Watching chefs cook a steak to perfection on television is a great way to learn from the masters. With such seemingly effortless talent, it's easy to get swept away in the culinary prowess we're shown. On the flip side, we also know it's not always in the stars for us to equip ourselves with the same high tech gear and top-notch cookware that they own. That's where our MacGyver skills come in handy.

Enter a little something called the touch test. It's a foolproof way to tell the doneness of your beef without a meat thermometer or anything besides your hands. We're here to teach you everything about it so you can get your steak done to your tastes.

What Is The Touch Test?

two cooked steaks on a cutting board next to veggies

This method is one that professional chefs and home cooks often use to test the doneness of their grilled steaks. Based on the different gestures you make with your hands, you'll be able to compare your steak with the tautness of your skin to find out how well-done your steak is. It's an easy way to get things done and all you need are your hands and the following instructions.

How To Perform The Touch Test

Rare Steak: Touch Your Thumb To Your Index Finger

a person showing the touch test for rare steaks

The first thing you need to do is gently press your thumb to your index finger. (Your hand will look like our logo!) Lightly push on the skin under your thumb with the index finger on your other hand. That slight resistance you're feeling will be the same slight resistance you feel in a rare steak. If the textures match, you have a rare steak on your hands (pun intended).

Medium-Rare Steak: Touch Your Thumb To Your Middle Finger

touch test medium rare

Next up is medium-rare. For this, you'll touch your index finger to your middle finger. Once again, lightly push the skin under your thumb with the index finger on your opposite hand. You'll find that the skin will have a bit more resistance without being too tough. At this point, your skin will share the same tautness as a medium-rare steak.

Medium Steak: Touch Your Thumb To Your Ring Finger

touch test medium

After that, we have the medium steak. All that's required is touching your index finger to your ring finger. From here, you'll repeat the same process as before by gently pushing on the skin under your thumb. Compared to a rare steak you'll find that this has a bit more resistance than the others.

Well-Done Steak: Touch Your Thumb To Your Pinky Finger

touch test well done

As you know, there's one finger left. The final step in this process is checking the doneness of a well-done steak and you can do that by touching your thumb to your pinky finger. Gently press with the index finger on your other hand and feel how much resistance this steak has compared to the rest.

Does The Touch Test Really Work?

While the test is considered a tried and true method by professionals and home chefs alike, there have been some conflicting reports about its accuracy. This article by Consumer Reports, published just last year, found that the test actually doesn't work as well as people think. For example, when they compared an actual medium steak with what the skin feels like on your hand, they discovered that the hand method yielded an undercooked steak. In fact, they discovered that every steak's doneness in comparison to the hand is undercooked and they don't recommend it.

With that being said, you should still trust a meat thermometer over anything else. They're especially helpful when you're looking for a little confidence that you did things properly. When you're cooking a steak, here are the basic guidelines you should follow for temperatures:

Rare: 115-120°F

Medium-Rare: 120-125°F

Medium: 130°-135°F

Medium-Well: 140°-145°F

Well-Done: 150°F

Additional Tips

a cooked steak on a cutting board

Now that you have the perfect temperatures and this easy peasy doneness method out of the way, don't forget to marinate your steak to your tastes - especially since there are so many to choose from. Keep in mind that you also don't need anything more than some salt, pepper, and oil if you're looking for classic steak seasoning.

One final thing to keep in mind is how the inside of your steak looks based on the levels of doneness. If you need an extra hand figuring out if your beef is cooked the way it ought to be, here are the general guidelines you should follow:

Rare: A rare steak will be seared around the edges but totally red on the inside.

Medium-Rare: These steaks will also be seared around the edges but the inside will be more pinkish-red.

Medium: Medium steaks will have a brown exterior with a warm, pink center.

Medium-Well: These steaks will have a faint pink color throughout.

Well-Done: Well-done steaks are easy to spot because they'll be brown throughout.

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