Last week, I attended a Taste of Home cooking class. There were about 500 people in the audience. The presentation cook prepared 10 different dishes; all recipes were in a little magazine and she shared her shortcuts and substitutions. There was a lot of energy in the room and it was a lot of fun. The magazine - and this particular series of cooking classes - are geared towards the home cook: tasty, nothing fancy, and easy to prepare. I'm interested because this is the type of cookbooks my sisters and I write; they're definitely focused on the home cook who want something easy, delicious, and nutritious.
Along with demonstrating the 10 recipes, the presenter gave some tips and shortcuts, quite a few of which I know and use regularly. But one was new to me and really intrigued me. When you're cooking or grilling a beef steak, how do you know when it's done to your liking? One way is to use a meat thermometer, which definitely works, but also pokes holes in your steak and lets out all the juices. Another way is to cut the steak in half and see what color it is. Again, it works, but the problem is that it also lets out all the precious meat juices. Her trick (and I've since learned that Rachel Ray has also used this on her TV show) is to use your fingers and touch it. First, touch your cheek - if the meat feels like that, it's still rare; touch your chin or the tip of your nose, and it's medium; touch your forehead, and if it feels firm like that, it's well done. My Mom always liked her steak cooked very well done. The joke in our family is that when her steak looked liked a charcoal briquette, it was done. most of us like is a little less done than that!
Tonight, I cooked us New York strip steaks and used the face-touching method. And it worked!
I stopped cooking the steaks just a little rarer than we like them because the meat will continue cooking as it rests. You should let it rest about 5 - 8 minutes to let all the juices settle back into the meat.
If you need a specific temperature for your steak, this would not be the correct method - it's a rough estimate at best. Use a meat thermometer if you want preciseness. But this method works just fine as an estimate and is certainly better than cutting your steak open to peek at the color.