It’s understandable that you want to continue to enjoy your favorite foods when you’re pregnant, and a good steak is no exception.
Many foods that are usually off-limits can be made pregnancy-safe if some easy adjustments are made. Here’s an in-depth guide for every pregnant woman who wants to eat steak: how to cook it, order it and enjoy it without worry.
Although “steak” normally refers to beef (and that’s the one covered most in-depth here), in this article I’ll also cover, venison, pork, lamb, veal, chicken, turkey, and fish, as they can all come in ‘steak’ form.
How Should Steak Be Cooked When Pregnant?
Pregnant women should only eat steak that has been cooked to a “safe internal temperature”. This means that raw, undercooked meat should be avoided.
The problem is that many pregnancy guides don’t specify what a “safe internal temperature” is, how it’s achieved, what it looks like, and whether it depends on the type of steak (it does!).
Guide to Safe Steak & Meat Cooking Temperatures in Pregnancy
Below is a table specifying safe internal temperatures by steak or meat type. These apply no matter what the cooking method is.
To measure steak cookery accurately, you MUST use a meat thermometer. Unlike many other foods, this needs precision and you can’t always tell by looking. See my recommended thermometer here that I’ve tested myself and trust in my kitchen.
If you’re cooking sous vide steak when you’re pregnant, the steak may look more pink than normal – again, check with a thermometer to be absolutely sure.
|Type of Steak or Meat||Safe Internal Temperature||Notes & What to Look For|
All types of cut solid steak, including flat iron, T-bone, sirloin, strip, hangar, flank, minute steak, fillet and so on.
|Safe when the internal temperature reaches 145F / 63C. |
Remove from the heat and allow at least three minutes to rest (important as the heat & juices disperse during this time)
|This is what most chefs would call ‘medium well’, to ‘well done’ (more on this later). |
– Slight pink in the middle
– No red meat visible
– Not bloody at all
– Steak feels firm
|Pork, Veal, Lamb, Duck, Venison, Game in steaks or chops||As above for beef||As above for beef|
|Turkey, Chicken & other poultry steaks (e.g. chicken breast fillet)||Safe when the internal temperature reaches 165F / 75C (no further rest time needed)||No pink at all should be visible. Solid color throughout. No red or pink juices.|
|Ground Beef, Lamb, Pork, or Veal (e.g. burgers, meatballs, sausages, Steak Hache, grills or ‘grillsteaks’ made of ground meat or cubed pieces rather than one solid cut)||Safe when the internal temperature reaches 165F / 75C (no rest time needed)||No pink or red at all. |
Solid color throughout.
You can cook these to a higher temperature without compromising the flavor or texture very much.
|Ground Turkey, Chicken or other Poultry||As above for ground meat.||As above for ground meat.|
|Fish (fresh steaks) |
Tuna is a special case – see the tuna article.
|Safe when the internal temperature reaches 145F / 63C (no rest time needed)||The flesh should be opaque and flakes easily. No jelly-like or translucent flesh.|
|Any of the above when reheating after cooking (e.g. leftovers, casserole||Reheat to an internal temperature of 165F / 75C.||This may also be called ‘steaming hot’|
Eating Out: How Should I Order My Steak When Pregnant?
Of course, you don’t always cook steaks yourself at home. If you’re eating out in a steakhouse or similar restaurant, you’ll need to know what to order.
Here’s a quick guide to traditional steak cooking requests and whether or not they’re pregnancy safe, plus what to do. This applies to beef, pork, veal, duck and lamb.
In my experience, chefs and kitchens aren’t all that familiar with how pregnant women should eat steak, so don’t expect them to know automatically. You’ll probably need to tell them why you’re making such an order, and how you need it to be cooked.
|Steak Order||Safe in Pregnancy?|
|Blue (or raw e.g Steak Tartare)||No|
|Medium Rare (also called “à point”)||No|
|Medium Well||Yes – if the restaurant can be relied upon to check the internal temperature. See below.|
Can Pregnant Women eat a Medium Well Steak?
As you can see from the table above, medium-rare and medium steaks are, unfortunately, off the menu for pregnant women as they don’t reach a high enough cooking temperature.
It’s understandable that if you normally eat your steak like this, asking for it ‘well done’ will make your meal less enjoyable. You CAN eat a steak that is medium-well so it still has some juiciness, but you’ll have to make a special request at the restaurant and ask for the following:
- The chef should check with a thermometer, not by sight or feel. Many chefs cook by instinct and although they’re very good at this, there’s too much variation to be 100% safe if you’re pregnant.
- Almost every pro kitchen will have a meat thermometer and should use it to cook your steak to an internal temperature of 145F/63C.
- Cut into the thickest part of the steak when it arrives. Although you cannot truly tell by sight, there should be only slight pink in the center, not running up to the edge/crust of the steak. There should be no red, minimal pink, and no blood at all. If there is, send it back and ask for it to be cooked a little more.
Remember, this is a medical request and you’re entitled, as a pregnant woman, to have the steak exactly as you like it!
It’s understandable, though, if you can’t rely on the restaurant for whatever reason or just want to go more into the safety margin, you can order the steak well done.
Ways of improving a well-done steak if you’re not used to eating them are:
- Steak cuts that are more marbled tend to taste better when they’re well-done. Choose a ribeye or striploin, rather than a fillet, for example.
- Have your steak sliced thinly (almost shaved), piled onto salad or roasted veggies with some tasty dressing
- The same well-done, thinly sliced meat goes well hot with cheese, onions, roasted peppers or sauce in a sub or sandwich
- Add extra sauce – my favorite is peppercorn, though you could also add creamy mushroom sauce, mustard, or brown gravy to compensate for the drier texture. Blue cheese sauce might not be safe – see this article for why.
Steak Dishes and their Pregnancy-Safety
Steaks don’t just come on their own, of course. Here are some popular dishes with steak in them that you might have wondered about when you’re eating them in pregnancy:
- Steak and Ale Pie is very popular in Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and numerous other places. The steak is usually cubed braising or stewing steak, so it’s usually fully cooked and should be safe. The amount of ale should be so small that it’s not an issue in pregnancy, though you might want to read this article on whether you can have food with alcohol in, when you’re pregnant.
- Steak and Kidney Pie, or Pudding – popular in the UK, the steak in a steak and kidney pudding or pie is usually fully cooked, so should be safe. Kidney is fine in small amounts, such as in a pie, but shouldn’t be eaten in excess as it’s high in Vitamin A (click for more on this).
- Steak Tartare – this is raw, finely diced meat so should be avoided in pregnancy as it’s not cooked at all.
What to Do If You’ve Eaten Raw, Undercooked or Pink Steak
You might be reading this article because you have already eaten raw, pink, bloody or undercooked steak by accident, not realizing it’s something to avoid in pregnancy.
The first step is don’t panic. The odds of the steak being infected with Toxoplasma are low, and you are more than likely to be fine. Undercooked food does not necessarily mean you will definitely get ill.
The best thing you can do is monitor yourself for symptoms that are outside of the ones you’re normally experiencing during pregnancy.
If you feel nauseous, are sick, have diarrhea, muscular pains or fever after eating undercooked meat, contact a health professional right away, telling them what you ate, and when. Toxoplasmosis, when caught, can be treated with antibiotics. If in doubt, always contact a medical professional.
If you’re interested in eating meat safely in pregnancy, you might also like:
- This article on whether hot dogs are safe or not
- Everything you need to know about deli meat during pregnancy
- What to do when eating roast beef when you’re pregnant, or
- Your guide to eating sausages and bacon, too!
|This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.|