Many peo­ple have asked me to be more quan­ti­ta­tive in the posts I put on this site. I’ve been asked to give more exact times, temps and amounts. My Dad and Cous­in are much bet­ter at this than I am. This is a hard thing for me. I don’t cook with recipes gen­er­al­ly. I use a recipe once and then it’s sort of com­mit­ted to mem­o­ry. I don’t use meat ther­mome­ters. I decide when a piece of meat is done based on feel and prac­tice. I don’t mea­sure things out when I am mak­ing a rub or a mari­nade. And there­in lies a prob­lem — How do I teach feel to some­one else?

For the most part I can’t. So I need to be more dili­gent in my prep work. I need to actu­al­ly find the mea­sur­ing cups and spoons that I’m pret­ty sure are in my kitchen some­where and mea­sure out my ingre­di­ents to be relayed to you through this site in a more quan­ti­ta­tive man­ner.

While for the most part I can­not teach feel there is some­thing I can teach in terms of feel and that is how to tell a steak is done with­out a meat ther­mome­ter or slic­ing into it. It is said that there are only two ways to tell if a snake is poi­so­nous in the Unit­ed States — if it’s got a rat­tle or if it’s got fangs. Find­ing out if a snake is poi­so­nous using the lat­ter method is akin to slic­ing into a steak on the grill to see if it’s cooked prop­er­ly. By the time you know it’s too late!!!

So if you are cook­ing steaks for 6 peo­ple and only have one meat ther­mome­ter how can you tell how all six steaks are cooked to the prop­er done­ness? Sim­ple. Just use the thumb method:

What is the thumb method? The thumb method is so sim­ple you will won­der how you had nev­er heard of it before. Sim­ply touch the tip of your fore­fin­ger to the tip of your thumb to make the OK sign.

Now pinch the meaty part of the thumb close to the palm and wrist:

See how spongy that is? Take your tongs and push on the top of the steak in the mid­dle (do not squeeze the steak as it will not give the same results). When a steak is as spongy as this it is rare (125–130°F/52–55°C)

Now touch the tip of your mid­dle fin­ger to the tip of your thumb:

Again, squeeze the meaty part of the thumb by the palm and wrist:

The meaty part of the thumb is a lit­tle more firm that it was when you were touch­ing your fore­fin­ger to your thumb right? A steak that is about as firm as the meaty part of your thumb here is medi­um rare (130–140°F/55–60°C)

Now touch the tip of your ring fin­ger to the tip of your thumb and squeeze the meaty part of the thumb:

The meaty part of the thumb is a bit firmer yet again, right? That is the equiv­a­lent of a steak that is medi­um (140–150°F/60–65°C).

Now touch the pinky to the thumb and squeeze the meaty part of the thumb:

That is the equiv­a­lent to a medi­um well steak (150–155°F/65–69°C).

Since the vast major­i­ty of us are out of fin­gers at this point how do you tell if a steak is well done? For that just squeeze the sole of your shoe. When it is that con­sis­ten­cy it is well done!?!?  I’m just kid­ding for those that like theirs well done.  If the steak is grilled and rest­ed prop­er­ly it will still be juicy and deli­cious if well done.

The moral of the sto­ry: take your tongs and give the steak a lit­tle push to see how spongy or firm it is. The firmer it is the more done it is. It’s that easy.

Also, you can fol­low the Grillin Fools on their Face­book page where you can post your grillin own pic­tures or join the gen­er­al grillin con­ver­sa­tion.  Or, you can fol­low them on Twit­ter @GrillinFool

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Orig­i­nal Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to col­lege with a suit­case and a grill where he over­cooked, under­cooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thou­sands of fail­ures, and quite a few suc­cess­es, near­ly two decades lat­er he start­ed a web­site to show step by step, pic­ture by pic­ture, fool­proof instruc­tions on how to make great things out of doors so that oth­ers don’t have to repeat the mis­takes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool­Porn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
From band saw to plate! What a wicked fla­vor crust on this bad boy! . Video shot by @executivechef.cihan . You rea…… — 35 mins ago
Scott Thomas

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This might just be the most bril­liant idea (if it works…), will give a try and report next time around.


Amaz­ing, I’m cook­ing up some new York strips tonight and will def try this!! I love your site, I had always cut into steaks to see how cooked they are and nev­er knew this was a big mis­take. Thanks for the tips and pic­tures, your site is now saved to my favorites!!


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