As the chef/cook standing at the grill, oven, broiler or stovetop frying pan with a plate of uncooked steaks or hamburgers, you’re faced with your guests’ differing preferences as to how they prefer their meat cooked—rare, medium-rare, medium, or well-done. Use this simple, chef-approved method to test the meat by comparing one of four simple hand positions (one for each “doneness”) on one hand with the meat you’re cooking, and your meat will come out perfectly.
This used to be something I struggled with. I like my steaks and hamburgers bloody rare. I like pork sausage patties crispy on the outside, but still a bit soft and pink on the inside. When cooking for myself, I cook each to perfection. But I also cook for family and enjoy entertaining friends—and when I do, it’s about them, not me. (Although it’s true my daughter accuses me of sometimes “showing off” with my menus, at which times it just might be all about me.) But I rarely felt confident knowing when the more well-done options were really ready until I started using this method.
Here’s how it’s done:
For rare, press the thumb and forefinger of your left hand together with light pressure, then use the forefinger on your right hand to lightly tap the pad of your left hand, just below the thumb. Then tap the meat—if it feels the same way, it’s cooked rare.
For medium-rare, press the thumb and middle finger together, and again, use the forefinger on your right hand to tap the pad of your left hand at the same spot, just below the thumb.
Do the same thing to cook your meat medium, this time using your thumb and ring finger.
And for cooking your meat well-done, using your thumb and little finger. (Medium-well will be somewhere between medium and well done.
Try It Out
(If you’re left-hand dominant, like I am, just reverse hands.)
Try these four hand positions right now, and be sure to tap the pad below the thumb for each; you’ll notice how the pad is firmer each time. If you want your meat rare, it will be soft to the touch, and for well-done, it will feel quite firm.
This method is used by many of today’s chefs and it truly does work every time. While it still may pain me to overcook (by my standards) a good piece of meat, using this simple method allows me to make everyone happy.
This may take a bit of trial and error to find the sweet spot, but have fun with it, and tell me what you think!
-All photos by Nancy Zaffaro.