Meats You Should Never Eat Well-Done

Meats You Should Never Eat Well-Done

One of the most delicious foods on earth is a perfectly cooked steak. But when you picture that perfect steak, what do you imagine? Is it medium rare and juicy? Just a little bit pink on the inside? Or cooked to the point where it’s gray throughout, and perhaps doused with ketchup? If you’re the type of person who prefers their steak – and other meats – well-done, we’re not going to criticize your dietary preferences. Hey, you do you! But there really are some meats that you probably shouldn’t be cooking to well-done. 

When meat cooks, the muscle fibers that constitute it contract, expelling moisture. The longer meat cooks, the drier and chewier (and less juicy and tender) it becomes. Overcooking meat can also diminish the flavor and complexity of it. And there’s also some evidence to suggest that overcooking meat at high temperatures can produce compounds that may have carcinogenic properties. 

And, by the way, for those who are concerned that the juiciness in a steak that isn’t cooked to well-done is “blood,” it’s actually not blood – it’s a protein called myoglobin that helps carry oxygen to muscle cells, and it’s responsible for meat having its signature red or pink color. 

Of course, as mentioned, how you like your meat cooked is a matter of personal preference. Some people won’t eat steak unless it’s cooked well done and covered with steak sauce, while others would never dream of having anything adorn their rare steak with more than salt and pepper. But these are some meats that, should you order them well-done at a restaurant, you might get a dirty look from the chef. But don’t go too far in the other direction – some meats should never be eaten raw


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Culinary master class. Cropped shot of chef in black cooking gloves using knife to slice smoked beef brisket. (Culinary master class. Cropped shot of chef in black cooking gloves using knife to slice smoked beef brisket., ASCII, 110 components, 110 by

This one’s the most divisive of the bunch. But as discussed above, A steak that’s cooked to a level that’s less than well-done is more juicy and flavorful than one that’s cooked until gray through and through. If you’ve only ever eaten your steak well-done, the next time you order a steak or cook one for yourself, try it medium-well instead, with a little pink in the middle. We have a feeling you won’t be disappointed. 

Game Meats

Raw Wild Game Meat of Venison dear ready for cooking. Dark background. Top view. Copy space.
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Game meats like venison, bison, and elk tend to be very lean, and are prone to drying out when overcooked. If you’re not planning on turning it into sausage, it’s recommended that you cook it no further than medium. 

Duck Breast

grilled duck breast slices
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Like game meats, duck breast tends to be very lean, and it dries out very easily. While the thigh meat should be cooked thoroughly, the breast is perfect from both a flavor and textural standpoint when cooked to medium rare or medium. 


Tuna fish and decorated on the table, top view.
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When tuna is cooked well done, it bears a striking resemblance to what comes out of a can. When it’s just seared on the outside and left raw to rare in the middle, however, it maintains its silky texture and delicate flavor. 


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Chef's hand holding fresh piece of salmon

Chef’s hand holding fresh piece of salmon

Like tuna and other fish, salmon has almost no collagen, which means that it dries out even more easily than beef. When cooked to well-done, salmon can taste dry and chalky. But when cooked to medium (about 125 degrees F), it stays silky and velvety, much more moist and tender than when cooked to well-done. 

Pork Chops

Pork chops cooked with garlic in a cast iron pan
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We may have grown up believing that pork needs to be cooked well-done in order to kill off any bacteria and parasites, but in reality modern-day pig farming practices have all but eliminated that risk; pork is no more dangerous than beef. And while you don’t want to eat pork raw or rare (there’s still risk of foodborne illness, and it’s not ideal from a textural standpoint), pork chops and pork tenderloin are so lean that they should be cooked closer to medium-well, with a little pink in the middle. They will remain much more juicy this way.


Roasted veal chops with fresh herbs on rustic wooden cutting board, pan seared steak dinner
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Veal, the meat of young steer, has a very delicate flavor that’s very different from that of beef. It’s also quite lean, so like beef it should always be cooked to medium rare or medium to maintain its juiciness and flavor. 


Modern style traditional braised slow cooked lamb shank in red wine sauce with shallots and mashed potatoes offered as top view in a design cast iron plate with copy space
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Lamb can also dry out and become nearly inedible when cooked well-done. When left a rosy pink, lamb chops and roasted leg of lamb are incredibly tender and flavorful. But if cooked past medium, however, it becomes tough and leathery, and the gaminess of the meat becomes more pronounced. Well-done lamb? It’s a food we wish would be banned.

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