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Chef Hack: Use a Cake Tester to Take Meat Temperature

Learn how to check if your steak is done the way professional chefs do—by using a cake tester. 

3 min read

Cooking a steak is one of those personal things that everyone (minus vegetarians) seems to have an opinion on. How much do you season it? What type of pan do you use? Do you use oil or butter? Do you put it in the oven first? How do you check to see if it’s ready? Though we can’t tell you how to cook your steak just the way you like it, to our surprise, we found a common technique among chefs, and that’s using cake testers to get the temperature of the meat.

But, why?

According to chef Shane McBride of New York City’s Balthazar, Cherche Midi, and Schiller’s, cake testers provide a more accurate temperature by “touching the inside of the meat.” It’s also a preferred method among chefs since cake testers are really thin and don’t leave a big hole in the meat which “allows juices to leak out and even coagulate, leaving a big glob of unsightly meat mess,” said McBride.


He was taught a similar method in the kitchen of Aureole restaurant, where they used a very skinny meat fork to get inside the meat or fish. He switched to the cake tester once he saw chefs using them at Gramercy Tavern and Craft.

How to Check if Meat is Cooked Using a Cake Tester

Chefs insert the cake tester into the piece of meat or fish. When they remove it, they touch the cake tester to a heat sensitive part of their body, like the back of the hand, below the lips, or even the neck (ouch!). The metal gets hot or cold based on the internal temperature of the meat being checked.

If the center is still cool, it needs to be cooked longer. If the center is hot, then you have a nicely cooked piece of meat—or if it’s too hot, you have a not-so-nicely overcooked piece of steak and probably some burnt lips. It takes some practice and expertise to know what feels right, but it’s foolproof for chefs who have grown accustomed to the method.

For those of us who wince at the thought of hot metal touching our skin and have no idea what a certain temperature feels like, we’ve got a Digital Instant Read Thermometer to take away some, or really all, of the guesswork.

Plus, try this great steak marinade recipe and learn how to reverse sear a steak.


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