Rare, medium or done? A Western history of definitions & preferences According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "rare," counterbalancing "done" describing the doneness of meat, descends from the word "rear," meaning imperfectly cooked or underdone. The original culinary use described eggs. The earliest print reference to the word "rare" relating to meat cookery is circa 1615. This early reference notes this stage is unwholesome [Markam].
Late 19th century food scientists examined meat doneness, offering temperature/time recommendations according to type of meat, cut, and method of cooking. Like their 17th century predecessors, early 20th cooking texts warn against rare meat. Rare vs. Underdone (opposite of Done?) are noted [Rorer 1902]. Medium/medium rare were introduced about this time. Meat thermometers (1930s) took the guesswork out of judging doneness. Black and blue (aka "Pittsburgh style" steak surfaces in print in the 1970s.