Q: I have heard that there is a way to tell if a steak is done by pressing on it and comparing that to your hand. How does this work?
As steaks cook, the meat becomes progressively more firm as the muscle fiber in them tightens. By pressing on the center of the piece of meat, being careful not to burn yourself, you can tell how firm, and therefore how cooked, it is. This isn't a very exact method, since it will vary depending on the cut and thickness of the steak and other factors, but this is the general method.
First press on the large muscle at the base of one of your thumbs with the hand completely relaxed. The firmness of that muscle is a little tighter than a raw steak. Press on the center of the uncooked steak, off heat, with your "impeccably clean" finger, just to be sure how tender it is starting out. Start cooking the meat, using the timing guidelines in the posting "Grilling Steak". When you think the steak is approaching the degree of doneness you are looking for, using the muscle at the base of your thumb as a guide, check the firmness of the meat. Here's how:
- If you want a very rare steak, compare the texture of the meat to the firmness of the muscle at the base of the thumb of your completely relaxed hand. If they feel the same, the steak is 'blue-rare' to rare.
- For medium-rare, touch the tip of the index finger to the tip of the thumb of the same hand. Feel the firmness of the muscle at the base of the thumb. Check the meat to see if it is the same firmness. If it is, the steak is medium-rare.
- For medium, press the tip of the middle finger against the thumb of the same hand and feel the muscle at the base. That is what a medium steak will feel like.
- For medium-well, use the ring finger, and
- For well-done use the pinky, as above.
As mentioned, this is very rough and will take some practice until you learn how to do it right.