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Do you struggle with guessing how well done your steak is? Do you make a calculated guess based on thickness of the steak, heat of the fire, and a length of time to the desired doneness? Sometimes that works, but often it fails dismally. So, is there a better way? How do steak houses seemly get it right every time? Have you noticed that they don’t poke them with meat thermometers? Any time you poke a hot steak you let all those delicious juices run out into the plate where they are wasted. Professional chefs can tell when a steak is done just by feeling it, and you can learn how to do the touch test too.

Chefs have developed four primary “touch” methods, including the “Face Test,” where the firmness of the steak is compared to various areas of the face. But, we don’t like the idea of our cooks touching their face while they’re cooking food, so we are going to discuss three other methods that use hands, which are more likely to be clean every time. Each of these methods takes a bit of practice, which is a great reason to cook (and eat) more steak.

Spring Back Touch Method

  1. Lightly press the center of the steak with your thumb. If it feels really soft, or jelly-like, it is still rare.
  2. When the center of a steak has a little more resistance and just springs right back, its perfectly medium rare. (It’s important that it springs back!).
  3. If it’s just firm and hard, and has no springiness, it’s well done (overcooked, in our humble opinion).

Fist Touch Method

  1. First, make a relaxed fist. The fleshy area of your hand between your thumb and forefinger is soft, which is how a rare steak feels.
  2. Now, slightly clench your fist. It will feel a little firmer, like medium doneness.
  3. The last step: Clench your fist tightly, and that area will feel like well-done meat.

Palm of the Hand Method
Palm tests for steak doneness
We like this one best: Here’s how to do the Palm method:

  1. Hold your hand out, palm up, and relaxed. Poke your hand by the base of the thumb with your other index finger. This is what raw meat feels like.
  2. Now, make an OK sign with your hand by touching your forefinger and thumb together. Feel the same part of your hand. It’s a little firmer. This is how meat feels when it’s rare.
  3. Move your other fingers to your thumb in the following order. As you do, you’ll notice the pad of your hand will get progressively firmer:
  4. Touch your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. That’s how a medium rare steak feels.
  5. Next, touch the tip of your ring finger to your thumb. This is what a medium-well will feel like.
  6. Lastly, touch your pinkie to your thumb. That’s the equivalent of a well-done steak.

Both these methods are fairly easy, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll cook perfect steaks every time.

Sound sound too complicated? It really isn’t, but we realize that the touch method can appear to be, until you get some practice in. In the meantime, if you would rather continue using an instant read thermometer, here are the temperatures for doneness:

  • Extra Rare – 115-120 degrees
  • Rare – 125-130 degrees
  • Medium Rare – 135-140 degrees
  • Medium 145-150 degrees
  • Medium-Well – 155-160 degrees
  • Well Done – 165 degrees

What happens if the steak has a gorgeous crust, but the temperature clocks in too low? It’s time for pan roasting! Fire up the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Meanwhile, put your steak on a roasting rack on a baking sheet with sides. Stick it in the oven. It’ll finish cooking without getting too dark.

For other insights into proper techniques for cooking that delicious piece of steak, see our notes on 7 Tips to Cooking Great Steaks.

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Lea and Larry Vaughn

Lea and Larry Vaughn

Welcome to our family cookbook, including recipes we have developed, plus tried and true recipes we have used for years. We both enjoy cooking, and have shared a fun kitchen rivalry during our 50+ years together. We also have had the pleasure of preparing large group meals for our church family on fellowship nights.

Lea is a classic Midwestern cook with cooking experience starting with meals for her family of five brothers, a sister, while her mother worked outside the home. Her father was a former farm laborer before entering his career as an hourly worker on the railroad, and favored hearty meals of meat and potatoes. A part of the skills Lea learned as a young girl was how to get the maximum number of portions from what was available, and how to flavor it for everyone’s palate. She learned recipes and techniques at her mother’s side, and developed a free form cooking ability that requires no recipes, just a good memory for what ingredients go well together.

Larry, on the other hand, is a recipe cook, although he enjoys experimenting, and often stretches the boundaries of the culinary imagination and challenges the palate. No one will ever forget his green St. Patrick’s Day gravy, or blue mustard cream sauce for Independence Day! His cooking experience spans many years of special grill and roasting techniques, unusual (while tasty) flavor combinations, special basting and flavoring steps, and precise temperature control. His favorite perspective on cooking is pretty presentations . . . good food served with lots of eye appeal. Many of his sauces and rubs have been developed to deliver a complimentary flavor to a dish while adding  just the right splash of color.

To browse our collection of recipes, simply click on the category links at the top of this page. “Entree” means “main item,” (often meat), while Side means something to accompany the “main item,” such as a vegetable. Enjoy! And, please, let us hear from you! If you’re fairly new to cooking you might enjoy browsing our page on spices. Wonder about what spice goes with what? Just click here for some helpful detail.

Large Stock PotCook’s Note: By the way, for home cooks, keep in mind that when we say a “large” pot, we may mean a LARGE stock pot, because we also provide a site with recipes for large groups. The photo at the right is our oldest grandson, who accompanied us on a visit to a restaurant supply house, and was taken with the size of the equipment. He couldn’t help but try to lift this stock pot, which as you can see here, even at age seven, he could do. He has always enjoyed helping with prep for making cookies and mixing batters, so he’s going to be a great help in the kitchen one of these days!

Surviving God’s Woodshed, a Blog

Read about the terrible ordeal Lea and Larry underwent in 2005 when Lea spent 78 days in a coma during 180 days of emergency treatment in Hartford Hospital. Read about her miraculous healing and eventual return to an active lifestyle. Click here.

Recipes for Large Groups

Looking for recipes for a large group? Lea and Larry cooked for 50-100 at church functions. Find their recipes
here

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Wonder About Spices?
Which to Use When?
What Goes With What?
Click Here

Food Prep Terms

Need to know when to Chop, Dice or Chiffonade? How about Stir, Blend, Fold, or Mix? What are the differences? Click here

Surviving God’s Woodshed

Read about the terrible ordeal Lea and Larry underwent in 2005 when Lea spent 78 days in a coma during 180 days of emergency treatment in Hartford Hospital. Read about her miraculous healing and eventual return to an active lifestyle. Click here.

Recipes for Large Groups

Looking for recipes for a large group? Lea and Larry cooked for 50-100 at church functions. Find their recipes here

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