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Cooking Red Meat: Rare, Medium, Well Done?

Updated on January 28, 2015

Different Cuts Of Beef

Selecting the best cut for ultimate flavour
Selecting the best cut for ultimate flavour

What is the best way to cook red meat?

How many of you grew up eating red meat that was cooked so far through that it was practically burnt on the outside? My parents always believed that meat should always be 'cooked through all the way'. In other words, chefs or cooks would describe this as being 'well done' or just plain 'burnt'. The end result was usually an almost tasteless piece of good meat regardless of the animal or cut. So do we really need to cook the meat all the way through so that it's well done? Is it better to eat meat which is only half cooked so that it's either rare or medium? These are common questions with logical answers. Other than different flavours, there are also different health benefits or risks with undercooking or overcooking red meat.

Cooking With Flavour

Cook meat with tenderness and care
Cook meat with tenderness and care | Source

Preparing & Cooking Red Meat

Before cooking and eating any form of meat, it's important to understand what you are cooking. This discussion focuses on red meat which does not include chicken. Chicken, however, should be cooked in a way that it is white and not pink or red inside prior to eating. Cooking the chicken to this level also kills off any bacteria which may have come about from the handling of the meat.

Preparing red meat for the best flavour is crucial. Don't simply cook a piece of meat and expect magnificent flavours. Add herbs, peppers, salt or seasoning. Don't smother the meat with salts and spices. Treat each piece of meat with care and experiment with how much is the right amount of flavour.

Cooking red meat is crucial to bring out the best of flavours. Slow cooked meat will generally turn out more tender, however, don't overcook the meat. In other words, don't throw a piece of steak into a fry pan on low heat and expect that it will be thoroughly cooked and juicy after two hours because it was simply slow cooked. Do some research and understand how long it takes to cook different types of meat.

Don't Forget The Salt & Pepper

Succulent seasoned red meat full of flavour
Succulent seasoned red meat full of flavour | Source

Rare Medium or Well Done

So what's the difference between meat that is cooked Rare, Medium or Well Done? Generally these terms apply to cooking beef or steak, however, they can be applied to other forms or red meat including lamb.

Rare: The most juicy and succulent form. Cooked on the outside with the meat appearing red or almost completely undercooked in the centre. The texture will be soft and in some cases almost sponge-like. When cutting through, there may be traces of blood with the juicy moisture and texture.

Medium: A cross between well done and rare. The meat is cooked thoroughly on the outside and will appear pink in the centre. As opposed to rare, the meat will be cooked through more from the outside towards the centre with the centre also appearing more cooked. The meat will be less juicy however, it will also be taste full of flavour allowing it to be the most popular menu item.

Well Done: Cooked throughout on the outside and inside. The piece of meat will appear brown on both the outside and inside and in most cases will appear burnt or almost burnt on the outside. This is the least juicy and any natural juicy flavouurs and texture would have been evaporated in the process of the meat being overcooked. In my opinion, the least tasty of all.

Cooking Red Meat & Steak

Understanding how to cook a piece of steak
Understanding how to cook a piece of steak | Source

Health Advice On Red Meat

Eating overcooked and especially burnt meat is not recommended. Not only is the meat lacking flavour but the nutrients and vitamins absorbed from the meat are not as beneficial or healthy as if the meat is cooked halfway through. There are also many healthy risks associated with over cooking red meat.

Consuming burnt food can lead to cancer. This includes meat which is overcooked and burnt on a barbecue or grill. In many cases, well done red meat is prepared and presented in a way where the outside crust is burnt so as to ensure the centre is thoroughly cooked.

It is recommended that meat be cooked and prepared in a way that the outside layer of the meat is fully cooked. Bacteria is generally found on the outside of the meat and it is crucial that the meat is cooked at a high enough temperature and cooked long enough to ensure the outside layer is properly cooked to kill off any potentially harmful food bacteria. Such bacteria also includes but is not limited to bacteria caused by handling meat, poor hygiene and contact with other harmful products.

Prevent Red Meat Health Risks

To prevent bacteria, ensure that the meat is more cooked than not. Go for a medium to well done option. Ordering a rare menu item may sound juicy and appealing but is it the right option?

Most chefs or cooks will not take the time out to throughoughly ensure each piece of meat is cooked to perfection. In many restaurants, a rare item may be only lightly seared on the outside or in other words, hardly cooked enough to prevent the risk of any harmful bacteria. On the other end of the scale however, a well done menu item may sound appealing for health purposes, however, in more cases that not, a delicious and juicy piece of meat may have just been transformed into a burnt and flavourless chunk of brick.

The safest option is the most popular option which is medium. Then again, for a little bit more flavour medium rare is also a common choice. It has also been researched that cooking the meat just the right amount will enable the body to more easily absorb nutrients. Naturally and logically thinking without any scientific research, which type of meat would you think to be the most appealing in terms of health, taste and flavour?

Health Risks Associated With Overconsumption Of Meat

Given the nature of the world and the structure of the environment, it is recommended that humans do not overconsume meat. Ensure a well balanced diet with only a small portion of meat. Keep in mind that iron, protein and vitamins found in meat can also be found in many plant or seafood products and in many case in much larger quantities. Researchers have also concluded that the overconsumption of meat products can also lead to health issues including cancer and poor digestion with meat generally taking longer to digest and consume than plants or seafood. Generally speaking, animal fats are also generally healthy with the fats and protein coming from natural sources as opposed to refined or cooked fat products including types of oils. This natural fat leads to natural energy, however, it is also recommended not to overindulge in these products depending on your diet.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Personally I like my steaks medium rare. Informative hub.

    • momsdoworkathome profile image

      Katina Davenport 3 years ago from Michigan

      I always order my steaks well done, but only at higher end restaurants. They seem to know how to do it without it being chewy.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Interesting points. Bacteria or no bacteria, I always order my steak blue. If the steaks don't look tender, I will go as far as rare. My favorite steak place has a great cook who can do a blue rare steak just right. Other places usually just serve rare. Which is fine. But there better be some red in there when I cut it! Voting up!