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Blue Steak Guide

Are you (or is someone you love) a big fan of rare steaks? Have you heard or cracked jokes about “the bloodier, the better?” Well, if you’ve answered yes, then you might have also heard of blue steaks (or blue rare steaks.) If you haven’t heard of them until now, you’re probably …

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By Jeremy Pike

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What is Blue Steak?

Are you (or is someone you love) a big fan of rare steaks? Have you heard or cracked jokes about “the bloodier, the better?” Well, if you’ve answered yes, then you might have also heard of blue steaks (or blue rare steaks.) If you haven’t heard of them until now, you’re probably wondering what is a blue rare steak. A blue steak is a steak that has been cooked just enough for the outside to have taken on a seared crust while the inside is cooler than a traditional rare steak. The interior will have more resemblance to raw meat than even a rare steak.

That bit of information probably spurs some serious questions, like is blue rare steak safe to eat? What temp is blue rare steak cooked to? Can you tell me how to cook blue steak? What steak should I cook blue, and are there steaks I should not cook blue? Well, we’re going to answer all those questions (and maybe some more,) while providing some additional context about the safety of blue steak and some variations on the theme of blue rare steak. Let’s (quickly) fire up our grills and dig in.

What Is Blue Steak?

Blue Steak

As stated above, blue rare steak is a steak that hasn’t even been cooked to a rare level of doneness. This is accomplished by cooking a thicker steak, at least one inch thick, over high heat for a very small amount of time. The goal is to have a perfectly-seared exterior while the center of the steak is cool and almost raw. 

What Is A Black And Blue Steak?

To further complicate things, you may have heard of a black and blue steak. No, it does not involve beating your steak up. Nor does the butcher beat the meat up prior to purchase. It’s a version of a blue steak that is charred rather than seared. This can be accomplished by cooking these steaks over a hot charcoal or gas grill. Otherwise, the idea is the same. High heat for a very short period of time in order to keep a cool center that borders on raw. 

This is also sometimes referred to as a Pittsburgh Blue Steak or simply Pittsburgh steak due to stories about steel mill workers in Pittsburgh quickly cooking steaks for lunch on hot equipment.

What Temperature Is Blue Rare Steak Cooked To?

We’ve probably all heard that rare steaks are cooked to around 120°F. Blue steaks are cooked to around 115°F internal temperature. The best way to keep an eye on your internal temperatures no matter what level of doneness you’re looking for is with an instant-read thermometer. It’s the best way to ensure you’re getting the best results for what you’re looking for.

If that 115°F internal temperature target gives you pause, that’s understandable. After all, isn’t it basically a raw steak? You might be concerned about food-borne illnesses and bacteria. After all, we want to enjoy our steaks, not end up with food poisoning afterward. So you might find yourself wondering if this kind of steak is safe to eat.

The chart below shows all the steak temps. Blue Steak sits just above Rare. We didn’t include it in the chart as Blue Rare Steak is not a very common doneness level with steak.

Steak Doneness Chart


Is Blue Rare Steak Safe?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has guidelines the department has established over the years. When it comes to steaks, the USDA recommends that they should be cooked to a minimum of 145°F internal temperature for safety. 

That number may raise questions that I’ll address. You’re likely wondering why are we even talking about a steak that is cooked to a full 30 degrees cooler than the USDA recommendation. Well, the USDA recommendations are established partially to help protect people from themselves but also to help protect places like restaurants. The likelihood of you getting food poisoning from a steak that was still good when it was thrown on the grill or flat top to be cooked to 145°F is next to none.

The last thing any restaurant wants is customers getting sick from their food. So the USDA institutes guidelines that will ensure the safety and well-being of people who eat those steaks. 

So now that begs the question why can you purchase steak at a restaurant that is cooked below the guideline temperature? Restaurants use a warning printed on their menus that basically says that if you’re ordering food at a lower-than-recommended doneness, then they are absolved of any wrongdoing. 

However, there’s a reason why people order medium-rare steaks all the time and rarely get sick from them. With solid cuts of meat like a steak, as long as the meat has been properly cared for, any bacteria will exist on the exterior of the meat. So if you sear or char a blue rare steak properly, the surface of the meat will be well past that recommended temperature to kill any pesky bacteria. Make sure that you are searing the sides of the steak, not just the top and the bottom. When a blue rare steak is cooked properly, it’s safe to eat.

Bacteria
Bacteria

Now no amount of cooking will preserve you from a steak that went bad, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the signs of a steak gone bad. Cooking only kills the bacteria, it doesn’t repair any damage that’s already been done.

Why Eat Blue Rare Steak?

Now that we’ve established that a blue steak is safe to eat, you still might be wondering why would you cook or eat one. After all, you might prefer the bit of warmth that a medium-rare steak offers. Or you’ve simply grown accustomed to cooking a rare steak and don’t want to have to change your routine. So why a blue rare steak?

Blue steaks are incredibly tender and juicy. The fibers in the middle of the steak haven’t really cooked at all, so they haven’t tightened up and squeezed much moisture out at all. When you cook a steak that is packed full of beef flavor using the blue rare steak method, you’ll get all of that beef flavor. Plus, that high-heat searing or charring of the exterior gives plenty of flavor, too.

Now we need to figure out how to properly cook a blue rare steak.

How To Cook Blue Steak

Grilling Blue Steak

So now that you know what blue rare steak is, you want to know how to cook it at home. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple. You just need a high heat source (gas grill or gas range with pan), and a good quality steak, seasonings (salt and black pepper are really all you need,) and that aforementioned instant-read thermometer. 

The next decision you need to make is are you wanting to sear a blue steak or char a black and blue steak. If you’re going for a traditional blue rare steak, you’ll want to use a cast iron pan or a griddle over a stove or on a grill. If you’re wanting more of a black and blue steak, cooking right on the grill grates over a blazing hot charcoal fire or gas burners set to high will do the trick.

However, you still need to figure out what type of steak you’re going to want to cook. There are two key characteristics you’ll want to look at when choosing a steak for this particular method: tenderness and marbling. You want to start out with steaks from tender cuts of meat because you’re barely going to cook it.

However, that lack of drawn-out cooking time also means you want a lean steak. All that interior marbling won’t have time to render out at all so you’ll be left with a steak that has a lot of chewy fat. You might like that, but we’d prefer just plenty of beefy steak when we take a bite.

So with those criteria in mind, let’s look at the steaks you should look for and the ones you should avoid when cooking blue rare steaks.

What Are The Best Steaks For Making Blue Steaks?

When you’re looking for a steak that is tender and lean, there are a few obvious choices. The first is the filet mignon. It’s cut from the tenderloin which is, of course, quite tender and also lean. It’s one of the most prized steaks and is typically cut thick, so it will work well for cooking blue rare steaks. Any tenderloin steak will be ideal for a blue steak, actually.

Flat iron steaks also work quite well for blue steaks. While these steaks come from the chuck primal, they are trimmed to remove some of the connective tissue and fat so they retain their tenderness without having the fat that will be unpleasant for a blue rare steak. 

You can also go with a slightly less tender but lean steak and go with the sirloin tip steak. We covered the sirloin tip and top sirloin steak in our article about sirloin vs ribeye steaks. While they might not be the most tender steaks, they still are tender enough especially when combined with how lean they are for cooking blue steaks.

What Steaks To Avoid For Blue Rare Steaks

Don't use ribeyes for blue steak
Ribeye steaks are not ideal when cooking Blue Steak

Speaking of ribeye steaks, you’ll actually want to avoid them for cooking blue steaks. That same marbling that makes them one of the most beloved steaks will actually backfire (unless you love chewing on fat.) Ribeyes simply have too much fat for cooking as a blue steak. You’ll essentially want to avoid any fatty steaks that you would normally love cooking to a medium-rare level, including porterhouse steaks. You’ll also want to avoid skirt steaks and flank steaks for the same reason, too much fat and connective tissue.

Cooking A Blue Steak

New York Strip on Grill

Now that you’ve decided what steak you want to use, you want to season it with Kosher salt and let it sit for 10-20 minutes while you prepare your grill, griddle or cast iron pan. You will only be cooking the steak for around one minute a side. You don’t need to add butter to your pan or griddle. You simply want a dry heat to get that crust developed quickly over the entire outer surface of the steak. Here’s a step-by-step process.

  1. Take your steak out of the fridge and season with Kosher salt. Let it rest for 10-20 minutes on the counter.
  2. Preheat your griddle or cast iron skillet on high. You want this cooking surface to be about as hot as it can safely be.
  3. Once the skillet or griddle is preheated, add your steak.
  4. After 45 seconds to a minute, flip the steak and place it on another area of the cooking surface that is still at high heat.
  5. After another 30 seconds, check the internal temperature of the steak with your instant-read thermometer. You want to pull the steak somewhere between 112-115°F to ensure you don’t end up with rare steak instead of blue steak.
  6. Sear the sides of the steak by using tongs to essentially roll the sides of the steak slowly across the cooking surface.
  7. Remove the steak and serve! You do not need to let your steak rest since the interior has not cooked.

How To Cook A Black And Blue Steak

Over the fire cooked steaks.
Little Past Blue, But a Nice Black Crust

The idea is essentially the same as a standard blue rare steak. However, rather than going for that nice and even brown sear, you’re going for char marks. The best way to do that is over a gas or charcoal grill where you can expose the exterior of the steak to an open flame (like on the solo stove cooktop). Other than that, it’s the same process.

  1. Remove your steak from the refrigerator then season all sides with Kosher salt. Leave it on the counter to sit for 10-20 minutes.
  2. Start your grill. If you’re using a charcoal grill (and let’s face it, the charcoal will make the steak taste even better,) load up a charcoal chimney full and start it. If you’re looking for a new chimney or fire starter, check out our recommendations. I love to use the Char-Griller chimney with the Grill Trade Fire Starter Sticks. Always hot and quick, plus the trigger release makes dumping the lit charcoal easier than any other chimney I’ve used! If you’re using a gas grill, turn the burners to high and let the grates preheat. 
  3. Once your grill has come up to temp, put your steaks on over the direct heat. Do NOT close the lid! You aren’t trying to cook the interior of the steak, you just don’t want it cold. 
  4. After 45 seconds to one minute, flip your steaks.
  5. After 30 seconds on the second side, check the internal temperature using your instant-read thermometer. Look for 112-115°F before grilling the sides. 
  6. Grill the sides by pressing each section onto the hot grates to get a good char. 
  7. Remove and serve!

Wrapping It Up

Blue steak isn’t for everyone. It’s for people who love rare steaks but want to try something even rarer. As I said earlier, if you or someone you know loves to joke about getting steaks “the bloodier, the better,” a blue rare steak is definitely something you should try. However, if a rare steak gets you a little squeamish, you’re not going to want to try this. 

Have you ever tried a blue rare steak? Let us know what you think in the comments! 

FAQs:

Question: We Joke About Rare And Blue Steaks Being Bloody, But Is That Really Blood When You Cut Into A Rare Steak?

Answer: No, it’s not blood. It’s water containing a protein called myoglobin that exists in muscles for carrying oxygen from the blood to the muscles. So while we sometimes call rare steaks bloody, there’s no actual blood. It’s simply a protein. 

Question: Does The Name Blue Steak Have Anything To Do With Blue Cheese?

Answer: You probably noticed that we did not mention blue cheese as an ingredient when it comes to cooking blue rare steak. That’s because the name likely comes from the internal temperature being so cool compared to any other way of serving steak. However, blue cheese is a good addition to steak. You could even make a compound butter with blue cheese for serving steaks.

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