Blue Steak (A Complete Guide to Understanding the Rarest of Steaks)

So, you’re cooking a steak and you’re not sure exactly how you want to prepare it. Have you ever considered blue steak?

If you feel like you’ve tried every way there is, let us show you a new way to cook your steak you may have never even heard of: blue rare.

This article will teach you:

  • What blue steak/blue rare steak is
  • How to safely cook a blue rare steak
  • What blue steak tastes like
  • Tips for making blue rare steak
  • And much more!

What is Blue Steak/Blue Rare Steak?

Blue steak, aka blue rare steak, is the absolute rarest way to enjoy a steak, save from eating it completely raw. It’s seared on the outside to develop a nice crust, but in a quick enough fashion so that the inside hasn’t had enough time to cook.

This kind of steak is believed to have its origins in the steel mills of Pittsburgh, but more on that later.

Obviously, a steak like this isn’t for everyone, but it has been becoming more and more popular in recent years. This kind of steak is perfect for those who enjoy their steaks cooked rare and are looking for something even rarer.

People mistakenly think rare steak is bloody, so naturally you might be wondering if blue rare steak is bloody. Technically, no. Because the reddish liquid you see from steaks is made up of water, fat, and myoglobin, a reddish protein in beef. The blood is removed during processing.

Read on to learn more about blue steak, how to cook it, and tips for making your blue rare steak amazing!

What Should the Blue Steak Temperature Be?

When people ask, “How hot is blue rare steak?” they are usually asking how hot is the center of the steak, not the exterior (which is hotter).

When cooking this style of steak, your goal is to hit a blue steak temperature internally temperature between 115°F and 120°F. Anything under 115°F would be still raw and anything over 120°F would be too cooked to be considered “blue.”

There are those who will tell you that a true blue rare steak is only cooked to 84°F. However, we find it easiest (and most appetizing) to get to at least 115°F, after all, this isn’t raw steak, it’s blue steak..

steak served blue rare on a cutting board

Why is it Called Blue Steak?

There are many theories as to why steak prepared this way is referred to as “blue rare”. One of the most popular of which suggests that it’s because when it is first cut into, raw meat can appear to have a blue color (or purple color), which eventually turns red due to exposure to oxygen.

There are also those who believe it is linked to a French style of cooking fish called “bleu,” which involves boiling fish in a brine which turns the skin blue.

Other theories consider the “cold” inside of the steak and associate it with the color blue. Some say it is because the oils left from searing steak sometimes have a blue tint. No matter what you call it, the defining feature of it is the nearly raw center!

The Blue Steak’s Pittsburgh Connection

When a friend cooked at a steakhouse in Florida, this kind of steak was referred to as a “Pittsburgh steak,” “Pittsburgh-style steak,” or “Pittsburgh rare steak.”

Tradition has it that the steel workers in Pittsburgh had only 30 minutes for lunch, and they needed a hearty, protein-rich meal to handle the hot, sweaty, and demanding work in the mills. So, they would wrap thick steaks in foil and cook them on a hot, steel plate, probably between 1,800°F-2,000°F.

Cooking the steaks like this, they would get a deep, black char on the outside while retaining a cool, blue center. This is why this style of steak is sometimes called “Black & Blue steak.”

So, if you go to a restaurant and see Pittsburgh steak, Pittsburgh-style steak, or Pittsburgh rare steak, it is referring to blue steak.

Can You Eat Blue Rare Steak? Is it Safe?

Since blue rare steak is very close to raw, it may not be for everyone. However, it can be safe to eat when cooked with the right techniques.

You may have heard that steak needs to be cooked to a certain internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. This is only partially true. Any bacteria that may come into contact with a piece of steak can only infect the outer surface because of how thick beef is (it isn’t as easy for bacteria to penetrate like it can chicken and turkey). Thus, searing all surfaces thoroughly will kill any bacteria.

But, you also need to obtain your beef from a reputable source such as a butcher. It is not safe to make blue rare steaks with the cuts available at the grocery store.

You’ll want to make sure that the cut of meat you’re using hasn’t been frozen or sitting out for too long. If you are using a fresh cut of steak from a reputable seller, the interior of the steak should be bacteria free, and a hard sear should make it completely safe to eat.

Blue steaks may not be for the faint of heart, but they can be safe to eat!

Editor’s Note: The FDA recommends that all cuts of meat be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F, meaning, by their standards, a blue rare steak is not safe to eat. But by these standards, a 135°F medium rare steak isn’t safe to eat either and there is no way we are cooking our steaks beyond that!

How to Cook a Blue Steak

Are you ready to get grilling? Here are the steps you should take to achieve a perfect blue rare steak.

Step 1: Prep

Allow your cut of meat about 30 minutes on the counter to come up to room temperature. This ensures that the whole piece of meat, including the inside, is the same temperature, and prevents from uneven cooking.

Step 2: Dry and Season

Pat your steak dry with paper towels; a moist surface will prevent a nice, even sear. Then, apply a light coating of a high smoking-point oil to your steak to aid in searing and for seasoning to adhere easier.

We recommend seasoning your blue rare steak with a simple crust of salt and pepper but you can also make your own steak seasoning.

Step 3: Grill Prep

Preheat your grill. If you’re using gas, turn the burners up to high and let the grates heat up for at least 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re using charcoal, bunch your coals in a clear direct heating zone, and let your grates preheat for 20 to 25 minutes. You want to make sure that your grill is as hot as possible to develop a quick sear without cooking the inside too much.

Step 4: Sear

Lay down your steak onto the hottest part of the grill. Leave it there untouched for no longer than one minute; we don’t want this to cook for too long. Flip your steak after one minute and lay it back down on a clean part of the grill that is just as hot. This is to ensure that both sides get an even sear. Leave your steak on that side for another minute, again, untouched.

Step 5: Sear the Sides

While holding your steak upright with tongs, sear the sides of the steak. Make sure every part of the sides has had enough time on the grates to sear correctly. You may want to do this on a portion of the grill that is less hot, to prevent from overcooking.

Step 6: Rest

Remove your steak from the grill and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Cutting into it immediately doesn’t allow for the juices to redistribute into the steak, resulting in a dried-out piece of meat, and all of the flavors will end up on the cutting board.

Step 7: Serve and enjoy!

You’ll want to enjoy this steak as soon as possible after the cooking process. Like any steak, a blue rare steak is best eaten right after cooking.

What is Blue Rare vs Rare Steak?

The main difference between blue rare vs rare steak will be the internal temperature, or doneness, of the steak. Blue steaks are typically cooked around 115°F and rare steaks are cooked to 125°F.

Which Cuts of Meat Can Be Cooked Blue?

You can’t just pick up any old steak from the meat section to cook blue rare. Certain characteristics of different steaks work better when cooked to these temperatures. Now that we’ve taught you what a blue rare steak is, and how to prepare it, let’s get into which cuts of meat are the best candidates for this style of cooking.

For blue rare cooking, you want to avoid cuts of meat that have a high fat content. Gravitate towards more tender cuts of meat. These include:

  • Top sirloin
  • Flat iron
  • Filet mignon
  • A trimmed New York strip/Sirloin strip

Since these cuts have less fat and marbling, they are perfect candidates for enjoying at a lower temperature. If you use a New York strip, trim the fat off to avoid flames if you grill it over an open flame or charcoal.

The tender and lean parts of these cuts lend themselves perfectly to enjoy at these temperatures, as nothing will impede upon the beefy flavor of the interior.

This is why we also recommend you use a nicer, more expensive cut of steak for blue rare cooking. Since the beef is not cooked all the way through, all the flavor is in the piece of meat itself. A cheaper steak will not have that decadent, beefy flavor that blue rare steaks are perfect for.

Also make sure that the cuts of steak you choose are thick. Anything thinner than at least one inch will cook past the point of blue rare during the searing process.

 If you are using top sirloin, you might want to look for “top sirloin filet” or “sirloin filet.” While these cuts are not filet mignon, butchers have been adding the word “filet” to some cuts to designate they are thicker cuts of beef.

We would also recommend purchasing your steak from a butcher or deli, and staying away from prepackaged steaks, to ensure that it was freshly cut.

Are There Any Cuts of Beef That Shouldn’t be Cooked Blue?

Steaks that have a high fat content, while flavorful, shouldn’t be cooked at these “blue rare” temperatures.

Since these kinds of steaks have deposits of fat and marbling running through them, we cannot advise that you enjoy these at blue rare temperatures. These deposits of fat require a longer time over the heat to render and properly flavor your steak. A fatty steak cooked in this fashion would contain tough deposits of unrendered fat, resulting in a less than enjoyable bite.

This is also why you shouldn’t cook any cheap, tough steaks to blue rare temperatures. These also require a longer time over the heat to cook correctly, since it takes time for the heat to break down the fibers in the meat to make them enjoyable.

The hot and fast technique for cooking steak blue rare does not lend itself well to these cuts of steak.

Here are some cuts of steak to avoid when cooking blue rare:

  • Ribeye
  • Skirt steak
  • Hanger steak
  • Flank steak
  • Flap steak
  • Porterhouse
  • Bottom sirloin
  • Wagyu/Kobe

Of course, these steaks can be delicious when cooked properly, however, they are simply not mean to be enjoyed at blue rare temperatures.

There have been accounts of people cooking these cuts to blue rare temperatures and enjoying them, we just cannot recommend it, due to the high fat content in these steaks.

What Does Blue Rare Steak Taste Like?

On the surface, a blue rare steak will taste like any other steak you may have eaten before

, unless you get it at a restaurant that uses cast-iron, flat top grills. This will have a charred taste.

But, if it is done on a BBQ grill, the hard sear on the outside will provide that classic steak taste you’re used to, because of the Maillard reaction. The hard sear will create a delicious crust on the outside that every steak eater loves.

However, as you get past the surface to the interior part of the steak, you’ll feel a change from hot, seasoned crust to a cool, beefy center. The inside should not be ice-cold, but it should definitely feel like a lower temperature than the outside of the steak.

Some describe the taste as “sponge-like”. Others have said it’s the purest way to enjoy a steak. It really is up to the person eating it to judge how it tastes. We say try it for yourself and see how you like it!

Does Blue Rare Steak Have a Weird Texture?

The middle of a blue rare steak will have a much more tender texture than the average meat eater is used to. Heat is normally used to break down the beef proteins, and blue rare steaks haven’t reached temperatures hot enough for this to occur. The result is a bouncy, beefier steak.

This will definitely be a different experience compared to what you are used to. However, many blue rare steak fans say that blue rare is the best way to enjoy an expensive cut of steak, since it’s left in its natural state.

Many people who enjoy their steak this way claim that it’s the only way to uphold the integrity of a nice cut of beef. Once again, we recommend that you try it so that you can see if it’s something you might be into!

Tips for Making a Blue Rare Steak

We understand that this style of cooking steak may be new to some of our readers, so we’ve compiled a sort-of cheat sheet when attempting to cook a steak blue rare:

  • When choosing a steak, use a leaner one with a low fat content
  • Make sure the steak you choose is at the very least one inch thick, so that the inside does not cook during the hard searing process
  • Don’t leave the meat on the grill for longer than one minute per side so as not to overcook your meat
  • Sear the sides of the steak to ensure that all bacteria that could potentially be on the surface of the meat is killed
  • Keep a meat thermometer on hand, to ensure that you don’t go over the target interior temperature

While this is not an all-inclusive list for what you need to do to cook a steak blue rare, we think that keeping these tips in mind will definitely help you during your first time. It may feel unnatural to cook a steak for such a short amount of time, but remember the point of a blue rare steak is to keep the inside largely uncooked.

As you cook your steaks like this more and more, these tips should become second nature to you!

Final Thoughts on Blue Rare Steak

You should now know everything there is to know about the “blue rare” way of cooking steak. You’ve learned what cuts to use, how to cook it, and even what it may taste like. We hope that this guide has been helpful for those wanting to learn about what a blue rare steak is.

However, nothing can tell you more about blue rare steak than trying it for yourself. We realize a steak this rare may not fit the tastes of every reader, but we do urge you to try it at least once, so that you can know whether or not it’s for you!

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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