How to Choose the Right Doneness When You Order a Steak

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

Steak, a quintessentially American way to consume beef, is right up there with our love for burgers. There have been great debates over how to order the best steak and also over what cut of steak is tastiest. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, which is why we want to offer a guide to help you choose the right cut of meat and the perfect doneness!

Choosing the Right Cut of Steak

First, you need to know some basic information about the different cuts of meat/steak that are available at most restaurants. Steak generally comes from the muscular parts of the hindquarters of a cow and is considered high-quality meat. The meat on this part of the cow is more tender than other cuts of meat because the muscles don’t get used as much. The tender quality of the meat also means that steaks can cook faster, especially if a customer wants the steak rare with lots of red left in the middle.

Here’s a basic guide to the most common cuts of steak you’ll find at steakhouses and restaurants:

T-Bone/Porterhouse Steak

Porterhouse steaks are unique because one piece of the meat is part of the tenderloin and the other piece on the other side of the bone is a NY strip steak, so it’s like a 2-in-one! The T-bone steak is a little bit different, but you still get 2 slightly different cuts of meat in one steak. You’ll notice these steaks because of the t-shaped bone going down through the middle!

Ribeye Steak

This steak is full of beefy flavor and comes from the same part of the cow as prime rib. Ribeye has lots of fat ribboning through the meat, which gives the meat a delicious, juicy taste.

NY Strip Steak

Strip steak is great if you want a strong beef flavor rather than the most tender meat. New York strip steak is sold boneless and is usually rectangular in shape. Strip steaks can be eaten with accompanying sides or made into delicious sandwiches.

Flat Iron Steak

Flat iron steaks are newer to the beef-lovers scene, but they are becoming quite popular! Cut from the shoulder muscle rather than the hindquarters, flat iron steak is still tender and delicious, especially since the meat is cut to avoid the tough connective tissue that runs right through the shoulder.

Filet Mignon/Tenderloin Steak

Known for its melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and a high price tag, filet mignon/tenderloin is the highest quality steak available. However, tenderloin has a milder taste, so if you want more flavor, look for a tenderloin steak wrapped in bacon or covered in a special sauce.

If you have the chance to examine the different steaks at a counter before ordering one, make sure you look for one that has thin streaks of fat (called marble) throughout the meat so that your steak will be both tender and flavorful. Without any fat, your steak will be very easy to cut, but it will also lose the flavor the fat provides. With too much fat and connective tissue, your steak will be more tough and chewy.

Choosing the Right Doneness When You Order a Steak

Now, let’s talk about the many different ways you can order your steak and which one you should try next time you’re at a great steak restaurant!


If you want your meat practically raw and slightly seared, go ahead and ask for it to be “blue rare.” If you like your steak warm all the way through with brown edges and a bright red middle, rare is the way to go. Filet mignon/tenderloin steak is especially tender and tasty when cooked rare.


If the steak cooks a little bit longer and gets more brown around the edges, maintaining a reddish-pink middle it becomes considered medium-rare. Many chefs claim that this is the best way to eat a steak, but of course, some customers disagree and insist on ordering it their own way.


If you ask for your steak to come out “medium,” it will have a pink center with lots of brown and a good char on the bottom. Many Americans order their strip steak to be cooked this way.


A steak that’s cooked to medium-well is going to be only slightly pink in the middle, which means it will likely be a bit harder to cut and chew than a steak cooked for less time. However, ribeyes, T-bones and porterhouse steaks can handle being cooked to this doneness and still remain tasty.

Well Done

People who prefer to see no pink in their meat will go for a “well done” steak, often to the dismay of their red-meat-loving friends and family. Cooking a steak well done often comes at the cost of tenderness and juicy flavor, however, in the case of steak doneness preferences it may be wise to just live and let live. Perhaps you’ll convince them to try medium-well next time!

As you can see, there are many great ways to enjoy a steak and while it may be fun to banter about personal favorite cuts or doneness, at the end of the day it’s like a coffee order, you have to know what you like and how to order it so that you don’t waste your money. If you like your meat basically raw and are willing to risk the food poisoning, go for it! If you’re into meat that’s so well done it’s practically a rock, knock yourself out! As long as you’re enjoying the company of the people you’re with and experiencing a great meal, it’s a win in our book.

CityGate Grille

If you already know how you love your steak or you want some advice in choosing the right doneness when you order a steak, come visit us and we’ll make sure you end up with just the right piece of meat on your plate. Reserve a table today!

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