Steak connoisseurs are always on the hunt for the rarest cuts of beef. While some prefer their steaks cooked medium or medium-well, others crave the soft, velvety texture of an ultra-rare steak. But how rare can you safely eat a steak? Let’s explore the rarest ways to enjoy this meaty delicacy.
What is the rarest way to eat steak?
The rarest way to eat steak is raw, also known as steak tartare or carpaccio. This involves consuming raw, uncooked beef seasoned to taste. Steak tartare originated in Germany and France and remains popular in many parts of Europe. It involves finely chopping or mincing raw lean beef and serving it topped with a raw egg yolk. The egg yolk acts as an emulsifier to bind the ingredients. Steak tartare is often flavored with ingredients like capers, onions, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard.
Carpaccio involves slicing raw beef fillets tissue-thin and serving them topped with olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, arugula, or other ingredients. Unlike steak tartare, the meat is not minced or chopped. Both steak tartare and carpaccio allow you to experience the rich flavor and velvety texture of completely raw beef.
How rare can I safely eat steak?
While steak tartare and carpaccio provide the rarest possible beef, they come with safety concerns. Consuming raw or undercooked beef carries risks of foodborne illness. Bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and Campylobacter are destroyed through thorough cooking.
The USDA recommends cooking beef to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F with a 3 minute rest time to kill harmful bacteria. So technically, from a food safety perspective, the rarest you should eat any steak is medium-rare. At this doneness level, the internal temperature reaches 145°F, eliminating risks from bacteria while still preserving redness and juiciness in the center.
Tips for Safely Eating Rare Steak
If you still crave ultra-rare steak despite the risks, here are some tips to reduce your chance of foodborne illness:
- Source beef from reputable suppliers or butchers.
- Choose high-quality, fresh, clean cuts of beef.
- Grind the meat yourself if making tartare.
- Store and handle the meat properly before eating.
- Use antimicrobial ingredients like garlic or onion.
- Avoid raw steak if pregnant or immunocompromised.
While these precautions reduce the chance of contamination, they cannot eliminate the risk entirely. It’s important to weigh personal preferences against food safety.
How Chefs Cook Ultra-Rare Steak
Skilled chefs have techniques to deliver incredibly rare, just-warmed steak while minimizing foodborne illness risks:
This method involves gently cooking the steak in an oven or sous vide bath to raise the internal temperature to around 100-120°F. Then the steak gets a quick, hot sear in a pan or on the grill to create a browned crust. The middle remains very rare but is just cooked enough to reduce bacteria.
The steak gets an aggressive sear on the outside over high heat while keeping the inside completely raw. The idea is to kill surface bacteria through the sear while leaving the interior uncooked.
Quality beef aged for multiple weeks allows more tender, rare cooking. The dry-aging process reduces moisture content and bacteria levels. Taking extra precautions, experienced chefs may feel comfortable serving rare-seared aged steaks.
How Rare You Can Order Steak at Restaurants
Ordering ultra-rare steak tartare or carpaccio on a menu is fair game, since you assume the risks involved. But if ordering a regular steak, most restaurants will only cook to medium-rare for food safety requirements. Rare steak may technically be served at some high-end restaurants willing to assume the liability. But chefs will usually discourage this and may refuse to cook steaks below medium-rare.
The USDA Food Code states that menu items must reach certain cooking temperatures, so restaurants must adhere to these guidelines:
|Minimum Internal Temperature
So realistically, the rarest steak you’ll get at a restaurant is medium-rare unless they’re willing to bend the rules. Be prepared for some resistance if trying to order steak more rare than that in a dining establishment.
Grades of Beef Impact Rarest Cooking
Higher quality beef grades like Prime and Choice are better suited for ultra-rare cooking compared to Select or Standard grades. The increased marbling provides extra moisture and flavor when cooked rare. Less marbled steaks can become quite tough and chewy cooked below medium-rare.
Here’s how the top beef grades compare when cooked ultra-rare:
Prime beef contains extensive marbling which keeps it tender when cooked rare. The fat melts to provide a buttery, juicy texture. Prime steaks are ideal for rare cooking. They comprise about 2% of all graded beef.
While not as marbled as Prime, Choice still contains good fat content to remain moist down to rare doneness. Choice makes up the majority of restaurant steaks.
Select has less marbling so it tends to get chewier and drier at rarer doneness levels. It can still be juicy when cooked medium-rare and makes an affordable option for home cooking.
These basic ungraded beef cuts have very little fat marbling. They quickly toughen up and lose moisture when cooked below medium. Standard grades are best for braising dishes or stew meat rather than rare steaks.
How Cut of Steak Impacts Rare Cooking
Certain cuts of beef are naturally more tender and suit ultra-rare cooking better than others:
Extremely tender with little connective tissue. Filet mignon comes from the tenderloin and is ideal for carpaccio or rare reverse searing.
Marbled and tender. The fat provides plenty of flavor and moisture when cooked rare. A popular choice for steak tartare.
Also tender with moderate fat. Can be cooked under medium-rare as long as sufficiently marbled. Often used for steak tartare.
Very lean with lots of connective tissue. Tends to become tough and stringy under medium. Best cooked medium-rare or higher.
Thin cut with dense muscle fibers. Holds up better to rare cooking than flank steak but still benefits from medium-rare or higher.
Similar to skirt steak. Becomes quite chewy and fibrous under medium doneness. Stick to medium-rare and above.
Can be cooked rare if sufficiently marbled, but typically leaner than other cuts.Medium-rare provides best texture.
Contains more collagen and sinew. Requires braising or cooking to medium doneness to tenderize. Not ideal for rare cooking.
How Meat Surface Affects Rare Cooking
Surface area impacts how a steak cooks at low temperatures. Thin sliced carpaccio can be served raw since it sears quickly. Thick ribeyes require rarer internal cooking to sufficiently sear the surface:
Paper-thin sliced raw beef. Little internal cooking needed since the meat is thinly cut.
Finely chopped or ground raw beef. Maximize surface area for seasoning and sear.
Thick cut needs reverse searing or sous vide to reach rare internal temp.
Thick steak requiring high heat pan or grill sear to cook surface at rare doneness.
Skirt or Flank Steak
Thin steaks can be quickly seared rare. But risk overcooking inside due to less volume.
Shape makes it tricky to sear without overcooking inside. Best above rare to medium-rare.
Rarest Steak Preparation Methods
These techniques allow ultra-rare steak cooking while still searing the exterior:
Vacuum-sealed steak is cooked to exact temperature in a precision water bath. Great for perfect edge-to-edge rare cooking.
Low oven heat brings steak to rare internal temp before finishing with high heat sear.
Thinly sliced raw beef is topped with ingredients like olive oil and Parmesan.
Finely minced raw steak is mixed with desired seasonings and served.
Steak is charred on the outside while completely raw inside.
Seared quickly over very high heat to create a charred crust around a raw cool center.
Best Side Dishes With Rare Steak
Rare steak offers a soft, velvety texture requiring complementary sides:
Rich and creamy. Helps balance the red meat.
Truffle or Blue Cheese Potatoes
Earthy flavors and textures pair nicely with bloody rare steak.
A steakhouse classic. Crisp freshness offsets rare beef.
Savory, meaty mushrooms enhance umami flavors.
Cool, fresh lettuce and tomato balance the richness.
Crispy contrast to soft, rare meat.
Sweet and creamy accompaniment.
While health experts warn against consuming raw or undercooked beef, some diners still crave that melt-in-your-mouth texture of ultra-rare steak. Carpaccio and steak tartare provide the rarest possible beef eating experience. For restaurant dining, medium-rare is typically the lowest doneness you can request. However, skilled chefs can use methods like reverse searing, dry aging, and sous vide to deliver incredibly rare yet pasteurized steak. Top graded Prime or Choice cuts like tenderloin and ribeye are best suited for rare cooking. And sides like creamed spinach, mushrooms, and wedge salads nicely complement the velvety texture of a just-seared steak. While food safety should always come first, those seeking the rarest of the rare can find some tantalizing (if controversial) options out there. Just be aware of the risks before indulging.