5 Ways To Know Meat Is Done & Levels of Doneness

Some people can easily tell that meat is done cooking while others need to carry out different processes to know if meat is ready to be served.

If you fall into the latter category, you should read this article to help you know how to tell your meat is done.

Overcooked meat doesn’t always taste good, except if you know how to repurpose it into meals. Undercooked meat isn’t good either. Moreover, it’s unhealthy. You’ll agree that meat is best enjoyed when it’s tender and juicy.

There are general signs to look out for to know if meat is done. If you want to avoid ending up with undercooked and overcooked meat, you need to know how to identify well-cooked meat.

1. Use a food thermometer

One of the many vital kitchen utensils you should have is a food thermometer. A food thermometer gives you the exact heat level at which your food is being cooked. The average temperature to cook your meat is 165°F (74°C).

When cooking meat, always check the temperature of the meat with the food thermometer.

To do this correctly, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and make sure it does not touch any part of the bone or fat. If the thermometer comes in contact with the fat or bone, it will give you a wrong value.

2. Forget about the cooking times you’ve learned

One of the steps to making good meals is to abide by all instructions labeled on groceries such as cooking procedures and duration. Follow the manufacturer’s information and instructions written on the pack of meat.

Do not go about looking for how long it will take food to cook or taking suggestions from friends. You will only end up getting different answers and too many cooks spoil the broth. To avoid this, ignore all unrecommended cooking times.

Time suggestions do not work with meat dishes. If you apply time suggestions to cooking your meat dish, you may never know if your meat is done.

3. Check the meat with your fingers

You can also improvise with your fingers to know when your meat is done. I wouldn’t say the fingers are better than a food thermometer, but it’s not a bad idea either.

Moreover, the best option to test your grills is to use your fingers. And there’s something good about using your fingers to check your meat; it doesn’t allow the liquid spice in the meat to drain off, unlike the food thermometer.

Raw meat feels rough, tough, and squishy on the fingers while cooked meat feels tough but soft. However, the different levels of doneness may influence the texture of the meat.

4. Check meat doneness with your face

Many home cooks stick to using the food thermometer to check if meat is done. Get used to using other methods like your face and fingers.

Just like your finger test, the feeling you get when you touch your cheeks represents medium-rare or done meat, the forehead – medium meat, and the chin – medium-well meat.

5. Check for shrinkage

This is a popular method everyone knows and uses. When meat is well cooked, it becomes smaller; a sign that it has absorbed enough heat.

There are times when you might get a little bit confused. Like in moments when you do a “well done” finger test for your meat, it feels like it’s done, but hasn’t reduced in size. Do not be deceived, your meat is not done.

Additionally, if you notice the meat has reduced greatly, it is most likely overcooked.

In essence, you cannot wholly rely on one method when testing for doneness in your meat. You should use at least two methods to be very sure.

Levels of doneness of meat

1. Rare

rare steak - millenora

Rare meat is still 75% red with blood. It is lightly charred and brown on the sides. It feels like raw meat but is slightly warm and red on the inside.

To cook meat to rare, cook it to an internal temperature of 120 to 130°F (49 to 55°C). This should take about 8 minutes in total.

2. Medium

medium meat - millenora

To cook your meat to a medium level of doneness, cook it to an internal temperature of 140 – 150°F (60 – 65°C). You’ll notice that the sides of the meat are charred and brown but the inside is a thick light pink.

Also, medium steak feels springy when you poke it with tongs. Watch out for these signs when cooking your meat to medium.

3. Medium-rare

medium rare meat - millenora

Medium rare is a blend of medium and rare. The inside is pink and brown. This level of doneness is probably the most common and appreciated, especially among chefs.

The sides of medium-rare meat are brown and it is caramelized on the top and bottom. To achieve this level of doneness, cook your meat to an internal temperature of 130 to 135°F (55 to 57°C).

4. Medium-well

medium well meat - millenora

Medium-well steak has a light pink hue on the inside but is well charred and browned on the outside. To achieve this, cook the meat to an internal temperature of 155 to 165°F (68 to 74°C).

5. Well

well done steak - millenora

This is the final stage of cooking meat. Anything past this is overcooked. To avoid overcooking your meat, cook it to an internal temperature of 170°F (77°C). This should take 10 to 12 minutes on a grill.

You may not be able to trace any pink hue on the inside of a well-done steak. It is well-browned and charred on the sides, top, and bottom.


How do you know meat is boiled?

Boiled meat is brown while raw or undercooked meat is red or pinkish-red. The brown color is a result of myoglobin breakdown that opens during cooking. Also, boiled meat feels firmer and shrunken.

How do you know when hamburger meat is done?

It takes approximately 20 minutes for hamburger meat to boil. The meat should have an internal temperature of 160°F. It should also look brown or pink.  

How do you know when meatballs are done?

Meatballs cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. To confirm if they are well cooked, take one and cut it in half. If it is brown, it is ready to be eaten.

Should you boil your meat before frying it?

You may or may not boil meat before frying. Boiling meat before frying is not compulsory, it depends on the instruction in your recipe and personal preference.


With these hacks up your sleeves, I believe cooking meat will come easy henceforth. There are different levels of doneness for meat. You may want your medium or well-cooked.

Whichever level of doneness you want, make sure your meat is well-cooked to a point where there are no bacteria in it. Have a level of doneness in mind and work with it. The level of doneness depends on your personal preferences and recipe.

In addition, I’ll advise that you use more than one test for doneness before you take it off the heat and serve.

Before you cook your meat, Find out how long you can keep raw meat out on the countertop.

Thanks for reading.