with is as fresh as it can be. Fresh, quality meat should not have any kind of strong smell, except for the natural smell of blood.

In case you’re sensing any kind of foul smell, or a hint of bleach, you should not use the meat, and you should definitely not prepare a rare steak as it could be quite dangerous. Remember, any unusual or foul smell could indicate that the meat has gone bad.

What happens if you eat an undercooked steak?

In case the steak hasn’t been stored properly, or it isn’t fresh, there are many health risks if you happen to be eating undercooked beef

A beefsteak can carry a great number of dangerous bacteria species. These include Pseudomonas spp., Salmonella, E.coli, Shigella, and Staphylococcus. They can cause many adverse effects associated with food poisoning

What’s more, beef can also have parasites such as Tapeworm that can cause a number of parasitic infections. According to many sources, the safest way of consuming beef steak is to get it at the temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Anything below that is considered undercooked meat, which carries a great risk of health consequences. This is particularly important for sensitive groups.

In fact, pregnant women, the elderly, children under 5 years of age, and immunocompromised individuals should never eat uncooked meat. If you belong to any of the sensitive groups, we’d recommend trying a well-done steak instead.

In summary, we would never recommend eating rare steak if you’re unaware of the origins and the conditions the meat was kept under. Also, if you’re making this steak at home, we’d advise you to use a meat thermometer to ensure it has reached a safe temperature.

When it comes to ordering a rare steak in restaurants, we once again recommend prioritizing quality and sanitary requirements. This means that you should always pay attention to the reviews and do your research about the restaurants you’re visiting.

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