Test a Steak’s Doneness With the Touch Test

If you are cooking a steak, you don’t want to rely on your eyes. The touch test is an easy way to determine if the steak is done or not so it will be safe and delicious when served up.

The “steak touch test” is a way to test the doneness of a steak. You can use your fingers or a knife to feel how hot the steak is.

The touch test for steak doneness.

It’s grilling season, and every grill master should have a digital meat thermometer on hand to guarantee that your outdoor fare doesn’t come out overcooked or undercooked, but just perfect. They’re inexpensive and provide immediate feedback on the temperature of your meal. 

But what if you’re preparing some delectable steak cuts and don’t have access to a digital thermometer for any reason? Maybe you misplaced it or the battery died at the last minute. Without chopping the steak apart and letting all that beautiful fluid out, how can you assure that your friend who wanted a medium-rare steak doesn’t receive one that’s medium-well?

The good news is that a back-up doneness-tester is on the way.

How to Use the Touch Test to Check the Doneness of a Steak

Your steak will get firmer while it cooks on the grill, progressing from rare to well-done. The more cooked a steak is, the firmer it feels to the touch.

But how can you determine which degree of hardness corresponds to rare, medium-rare, medium-well, and well-done?

By rubbing your palms together. 

A man testing his hand for steak doneness.

Relax the palm of your hand by opening it. Touch the fleshy portion between your thumb and the base of your palm with your other hand’s index finger. This is a description of how a raw steak feels when you touch it. If it feels like that, your steak isn’t ready to eat unless you’re on some strange raw meat diet or a lion.

The meat will firm up while the raw steak cooks, and each degree of following hardness in the meat will correlate to how firm the fleshy area beneath your thumb feels as you move your thumb from your thumb to your fingers:

Touch of Rare Steak 

A man testing his hand for rare steak.

Your index finger and thumb should be pressed together, and the fleshy region beneath your thumb should be touched with the index finger of your other hand. It will now feel a little stiffer than it did before. This is how a rare steak feels when you touch it.

Touch is a medium-rare touch. 

Hand testing for medium rare steak.

Your middle finger and thumb should be pressed together. Touch the fleshy region under your thumb with your index finger. When most steaks are medium-rare, they will feel like this.

Touch: Medium to Medium-Well 

Hand testing for medium to medium well steak

The fleshy region of your hand will feel like a medium-well steak if you press your ring and thumb together.

Touch of Excellence 

Hand testing for a well cooked steak.

When you press your pinky and thumb together, the fleshy part will feel hard like a well-done steak. 

Is the Finger Touch Test Really Reliable?

I recall being skeptical when I first heard about this grilling tip. How is it that the hardness of our hands coincides so well to the doneness of a steak? Is it possible that this procedure is correct?

A few years ago, Consumer Reports conducted an inquiry into this topic. They utilized a meat thermometer to confirm the findings after utilizing the touch test to evaluate how done a piece of meat was. What’s the verdict?


The accuracy of the touch test was remarkable.

The only disparity they discovered was that the touch test produced slightly undercooked meat in most cases. For instance, a steak that passed the touch test as medium-rare was really a few degrees below medium-rare. 

According to Consumer Reports, the touch test is good for ensuring that meat isn’t overcooked, but not so good for avoiding UNDERCOOKED meat. If you have a customer who insists on a well-done steak, the touch test may result in a steak that is a little pinker than intended. Of course, you can account for this by giving a steak a little more time to cook when it reaches a specific degree of doneness according to your palm before removing it from the flame.

Have fun grilling!



The “how to tell if a steak is medium-rare by touch” is a method that can be used to test the doneness of a steak. The method requires the use of your hand and some creativity.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you test the doneness of beef?

A: You can test the doneness of beef by inserting a fork or knife into it.

How do I know when my tri tip is done without a thermometer?

A: It should be done when it reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

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