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Burnt to a crisp, or bloody as hell?
June 17, 2010 8:19 PM   Subscribe

A history of well-done meat in America. "I prefer my meat cooked through, gray, no trace of pink. Shoe leather? To me that signifies 'food safety.' Mine is the hockey-puck, the charcoal, the hunk of tuna that is still on the grill. Gourmands consider well-done timid, even cranky. It's the gradation of people who don't really like to eat."
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey (162 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
What, seriously, this is a thing? I order steak well-done all the time, and if I saw some freak spitting on it in the kitchen, his head would be the next thing on the grill.

It is, however, entirely possible that I don't really like to eat. Other than sugar and coffee, it's pretty much eat-to-live and not live-to-eat for me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:24 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I grew up in a household where all cuts of meat were cooked into a dry tough flavorlessness, from filet mignon to hamburger to chicken to turkey. My first year away at college I had to become a vegetarian because the meat was just wrong. Now I like my filet mignon so rare it's blue in the middle.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:26 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, for example Chinese people are (generally) accustomed to fully-cooked beef/pork/chicken/fish. Chinese cuisine is yum. Sure, rare steaks are tasty, but if somebody believes well-done meat can't be—it's because they're cooking it wrong.
posted by polymodus at 8:27 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Other than sugar and coffee, it's pretty much eat-to-live and not live-to-eat for me.

*looks at kittens for breakfast with sadness and pity*
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:27 PM on June 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Safe internal temperatures for meat. "Shoe leather" shouldn't signify "food safety" any more than "pork cooked to 160 degrees (F) internal temperature" should.
posted by battlebison at 8:34 PM on June 17, 2010


Two words: Catsup. (The second word is Ketchup.)

And don't be embarrassed to keep sending that sushi back until it's cooked through.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:35 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why does everything have to be a debate between extremes? Nothing in real life works this way.
posted by amethysts at 8:37 PM on June 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


So basically it's less about food and more about the fact that the author cares what everybody in the world thinks about her?
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:37 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why does everything have to be a debate between extremes? Nothing in real life works this way.

"Everything"? "Nothing"?

:P
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:45 PM on June 17, 2010 [37 favorites]


One possible solution to "I am afraid this meat will kill me" is "Well, is it worth the risk? Will I die without this meat?" And then you get some chips. "I must eat meat and it must be thoroughly cooked!" just strikes me as silly.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:47 PM on June 17, 2010


People do get oddly adamant about well done. I can cook a deliciously tender steak well done or rare - it's by the preference of the person eating. Yes it takes longer and more attention to get a tender well done, but that doesn't mean it needs to be dry, or tasteless. I had a lovely rolled shoulder of saltbush lamb last week and I cooked it til there was no pink, yet you still didn't need a knife to cut it. It's possible, it's just harder to do it.

Mind you, I tend towards thinking that if something is dry and tasteless when it shouldn't be, there's a cockup somewhere; either your chef is shit, or the meat is shit.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:50 PM on June 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


If I recall correctly, there is a steak restaurant in the New York City area that will not cook steak to well-doneness. I thought it was Peter Luger, but my brief Googling didn't result in any proof.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:51 PM on June 17, 2010


I used to think I liked steak well done but then I went to an expensive steakhouse and received a block of charcoal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:51 PM on June 17, 2010


I grew up not liking steak very much, because my mom cooked it to the consistency of shoe leather every time. When I found out that steak could be tender, it was an epiphany.

On the other hand, I did get campylobacter once. I suspect we may not have cleaned the cutting board thoroughly after handling raw chicken. Anyway, it is not fun. 2 solid weeks of being unable to keep anything solid down, and it would have gone on even longer if they hadn't figured out what it does and given me drugs to kill it dead.
posted by cereselle at 8:55 PM on June 17, 2010


Well done, if done well, is delicious. Having to watch someone eating a rare steak is a little like having to watch a leopard eat an antelope.
posted by serena15221 at 8:57 PM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, solid. I gotta get me a thesaurus.
posted by cereselle at 8:59 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of the well-done people I know don't really like it for the taste, but moreso because they think any pink meat is yucky.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 9:01 PM on June 17, 2010


"Having to watch someone eating a rare steak is a little like having to watch a leopard eat an antelope."

So, it's awesome and deserves a nature show?
posted by oddman at 9:02 PM on June 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


There's a reason why you can order stuff "medium."
posted by crunchland at 9:02 PM on June 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


I almost always order steak well done at restaurants, because if I order it medium it usually arrives still mooing.
posted by amyms at 9:04 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The antipathy toward "well-done" comes largely from people for whom "just like mom made" is a warning, not an invitation. A lot of people grow up with parents who just never learned how to cook well, and the meats are overdone and dry, the veggies over-boiled and mushy, and the bread white.

Get out in the real world, try a steak medium rare, and you may never realize that a good cook can do well-done without drying the meat out completely.
posted by explosion at 9:07 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


The difference between well done and rare to medium rare is drastic, texture and taste wise. Personally, I don't care for well done, but I don't begrudge those that get their steak done gray and terrible (ok, maybe a little). If you can't eat meat rare because it's just a gut reaction, then so be it. I'd rather you not eat it because the meat looks yucky than because you think it will make you sick.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 9:08 PM on June 17, 2010


I understand the people who are like the writer of the article in the FPP. As well I understand the cook/chef that is pissed at the well done crowd. I've been in both positions.

My solution?

I go to places that I know will cook my meat to my actual specifications. Yeah, it means occasionally getting something cooked in a way that I don't like, that's the journey.

But once I'm a regular, I get what I, and my tablemates, ask for.

Food is an art. You have to cultivate the artists. You can't just go in and say I don't like seared tuna, burn it. By the way, I hate seared tuna.

OTOH, you go to the places that cook the way you want food cooked.

Heh, but OTOH, when you go to certain places, you let them do what they do. And you are rewarded. Not Tad's Steak house. But maybe Le Bernardin?
posted by Splunge at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2010


Yeah, I find I don't mind either way, but prefer it towards the charcoal side of doneness. Especially sandwich meat. My deli has to save the ends of the roast beef for my sandwiches because their guy likes it pretty raw.
posted by maxwelton at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2010


My recollection of the Bourdain story wasn't so much that they spat on the meat of those who ordered things well done, but that you were likely to get the crappiest cuts, things they wouldn't have otherwise been able to serve.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2010


I like my tempeh well done. So shoot me. It's the mold, y'know?
posted by kozad at 9:11 PM on June 17, 2010


I have worked in a steakhouse that would not serve a well-done steak. It was run by a crazy South African guy with a toupee and severe Short Man Syndrome whose spittle-spewing rages were legendary among local restaurant people. I saw him make grown men cry. I saw him kick people out of the restaurant for requesting, yes, ketchup. Turns out he had a brain tumor.

He's dead now. His son is in jail for tax evasion. The restaurant sits unoccupied, a mute testimony to the passing of an era of hubris.

The steaks were pretty good, though. I stole several.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:13 PM on June 17, 2010 [18 favorites]


If you want meat well done, just choose meat that's going to taste good well done. Ordering a well-done unmarinaded lean steak is not going to be an orgasmic taste experience. But a marinaded ribeye, could work.
posted by unSane at 9:21 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


So I gravitate toward entrees that will fall off the bone: short ribs, osso buco, pork shoulder. That these dishes are substantial proves my culinary cred—shows that I'm not the skinny girl who nibbles and picks.
The problem is, my menu choices are increasingly limited


Limited to...mainstays of most menus? Luscious slow-cooked cuts are popular and even trendy right now. (The economy blah blah slow-cook inexpensive cuts crock pot blah blah.) Honey, you don't have to eat the rare steak to prove your cred; no-one considers braised meats second-class, they're just a different cut that is treated differently.

I honed in on the modern American history of doneness, in large part because it can be tracked precisely—thanks to the meat thermometer. This early-20th-century invention brought about a giant cultural shift: the reliance on a gadget—rather than instinct, or experience—to assess our meat.

It's handy and all, but you can tell the doneness pretty well by looking at the meat and putting a finger on it.

Lots and lots and lots of projection all over the place. Wow.

For instance, a couple of years ago the department actually reduced its poultry recommendation to 165 across the board rather than 180 for thighs and 170 for breasts. The science was clear: Salmonella was dead at 165.

This really got to me. At home, I insisted on 180. Even the USDA wasn't on my side? What kind of food safety nut was I, if I was exceeding the most stringent recommendation there was? My outsize contamination fears inform my preference for well-done.


Look, if she likes well-done meat, that's fine. If she's anxious about food safety, that's fine. But to conflate the two with some sort of inferiority complex is just...whiny.
posted by desuetude at 9:22 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


P.S. Medium-well is also an option.
posted by desuetude at 9:23 PM on June 17, 2010


I am just as appalled at a cook who wouldn't serve a steak well-done as I am at a bartender who won't mix certain drinks. The customer is the one with the money, and they are the ones who injest it.

That said, I won't buy and grill tuna steaks because my wife simply won't eat them with any hint of red in the middle. I don't begrudge her for this. I just can't justify spending $20 a pound to get the same sort of stuff I can get by opening a can. (And, truth be told, I just don't like grilled tuna enough for it to be an issue.)
posted by crunchland at 9:28 PM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I want to eat an antelope so bad right now.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:32 PM on June 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Every time I have ever gone to a restaurant with my father he tells the waitress "Well done. WELL done. When you have to call the fire department, it's ready". I like my meat bloody rare. This says a lot about our relationship, I think.
posted by GilloD at 9:33 PM on June 17, 2010


I have been a vegetarian for 13 years, but back in the day, I used to order tuna "well done" so that a tuna steak was cooked all the way through and I knew that it would turn out really dry and I loved it dearly.
posted by MrChowWow at 9:33 PM on June 17, 2010


Were I a bartender I would refuse to serve vodka martinis.


HAMBURGER


(but not really)
posted by oddman at 9:38 PM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love steak, but it grew on me as an adult; as a kid I wouldn't be too keen because the red meat would squick me. Here the so called 'bistecca alla fiorentina' (I believe the cut is the t-bone) can easily be a 1 1/2 inch, 3 pounds plus monster. And as most things food in Italy, it tends to be taken seriously: how old the animal, what variety, its provenance, grass or grain reared, how tall the steak, marbled or not, cooked on coals or wood embers... all have part in the debate.

One thing is very rarely open to discussion, though: it has to be rare. Say, from 'moo', to medium-rare. It happens that patrons (usually tourists) send a too rare steak back to the kitchen, and in most cases the restaurant abides, knowing well that the client is asking to... ruin (there, I said it) a perfectly good dish. My suggestion is: have it as you like, but if the waiter doesn't at least try to convince you otherwise, don't return to that restaurant; they have little pride in what they're doing.

Oh dear, I'm hungry, now. And it's early morning here.
[NOT WELL DONE-IST]
posted by _dario at 9:38 PM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Overcooking is disrespectful to the life that's been killed for your palate.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:43 PM on June 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


... And now the ecstasy of the chase over, there was a different ecstasy to come, for buffalo meat was the greatest of foods. Butchering for meat was done thus: The carcass was propped on the belly, with the knees bent or with the legs stretched out. The tongue was taken first – and was always taken as a trophy, as proof of the kill, even when a tough old bull quite unfit for eating had been killed. Then the butcher made an incision along the spine and cut away the skin down one side, using it as a table for his meats. What cuts he took depended on how plentiful the buffalo were. He always took the 'boss,' a small hump on the back of the neck, the hump itself, and the 'hump ribs,' which were the prolongations of vertebrae that supported it; then the 'fleece,' which was the flesh between the spine and the ribs, and the three-inch layer of fat that covered it, the 'side ribs,' and the lower 'belly fat' that was considered one of the greatest delicacies. He would probably take the liver too and such portions of the intestines as his tastes suggested. Then he would butcher out a thigh bone and use it to crack such other bones as might provide the best marrow. Francis Chardon, a celebrated factor of the American Fur Company, listed as specially choice 'the nuts' – the earliest Rocky Mountain oysters, therefore. But when buffalo were scarce all the meat was eaten. Nor are the books right when they reproach white hunters alone for reckless waste of meat, for the Indians were just as wasteful when it was plentiful and took only the cuts they liked most.

(There were special, empirical skills even in butchering. 'Ti-ya!' exclaims Old Bill Williams in Ruxton's Life in the Far West, 'do 'ee hyar, now, you darned greenhorn, do 'ee spile fat cow like that whar you was raised? Them doin's won't shine in this crowd, boy, do 'ee hyar, darn you? What! butcher meat across the grain! why whar'll the blood be goin' to, you precious Spaniard? [More likely, you damned greaser.] Down the grain, I say, and let your flaps be long or out the juice'll run slick – do 'ee hyar now?')

There were few delicate feeders in the mountains. The Indians preferred their meat high and kept the surplus till it began to rot. The river tribes like the green, putrid flesh of bufallo drowned while crossing the ice and hauled ashore weeks later, 'so ripe, so tender, that very little boiling is required.' They ate the kidneys raw, but the delight of an Indian gourmet was to eat his way down a ten-foot length of raw, warm, perhaps still quivering gut – in one snapshot by an appalled white the gourmet squeezes out the gut's contents just ahead of his teeth. Guts or boudins were delicious to the white palate too, but they were first lightly seared above the fire. 'I once saw two Canadians,' Ruxton says, 'commence at either end of such a coil of grease, the mass lying between them on a dirty apishemore [saddle pad] like the coil of a huge snake. As yard after yard glided down their throats, and the serpent on the saddle-cloth was dwindling from an anaconda to a moderate-sized rattlesnake, it became a great point with each of the feasters to hurry his operation, so as to gain a march upon his neighbor and improve the opportunity by swallowing mor than his just proportion; each at the same time exhorting the other, whatever he did, to feed fair and every now and then, overcome by the unblushing attempts of his partner to bolt a vigorous mouthful, would suddenly jerk back his head, drawing out at the same moment, by the retreating motion, several yards of boidin from his neighbor's stomach (for the greasy viands required no mastication and was bolted whole) and, snapping up the ravished portions, greedily swallowed them.' The white man would eat the liver raw as soon as it was taken; he seasoned it with the gall or sometimes with gunpowder. But the feast was still to come.

'Meat's meat,' the trapper said, and he ate what meat was at hand, from his own moccasins, parfleche, and lariats, in 'starvin' times,' on through the wide variety of mountain game, of which some tidbits were memorable to gastronomes – boiled beaver tail, 'panther,' and as an acquired taste young Oglala puppy. But when coming out from the States you shot your first fat cow, or when after finding no buffalo for some weeks you reached them at last, you touched the very summit of delight. Nor can there be any doubt that buffalo meat, an indescribably rich, tender, fiberless, and gamey beef, was the greatest meat man has ever fed on. The mountain man boiled some cuts, notably the hump, and seared or sauteed others, but mostly he cooked them by slow roast, skewered on his ramrod or on a stick. Every man to his own fire (unless messes, each with his own cook, had been appointed) and no man with more tableware than his belt-knife – gravy, juices, and blood running down his face, forearms, and shirt. He wolfed the meat and never reached repletion. Eight pounds a day was standard ration for Hudson's Bay Company employees, but when meat was plentiful a man might eat eight pounds for dinner, then wake a few hours later, build up the fire, and eat as much more. All chroniclers agree that no stomach rebelled and no appetite ever palled. Moreover, to the greases that stained the mountaineer's garments were added the marrow scooped from bones and the melted fat that was gulped by the pint. Kidney fat could be drunk without limit; one was moderate with the tastier but oily belly fat, which might be automatically regurgitated if taken in quantity, although such a rejection interrupted no one's gourmandizing very long.

...This, then, is the mountain epicure's moment of climax. Hump and boss boil in a kettle, cracked marrow bones sizzle by the fire, there are as many ribs to roast as a man may want. Crosslegged on the ground, using only their Green River knives, the trappers eat their way through six or ten pounds of fat cow.
— Bernard DeVoto, Across The Wide Missouri (1947) Part I: "The Prairie Traveler, 1833"

posted by koeselitz at 9:44 PM on June 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


crunchland,

True story:
In 1990 or so, when McDonald's was about to open its first outlet in Russia (in Moscow), it was conducting customer service training for local staff. As one would expect, there was a lot of focus on being polite and pleasant to the customer. After a while, one young Russian guy couldn't contain himself and asked a question: "why should we be nice to them? we have the burgers!"

On topic: some restaurants/cooks are selective about what they will serve. It is not about just the money. In this instance though, I can't understand what the fuss is about.
posted by vidur at 9:49 PM on June 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


My mother always cooked meat until it was certifiably dead. We never thought anything of it, but we loved those rare times when my dad would cook. Now I realize it was because he didn't murder the meat.

Maybe the trend toward rareness is an artifact of our (perhaps misplaced) sense of food's safety.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:50 PM on June 17, 2010


I grew up in a house where everything was medium well or hgigher. When I was about 12 a relative was in town and we all went out to a steakhouse. Being a sophisticated manhattinite she ordered a filet rare. I couldn't stop looking at this bloody hunk of meat across the table from me. She couldn't finish it and offered me the last few bites. I haven't been the same since. I mean that in a good way.
posted by nestor_makhno at 9:53 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


This really got to me. At home, I insisted on 180. Even the USDA wasn't on my side? What kind of food safety nut was I, if I was exceeding the most stringent recommendation there was? My outsize contamination fears inform my preference for well-done.

Wow, she actually measures with a thermometer to make conclusions about the safety of the food she's cooking in her own kitchen? The author seems to have some real hangups and paranoia, not to mention very poor cooking skills, if she feels the need to do that.

Now I'm going home to quickly and delicately grill some kangaroo fillets. Don't ever try those well done, you'll grind your teeth away.
posted by Jimbob at 10:00 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it really that tough (scuse the pun) to get meat well-done? Maybe at a restaurant that prides itself on melt-in-your-mouth Kobe beef and the like, but I was under the impression that a lot of places will either give you a zillion warnings about ordering any meat rawer than medium or deliberately overcook the meat so as to avoid lawsuits or losing their license due to food poisoning.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:02 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, makes me nostalgic for my dad. And I quote: "I've seen cows hurt worse than that get better."
posted by madmethods at 10:13 PM on June 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Know what the difference is between people who like their red meat rare and those who like it well done?

People who like their meat well done don't think the doneness of somebody else's steak is any of their fucking business.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:16 PM on June 17, 2010 [25 favorites]


Jimbob, I wish I believed you were being sarcastic. Next you'll be telling us that eyeing the tachometer is the wrong way to know when to shift gears. If the result is perfectly cooked, what's the problem?
posted by randomyahoo at 10:20 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the great things about various sorts of Korean barbecue is that you cook it yourself. Like it rare? Move it to the side of the grill. Well done? Put it right in the center.

But people who like well-done meat are definitely weirdos.
posted by bardic at 10:21 PM on June 17, 2010


The two hardest things I know are to get a steak well done and food extra spicy at a restaurant.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:26 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I almost always order steak well done at restaurants, because if I order it medium it usually arrives still mooing.

I have the opposite problem. I always order it rare or medium rare, knowing that it will usually be cooked medium-well.
posted by Forktine at 10:37 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


You know what's good? A piece of meat, cooked to "medium." Hey, that's a nicely cooked piece of meat. It tastes good.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:50 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a kid, when we went out to our regular burger/family restaurant, I would always order my burger well done. The staff new us, and knew that I really wanted medium rare, I just didn't know the meaning. We went to a different restaurant, and my mom didn't have a chance to tell them, and bam, cinder on a bun. It was a learning experience.

Years later, I go to a steak restaurant with my dad (I think I was in college at the time), and he orders his steak 'as rare as it can legally be cooked.' The orders got mixed up, and both of our steaks came out the same. Slightly rose-tinged grey on the outside, purple on the inside. My dad was delighted, I was a little put off, but I don't usually send food back, so I gave it a try. Damn. It was that good. I don't personally go that far, but I do love a rare steak.

On the other hand, people who are panicky about temperatures (I use a thermometer when grilling, and when making a roast, mostly because I don't want my guests to eat undercooked food) should never come to Japan. Seared tuna? Pff. Try seared chicken, still raw in the middle (due to my 'RAW CHICKEN IS DEATH American upbringing, no, I haven't tried it), or better yet, raw horse (that shit is tasty), or even better, seared duck breast, still ice cold in the middle. Mmmm. Still can't handle the raw egg as dipping sauce thing though, even though I like my eggs sunny side up so I can dip my sausage and hashbrowns cholesterol in my in egg yolks cholesterol.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:58 PM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have the opposite problem. I always order it rare or medium rare, knowing that it will usually be cooked medium-well.

Yeah, I can't count how many times I have sent back rare steak that comes out medium to medium-well. Pretty much the only thing I will not tolerate in a restaurant is a "steakhouse" cooking my steak wrong. But Bourdain is right here - restauranteurs should see "well done eaters" as a blessing rather than a curse. You can serve them a crappy piece of meat because it'll be unrecognizable anyway, and you can't possibly cook it wrong either.

Finally, there are dozens of good ways to cook meat to well-done. Grilling is simply not suited to the purpose, so why pay top dollar for a mediocre steak? Let's set aside our differences and eat barbequed brisket instead!
posted by mek at 11:02 PM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why is well done considered crappy? I don't like pink meat. That is my preference. I'm allowed my preference. I'm tired of people telling me that what I like isn't good.
posted by wv kay in ga at 11:08 PM on June 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


I feel your pain.

Do you know how hard it is to find raw kafta? Even getting a blue steak is tough some places..
posted by Theta States at 11:20 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone who has worked in and around restaurant kitchen all my life, I've never seen anyone spit on anything going out of the kitchen. It's a point of honor. Certain celebrity chefs are doing everyone a disservice by selling any such BS.

Annnd, rare meat is awesome, but it depends on the quality of the cut. Flat irons, for example, have become all the rage in restaurants, but tend to come off livery when cooked rare. New York steaks also benefit from a solid mid-rare to break down some of the fat on the cut. Filet mignon? As rare as the dial goes, please.

I haven't, however, felt comfortable with the mid-rare porkchop. I like my pork with a light blush, medium to medium well. I feel the same about chicken and white fish. Some meats are not as texturally pleasant when cooked rare.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:23 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


restauranteurs should see "well done eaters" as a blessing rather than a curse. You can serve them a crappy piece of meat because it'll be unrecognizable anyway, and you can't possibly cook it wrong either.

Okay, this totally happens. Why incinerate the best cut for someone who won't appreciate it anyway? Someone who orders well-done is more interested in the flavors of cooking than the flavors of the meat itself (eg. bitter char-flavor vs. iron rich and buttery.)
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:28 PM on June 17, 2010


Why is well done considered crappy?

For the same reason you don't chow down on a chunk of shoe leather for dinner.

Meat should be tender and start to melt in your mouth not require a marathon of chewing to swallow.
posted by Talez at 11:30 PM on June 17, 2010


@koeselitz

That is an amazing quote. "Kidney fat could be drunk without limit". Those were the days!

Is that just an isolated instance of exemplary prose, or is the entire book that strong?
posted by BigSky at 11:31 PM on June 17, 2010


Different strokes, etc. etc. If all the vegan/vegetarian threads on Metafilter have taught me anything, it's to not begrudge anybody the right to eat what they want, however they want.*

As for myself, a well-trained vet should be able to revive my steak when it arrives on my plate.

*Except for haggis, because BARF
posted by Rangeboy at 11:35 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Someone who wants to understand what the different cuts of meat are is now a "meat hipster"? Really? Are the differences just imaginary and invented so that someone can look cool? I don't believe so.
posted by Quonab at 11:43 PM on June 17, 2010


Koselitz: reminds me of this New Yorker article originally linked by Joe Beese
I heard one of the chefs back in the kitchen yell out "Steaks ready to go!" and I went inside. One chef was slicing the big steaks with a knife that resembled a cavalry sabre and the other was dipping the slices into a pan of rich, hot sauce. "That's the best beefsteak sauce in the world," Mr. Wertheimer said. "It's melted butter, juice and drippings from the steak, and a little Worcestershire."

...

At a table near the kitchen door I heard a woman say to another, "Here, don't be bashful. Have a steak." "I just et six," her friend replied. The first woman said, "Wasn't you hungry? Why, you eat like a bird." Then they threw their heads back and laughed.
Apparently the tradition of an orgy of rare meat is at least as long as the tradition of well cooked meats eaten sparingly.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:45 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


My father did most of the work with steaks when we were growing up, and for him, medium is the least it could be.

For my birthday one year, we went to a local steakhouse chain called "The Joshua Tree" (sadly gone now), and there was something on there called 'Prime Rib'. I had never heard of it before, and so I asked what it was (I was 8), and was told, and said I would try it. "How would you like it?" "..how does it normally come?" "Rare, young sir." "That, then."

Since then I have been a devotee of the prime rib, rare. Easily my favorite cut and method. My mother likes it the same way. My father still goes for medium at best, and my brother... he doesn't eat beef anymore (his wife thinks that they shouldn't give it to the kids).

But hey, it's the way we like it, and we joke about my father's hockey pucks and him about our upcoming food poisoning.

Life's too short to bitch about how other people take their food unless it directly affects you, is my opinion.
posted by mephron at 11:48 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The muscle fibers in beef are wound too tightly together to allow bacteria to roam around in the internal areas of a steak. I can tell from the molecules and having eaten many steaks in my time.
posted by bam at 12:22 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


BigSky: “Is that just an isolated instance of exemplary prose, or is the entire book that strong?”

(It is all that good. Bernard DeVoto is probably the greatest historian the American West has ever had. I've quoted him here before, in fact. What's more, that bit above isn't even from his best book; his best book is The Year of Decision: 1846, in which he chronicles nearly every event in America from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 1846 – from the early astronomical observation of the splitting of Biela's comet, to Thoreau's experience on Walden Pond, to President Polk's invasions of Texas and Mexico, to the Wilmot Proviso, to the Donner Party – and meanwhile lays out the causes and implications of the Civil War. Incredible book. DeVoto was also a conservationist, an extremely well-weathered outdoorsman, and a staunch lover of democracy; I am sorely tempted to quote from one of his finest essays, a piece from Harper's from 1949 entitled "Due Notice to the FBI," in which he veritably eviscerates Joseph McCarthy, the HUAC, the FBI, and anybody else who might want to poke their noses into the private lives or opinions of ordinary people. Or his essay "Doctors Along the Boardwalk," wherein he warned – in 1949! – that the medical establishment had just about gained control of the system and begun to use it against ordinary people, and that we had to act fast if we wanted to actually make good on our dream of universal, affordable, regulated health care. A fine and deep thinker, Bernard DeVoto. I highly recommend him.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:36 AM on June 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


You have to cultivate the artists.

With a handful of exceptions, restaurant kitchens are full of tradespeople, not artists. Tradespeople are responsible for a bunch of stuff that makes modern life work well - keeping the power on, the water running, and the sewerage going out of the house, for example - but jumped-up dipshits that throw temper tantrums because they think they're the Van Gogh of food can go fuck themselves. You don't like customers, don't work in the fucking service industry.
posted by rodgerd at 12:54 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Next you'll be telling us that eyeing the tachometer is the wrong way to know when to shift gears.

Now I'm going to have to assume you're being sarcasic.

You spend your time driving staring at the tacho instead of just shifting gears when you know, from years of experience, when they should be shifted? Kids learning to drive a car shift on the tacho. Adults just drive.

You spend your time cooking starting at a thermometer instead of concerning yourself with the taste? Life's too short, man.
posted by Jimbob at 2:13 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


The two hardest things I know are to get a steak well done and food extra spicy at a restaurant.

You want to know why? It has a lot to do with how chefs perceive themselves as artists.

I worked in the service industry, from busboy to server to bartender to line cook. When someone at a table ordered a well-done steak in a restaurant that doesn't serve 1/4 inch steaks, you had a couple of problems:

1) It slows the whole table down considerably. If you've got an inch and a half tenderloin to cook to well done, you're talking 25 minutes.
2) There's really no "wow" factor and no ability to make the customer want to come here vs. there. At that level of cookedness, you lose virtually everything about the tenderloin that makes it worth $50; it might not be completely dry inside, but fine food chefs want to make food that wows people, not just feeds them.

So, what did we do? We offered one cut of steak that we would cook to well-done and the rest that wouldn't go past medium. It was a really small portion of the market (people who wanted it well-done) and the number of those people who complained about the time it took to cook or the lack of flavour (even after being warned) made it the kind of thing that just seem like a losing battle.
posted by Hiker at 3:35 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stop picking on those who like their steak well-done.

If people want to be crass, eat lugies, and get served an inferior product, it's their business.

(Really, it's a shame we all can't take their money!)
posted by markkraft at 4:14 AM on June 18, 2010


Can't believe the discussion got along this far without a mention of steak tartare which my wife loves - with a raw egg on top. I'll admit its a bit too much, even for me.

If I'm eating a cheap thin cut of meat, like the strip steaks my brother likes to buy in bulk and barbeque, then I want them crisp, charred on the outside even. He uses an amazing sauce which he carefully brushes onto each piece. Delicious. One of my favorite foods in the world.

If I have a thick, fresh and tender cut of meat, I want it red on the inside. Only then does the true taste and fattiness of the meat come out. For cuts of meat like this, you are losing out if you go for the taste of char over the taste of the meat itself which loses its flavor when overcooked.

But, to each his/her own. I enjoy thinking about future meals and even planning entire vacations based on the food we can discover there.
I live to eat rather than eat to live.
posted by vacapinta at 4:14 AM on June 18, 2010


PS. The only special request I have ever made to PB is that he add Chowhound to the list of social networks on our profile pages. And he did.
posted by vacapinta at 4:17 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing I really took away from the linked article was that the author seems to have her preferences based largely in concern for food safety (and fear) than taste. It didn't come off as an actual preference for the taste of well-done meat (she doesn't really talk about flavour much, neither in relation to rare or well-done) so much as an inability to enjoy food she didn't 'know' had been heated to so-and-so-many degrees. It seemed she was put off by her worries about bacteria, rather than the actual taste of the meat.

Surely, this is paranoia, and not an optimal basis for getting the best-tasting meat? Unless people eating rare steak are getting ill in droves, of course...
posted by Dysk at 4:33 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Texture is very important to me. It's the main reason why I don't enjoy offal or most legumes. Anything pasty or unappealing in a tactile sense would have to be almost uncannily tasty for me to get past it.

Rawness affects the texture of most meat-like products. It doesn't seem strange to me that people are rejecting stuff that, to them, seems underdone because mouth feel is a major part of the enjoyment of food and if it feels icky that's a major drawback for some people.
posted by h00py at 4:33 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of a conversation I had at work a while ago. One of my coworkers was telling another that he wasn't having fun because he was playing a video game wrong. That if he played it right, he'd have fun. He refused to acknowledge that someone could have fun with this game (one of the Quake variations) by playing it casually and not becoming a devotee of ladders and tournaments.

Being told that you can't enjoy something that you like because you're just wrong is odd.

You guys can't enjoy steak because it's muscle fiber covered in cow shit. Sure you burn that shit sterile, but it's still there.

See?

(For the record, medium. Not medium rare or medium well, but medium. But the snobbishness of the rare brigade does remind one of the worst of the hipster scene.)
posted by Hactar at 4:35 AM on June 18, 2010


Its not snobbishnes, though, at least not on my part. Its about "wasting" a good thing - in this case a good cut of meat.

An example is Sangria. We like to make it and grab a cheapo bottle of wine, always. The wine is overwhelmed anyways by the fruits and sugars. It is mainly there to add a bit of bitterness and some alcoholic bite.

If someone took a great bottle of wine and insisted we make Sangria with it, I think I'd feel a bit faint. You can call that snobbishness, if you like. I call it a waste of a good thing.
posted by vacapinta at 4:50 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm another person who grew up not realizing that steak could be any color but brown. Discovering that I really could order steaks medium was practically life changing for me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:37 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I call it a waste of a good thing.

This is, incidentally, a line frequently used by religious zealots concerned by what's going to happen to your soul because you're not prostrating yourself in the correct manner before the correct deity.
posted by aramaic at 5:37 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the first things I learned how to cook was steak. I had eaten plenty of it up till then, but my parents didn't cook much of it (except on the grill). I seared the steak in my tiny galley kitchen in the studio apartment I was renting, set off the smoke detector, but goddamn was that the best steak I had ever eaten in my life. That single meal led to the purchase of a large cast-iron pan and developing my own 30 minute meal that I cook with glee quite often. I still set off the smoke detectors, though.

On the other side of the spectrum was one of my college roommates. He's definitely more on the "eat to live" end of things, and this is how he would cook food:
-Go to the store, buy a really nice steak
-Put a pot of water on the stove
-Boil the ever-loving shit out of the steak ("I'm rendering out the fat!")
-Once the steak had reached a ghastly grey pallor, finish it in a warm oven

He would then leave the pot, with a thick sheen of meat fat on top, sitting on the stove for the next three weeks.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:38 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is, incidentally, a line frequently used by religious zealots concerned by what's going to happen to your soul because you're not prostrating yourself in the correct manner before the correct deity.

It's also a line used by potheads who think cutting your joints with tobacco is terrible. You can draw lines in a million different ways, not just in the completely loaded directions like religious zealotry.
posted by Hiker at 5:40 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like my steak extra medium.

Joke shamelessly stolen from Steven Wright and re-purposed.
posted by bwg at 5:43 AM on June 18, 2010


I guess I do see that as snobbishness, or perhaps a very odd sense of morality. It seems to imply that we owe these objects something. That something non-living which we have bought with every intention of consuming, has certain moral rights to be treated a certain way. I guess at heart, I am bothered by the idea that we owe consumables a certain consideration. No one is harmed, no cultural value is lost when someone chooses to (to pick a subject close to my heart) mix 40 year old Laphroig with coke. It may bother me in a sense of envy, as I wish I could be the one drinking that, but as a person, I am not harmed by this, even if I do think they have an odd palette. It isn't a crime against nature, just a damn shame they aren't sharing the bottle.
posted by Hactar at 5:57 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can't believe the discussion got along this far without a mention of steak tartare which my wife loves - with a raw egg on top. I'll admit its a bit too much, even for me.

I order this as my Birthday meal every time at my favourite restaurant. I secretly love it when the waiter gently asks "you do know that it's raw, sir?"

Now I'm hungry.
posted by generichuman at 5:57 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


People who like their meat well done don't think the doneness of somebody else's steak is any of their fucking business.

This isn't actually true, in my experience. In real life situations I've heard just about as many comments from the well done crowd in the vein of 'How can you eat that? I can barely even look at it!' as I have from the medium-rare crowd saying 'Good god, why even bother if you're going to make them overcook the crap out of it like that?'

That said, in my current job, I rarely run into eat to live types, so I haven't seen anyone order a well-done steak in quite some time.

PS. The only special request I have ever made to PB is that he add Chowhound to the list of social networks on our profile pages. And he did.

Hey, cool! I had no idea that was there.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:00 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]



Were I a bartender I would refuse to serve vodka martinis.


HAMBURGER


(but not really)


Back in college, when I briefly worked in a coffee shop, I had a long list of fantasy responses to "Decaf soy vanilla iced latte" that ranged from a simple "no" to a somewhat convoluted scenario involving an imaginary Russian mobster and an angry grizzly bear. Suffice it to say, my barista career was shortlived.
posted by thivaia at 6:17 AM on June 18, 2010


I used to think that I didn't like steak and that when I did eat it, the steak needed to be cooked all the way through.

What I later realized is that what I actually don't like is cheap steak. A carefully cooked high-quality medium-rare steak is amazing.

I've managed to figure things out by simply limiting my beef intake to certain special occasions: otherwise, why bother?
posted by deanc at 6:21 AM on June 18, 2010


Wow, she actually measures with a thermometer to make conclusions about the safety of the food she's cooking in her own kitchen?

When I roast a chicken I like it to be as undercooked as possible-- that gives me the juiciest meat. The way to do that safely is with a temperature probe in the thigh. Mine has an alarm that goes off when it reaches the temperature I set it for (170 for chicken.) I don't have to watch the thermometer.

As for steak, I handle all my meat hygienically and so I have no qualms about eating it bloody. My husband's mother comes from the "Cook until dried out completely...and then cook some more" school so when we were first married he had to get used to having his steak a little more rare (and I had to get used to cooking his steak a little longer than I thought appropriate) but after 10 years of marriage we now are completely comfortable in sharing one steak.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:23 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


People who like their meat well done don't think the doneness of somebody else's steak is any of their fucking business.

Isn't this article proof that this is not the case?
posted by desuetude at 6:25 AM on June 18, 2010


The almost unbelievable level on snobbery and snipping and personal investment concerning the temperature of the fuel you hurl down your throat amazes me. "How can you enjoy the things you enjoy?! What's wrong with you?!"

I'm with kittens for breakfast, I eat to live and not vice versa. It's food: you eat it so you can go about your business and do things in the world. Not vice versa. Or so it seems to me. And for everyone who deigns to feel sorry for this outlook, don't. I feel sorry for you. Personally I think it leads to less obesity and way less fretting and time wasted over deciding exactly which carbon structures you're going to turn into feces today.
posted by umberto at 6:30 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slate: To conflate the two with some sort of inferiority complex is just...whiny.
posted by The Michael The at 6:30 AM on June 18, 2010


We went out to our favourite steakhouse this week for my sister's birthday. I had prime rib, cooked rare, she had tenderloin, cooked well done. We should be able to eat what we want, cooked how we like it; but I will say that she was chewingher food a lot longer than I was that night.
Frankly, I think well done is disrespectful to the animal.
posted by arcticseal at 6:43 AM on June 18, 2010


I really don't care how other people like their steaks unless I'm the one cooking. I buy good meat from farmers I know because I don't trust commercial meat's safety (and commercial animal raising practises are cruel), so I won't poison someone who likes it rare.

My mother always cooked beef rare. This was in reaction to her mother, who liked it beyond well-done. Mom said this was a class thing. I don't know. But, 25+ years ago, it was very difficult, if you were female, to actually get a steak in a restaurant that was cooked rare, no matter how much you emphasized you wanted it rare. "Just knock the horns off and throw it on a plate" I'd tell the waiter. I'd get a tough, grey piece of meat, no pink, no red and certainly no blue.

Things are better now. Most of the time, I get what I order. Sometimes, the waiter checks to make sure that my idea of rare and the restaurant's idea of rare are the same thing, and I'm fine with that.

I only order raw kibbee in restaurants where I'm on a first name basis with the cook, though.
posted by QIbHom at 6:44 AM on June 18, 2010


Personally I think it leads to less obesity and way less fretting and time wasted...

Time wasted? Heh. Thinking about food is one of my favorite pastimes. One of those things we do in the world is create cuisines, and cook and eat and drink. It is not an obstacle but a thing in itself.

I respect your outlook, though, as I hope you respect mine. We don't all have the same interests. The world would be boring that way.
posted by vacapinta at 6:47 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


At my favorite steakhouse a rare steak is actually cold in the center and the same with my local top notch burger joint. Perfect. People who like their meat well done are idiots and don't deserve to eat beef. ;)

(which leads me to a rant about Canada. The last time I was there I was told that the restaurant could not legally serve me a rare hamburger. Godamn politically correct do-gooders effing up my food.)
posted by caddis at 7:05 AM on June 18, 2010


Right on, Vacapinta. One man's fuel is another man's fetish. As it should be. Amen. :)
posted by umberto at 7:06 AM on June 18, 2010


We should be able to eat what we want, cooked how we like it

Plenty of people in this world won't provide a service to you if they feel it reflects badly on them.

- An interior designer won't design your house if your ideas are awful.
- A lawyer will recuse him/herself if you won't cooperate with their strategy.
- A P.R. firm will stop representing you if you don't listen to them.
- An agent will drop you if you do not follow their advice.
- A graphic designer won't design you a shitty logo.
- A reputable web developer won't make you a Geocities-style webpage.
- A club won't let you in if you're not up to their dress code.
- A photographer may refuse your request to pose nude.

What do people do? They either change their demands or they find someone else to provide them with the service they can't get.

Do people feel that web developers should just do whatever the client asks because the client is offering them money? Surely not. Why is it any different in the restaurant industry?

People should be able to be reasonably proud of what they sell.

Does that mean they're better than you because you want your steak well-done? No. Will they act like it? Sometimes. Should they be able to set parameters that allow them to feel they're producing quality work? Absolutely.
posted by Hiker at 7:07 AM on June 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


I eat to live and not vice versa.

a life wasted.....
posted by caddis at 7:08 AM on June 18, 2010


This food safety paranoia seems a little mental-illness-y to me. When you're afraid of things that far down the "things that might kill you" list, you probably need help.
If it's just a taste preference, that's perfectly fine.
posted by rocket88 at 7:11 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Five or six years ago some glutton revived the barbarous practice of eating great chunks of steak without knife and fork. It was the season of "Beefsteak Clubs." A place - sometimes the loft of a stable - was rented by a party of gentlemen for the evening. The steak was cooked in a square iron box. The wood fire in the oven was allowed to burn until the embers formed a red-hot bed several inches deep. Cubical slabs of beef were placed on an ash grate, which is poked into the embers, where it is broiled to a turn or charred mass. The steaks, each weighing a pound or more, are served on hot pewter plates, together with crackers and pieces of bread, and washed down with copious draughts of ale and porter. One rule governing a beefsteak club is that there must be no chairs, tables, knives, forks or napkins. And so the New York "swell," like little Lord Fauntleroy, seated on a cracker box or barrel, helps himself to meat and bread with his dainty fingers. The Beefsteakers have grown tired of gastronomic fooling, and one must look elsewhere for midnight scenes of savagery and revelery.
January 1893, Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, "New York Restaurant Life"
It didn't take women long to corrupt the beefsteak. They forced the addition of such things as Manhattan cocktails, fruit cups, and fancy salads to the traditional menu of slices of ripened steaks, double lamb chops, kidneys, and beer by the pitcher. They insisted on dance orchestras instead of brassy German bands. The life of the party at a beefsteak used to be the man who let out the most ecstatic grunts, drank the most beer, ate the most steak, and got the most grease on his ears, but women do not esteem a glutton, and at a contemporary beefsteak it is unusual for a man to do away with more than six pounds of meat and thirty glasses of beer. Until around 1920, beefsteak etiquette was rigid. Knives, forks, napkins, and tablecloths never had been permitted; a man was supposed to eat with his hands.

All You Can Hold for Five Bucks by Joseph Mitchell, The New Yorker, April 1939
posted by electroboy at 7:28 AM on June 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, for example Chinese people are (generally) accustomed to fully-cooked beef/pork/chicken/fish.

This has not been my experience, at least as regards beef.


On the automotive derail - My car has a tachometer, which I never look at. Why would I? The car also has an automatic transmission. That big space in the instrument cluster that's occupied by the tachometer could more productively be occupied by any number of other things, like an altimeter, or a barometer, or a fuel-usage or vacuum gauge, or a compass, or a rear-view camera, or a radar detector, or an incoming SUV detector, or a parking-space-proximity indicator, for instance. There is no rational purpose to putting a tachometer in an automatic transmission car.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:35 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've discovered the secret to always getting a wonderfully cooked steak (or fish or any meat) is to say I want it "however the chef recommends it be served." I think this shows a certain amount of respect for the chef's skill and results in a more carefully cooked meal. (I do like things on the rare side though so YMMV.)
posted by JoanArkham at 7:36 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I can get the beef rare but with the fat left on and lightly crispy-burnt outside, then I do that. I don't understand people who trim the fat off, I really don't.

Chicken and pork are definitely not good until the juices run clear; food poisoning fears aside, they just don't taste right when they're still bleeding, IMO. That doesn't mean dry, thought, not if you get them at the right moment. Hardly rocket science, though.
posted by emjaybee at 7:37 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The almost unbelievable level on snobbery and snipping and personal investment concerning the temperature of the fuel you hurl down your throat amazes me. "How can you enjoy the things you enjoy?! What's wrong with you?!"

Besides, well done steak *isn't* tough and most certainly isn't grey. It's brown and delicious, and if it isn't, something's wrong with either the meat or the chef. It's a huge waste to try to shove a rare steak down your throat if you can't stand it, just to make your idiot table mates happy. You might say, just eat something else instead, but if I'm hungry for steak, and it tastes good to me, then it's a waste if I eat it.

After all, if I was eating to live, wouldn't I have ordered something cheaper?!!
posted by serena15221 at 7:46 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who are all you people who can afford steak?
posted by Ritchie at 7:46 AM on June 18, 2010


"That's the best beefsteak sauce in the world," Mr. Wertheimer said. "It's melted butter, juice and drippings from the steak, and a little Worcestershire."

Mmm, that's how my dad does steak. And it's AWESOME.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:57 AM on June 18, 2010


I prefer my animal flesh to not bleed when I cut into it.
posted by MikeMc at 7:57 AM on June 18, 2010


Frankly, I think well done is disrespectful to the animal.

Surely it's less disrespectful than eating around the edges and throwing the uncooked center in the trash?
posted by malocchio at 8:02 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is funny, but I actually enjoy a bit of well-done lamb. I love lamb, and my grandmother cooked it well-done. Ah, but I know better, and I cook it quite nicely. I just make a point of enjoying the outside edges especially, in loving memory of my grandmother, who at least taught me food was special. (my mother, her daughter, was mostly a failure at cooking)

Beef? Apart from the typical American ground beef of unknown (or unimaginable) origin, if it has no pink, it's not right. Red is good. Purple in the middle is not to my liking, but I won't send it back if it's done nice on the outside.

And yet, I live in Europe now. One need not be so concerned about bad meat. My partner is fond of tartare, or, as they weirdly call it in Belgium: "Fillet American". I love to tease him about it, but in truth, it's very tasty.

And like someone above noted, the crown glory of beef is the prime rib, and that must be on the more red side of pink everywhere but the edges. It is glorious. It is also unfortunately rather unusual outside the USA. (Movenpick Beef Club is exceptional, and imitates Lawrey's, and has a location close enough in Zurich. w00t! They closed their restaurant where I live, which is sad, as the mayonnaise was prepared in house, and the fries were exquisite).

As for people making fun of someone for using a meat thermometer: I find it highly questionable whether you have the slightest clue of what you're talking about. I won't even think about cooking a roast without a thermometer. How else do you know it's right? Nothing is going to tell you it's perfect except a thermometer. Cutting it open during cooking is not an option.
posted by Goofyy at 8:09 AM on June 18, 2010


Its not snobbishnes, though, at least not on my part. Its about "wasting" a good thing - in this case a good cut of meat.

That part there, where you look at other people's enjoyment as a waste?

That's your snobbishness.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:21 AM on June 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm... just not that fussy, though I tend to avoid either extra-rare or extra-well. I'm often tempted to answer "how do you want it cooked" with "I trust the chef," but I'm not sure how they'd take it.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:26 AM on June 18, 2010


There's a restaurant that serves the absolute best steak I've ever had. I usually order my steak medium, because I don't like bloody, but at this place, I trust them to be able to produce actual medium-rare and it's so damn good. A whole life of steak eating, until finally putting this in my mouth and ruining myself for every other steak.

My mom took two of her friends to this restaurant to have steak and they ordered theirs well-done. And they couldn't see what all the fuss was about while everyone else was moaning orgasmically over their steak.

I don't like raw or rare, but you're missing out on some great experiences if you always eat well done.

Also, steak can be bad regardless of the doneness. Last weekend I made steaks and intentionally cooked them fairly rare for me. They were quite red in the middle and still tough as shoe leather. I couldn't finish mine. It was a ribeye, too. I guess it was just the cow.
posted by threeturtles at 8:45 AM on June 18, 2010


Plenty of people in this world won't provide a service to you if they feel it reflects badly on them.

except that most of the examples you list involve scrutiny of the work by people who are not the customer. cooking a steak to someone's satisfaction is a one-to-one transaction; if the customer is satisfied, there's no harm done to reputation; the satisfaction of the customer is the mark of whether one's job is done well. this seems little more than making excuses for snobs to be assholes.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:52 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]



Splunge: Heh, but OTOH, when you go to certain places, you let them do what they do. And you are rewarded. Not Tad's Steak house. But maybe Le Bernardin?

Noooooooooooo! Le Bernardin is a seafood restaurant. Ordering a steak at Le Bernardin is like ordering fish at Peter Luger.

SNOBBURGER

Admittedly, I have never eaten at Le Bernardin. I have, however, typed a few hundred expense reports for people who have. Lucky bastards.

posted by bakerina at 8:54 AM on June 18, 2010


Seconding crispy fat. Beef fat, nicely crisped? Heaven. The browned, crispy ribbon of fat on a good pork chop? It's fantastic. I totally understand the 'eewww, it's fat' response, but damn, it's tasty.

(note, I don't eat steak often, because it's stupidly expensive here. Hence, the beef fat eating is quite rare. Also, pork is superior to beef in nearly every way. Yeah, I said it. It has a wider variety of textures, more versatility, and seriously, beef bacon? What's the point?)

/raised in an observant Kosher household
posted by Ghidorah at 9:04 AM on June 18, 2010


From a risk/benefit perspective, the food disease risk of ordering a medium rare steak is VASTLY less than a medium rare hamburger. A steak is from one cow, and as long as you're not getting one that's been needle tenderized, you're only bearing an infection risk from one cow, or perhaps a couple once you assume some butchery contamination. A hamburger, though, is made from ground beef, and you're essentially pooling your risk of food-borne disease with however many cows went into that batch of burger, perhaps hundreds.

This is why I order my hamburgers well done and my steaks medium rare. I might appreciate a rarer hamburger from a taste perspective, but from a safety perspective it just isn't worth it. I think the fact that there's no analysis of what a reasonable risk looks like just butchers the author's credibility.
posted by norm at 9:04 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the "steak is too expensive" crowd, may I humbly suggest the Blade Steak? It runs about $3-$4/pound at my local supermarket and is a great piece of meat for searing. Cook it, slice it on a bias to the grain, drizzle a pan sauce over it, and you have a very tasty meal.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:17 AM on June 18, 2010


I can understand well-done for personal taste, but as to safety? You can't cook away mad cow prions, so if you're eating beef you're still rolling dice.

As such, I'll take mine medium rare.
posted by quin at 9:20 AM on June 18, 2010


cooking a steak to someone's satisfaction is a one-to-one transaction

If I want food cooked to my exacting specifications, I can do that at home. The chef is not a personal servant: he is selling a product that he believes we should buy. If a chef has a specific recipe that calls for the steak to be done in a certain way with a specified sauce and set of spices, I'm more interested in that. Otherwise, I might as well save my money and get a sandwich from Panera.

It's like asking BMW to build you a car with more cup holders: if that's what is really important to you, buy a car that has that. Otherwise, enjoy the design painstakingly created by the craftsmen.
posted by deanc at 9:41 AM on June 18, 2010


cooking a steak to someone's satisfaction is a one-to-one transaction; if the customer is satisfied, there's no harm done to reputation; the satisfaction of the customer is the mark of whether one's job is done well.

I think this ends up being an area where people just come at the question from different perspectives.

On the one hand, there are people who view chefs as service providers and the people who eat in restaurants as customers and the whole experience is a transaction, with all the 'customer is always right' stuff that tends to entail.

On the other hand, there are people who view chefs as artisans and the people who eat in restaurants as diners and the whole experience as, well, an experience, with all the 'he is the expert, let him work his craft' stuff that tends to entail.

If you're at a restaurant that's run under the first philosophy, then asking them to overcook or undercook or salt or not salt your meat or paint it purple using icing usually used for the free birthday cupcakes given to children on their birthdays is no big deal, and the chef should be perfectly happy to do that.

If you're at a restaurant that's run under the latter philosophy, though, you're only getting that steak painted purple if the chef feels that icing and steak are an excellent flavor combination that he's proud to serve.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:49 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for people making fun of someone for using a meat thermometer: I find it highly questionable whether you have the slightest clue of what you're talking about. I won't even think about cooking a roast without a thermometer. How else do you know it's right?

Agreed. To me, the worst food snobs aren't the people with a rigid preference for the doneness of their meat, but the people who scoff at the mere mention of ever using a thermometer or measuring device while preparing a recipe.
posted by The Gooch at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2010


I'm often tempted to answer "how do you want it cooked" with "I trust the chef," but I'm not sure how they'd take it.

I've occasionally ordered a steak and when asked about the doneness, I say "tell the chef to cook it the way he likes it." I've received a smile from the waiter, and I've even had the chef come out to the table and ask me how I liked my steak. I got the impression he was flattered, but I might have misread the situation.

A steak is from one cow, and as long as you're not getting one that's been needle tenderized, you're only bearing an infection risk from one cow, or perhaps a couple once you assume some butchery contamination. A hamburger, though, is made from ground beef, and you're essentially pooling your risk of food-borne disease with however many cows went into that batch of burger, perhaps hundreds.


That, and the fact that with a steak, it's all one piece of meat, so there's less surface area for nasty stuff to latch on to. Ground meat, on the other hand, has lots and lots more surface area. Plus, it all comes in contact more potentially infected surfaces, like grinder blades, and stuff. I know some people who simply don't trust anyone to grind their meat but themselves, and only buy whole cuts of meat.
posted by crunchland at 10:09 AM on June 18, 2010


I've occasionally ordered a steak and when asked about the doneness, I say "tell the chef to cook it the way he likes it." I've received a smile from the waiter, and I've even had the chef come out to the table and ask me how I liked my steak. I got the impression he was flattered, but I might have misread the situation.

In my experience, chefs who come out to the table do so because you are one of the people who help make their job worthwhile.

A lot of the work is essentially being drilled for a few hours a night (otherwise, it's hours of prep work) and when a customer really enjoys diversity in their eating experience in a restaurant, it can remind them why they got in a low-paying, high-intensity industry to begin with. The chefs (the ones who care, I mean) really want to blow people away and when they're offered the chance, they're eternally grateful.
posted by Hiker at 10:18 AM on June 18, 2010


If I want food cooked to my exacting specifications, I can do that at home.

it's not as much a matter of 'exacting specifications' as it is a generally acknowledged and accommodated range of preferences for doneness of meat. if the chef's preference is authoritative, why offer any option for doneness at all?

in any case, any chef who is not an egotistical dick would be gracious enough to honor such a request. not that there's a shortage of people who will fall all over themselves to have the honor of spending their money for the work of an egotistical dick. but they could at least put a sign up or something.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:22 AM on June 18, 2010


Strange that this is such a divisive thing. I'm sure my opinion would vary from cut to cut a tad, but for the most part I enjoy steak at all levels of doneness. I'll eat a steak that's bloody and I'll eat a steak that's practically carbonized with equal gusto. I'll specify how I'd like it (which is entirely dictated by the mood I'm in at the moment), but I've never sent a steak back in my life.
posted by kryptondog at 10:39 AM on June 18, 2010


it's not as much a matter of 'exacting specifications' as it is a generally acknowledged and accommodated range of preferences for doneness of meat. if the chef's preference is authoritative, why offer any option for doneness at all?

At least from my experience, offering options is much more common in American restaurants. If I go to France and order a Duck Magret, nobody will ask how you want it done. It will arrive seared and pink in the middle. And in many places in Italy, you can ask for it "well-done" but you'll stick out as an American.

I think "generally acknowledged and accommodated range of preferences" is a relative thing.
posted by vacapinta at 10:43 AM on June 18, 2010


"Its not snobbishnes, though, at least not on my part. Its about "wasting" a good thing - in this case a good cut of meat."

That part there, where you look at other people's enjoyment as a waste?

That's your snobbishness.


Come on. There is some consensus on standards. If I buy a huge piece of wild tuna and feed it to my dog, or better yet, throw it directly in the trash, I might have enjoyed my ownership and disposal of the tuna, but most people would consider it waste - the potential of the material went unrealized. Those who "enjoy" well done meat and go on to desecrate a thick cut steak, can not and do not appreciate what the meat has to offer. It's like buying a painting, say a Klimt, cutting it out of its frame, and using it as a tablecloth.

-----

It's also a line used by potheads who think cutting your joints with tobacco is terrible.

As far as I know, only the Europeans are guilty of this barbarism, and I for one, am grateful that this corruption has been contained there.

-----

For those interested in the Bernard DeVoto derail: a selection of his work.
posted by BigSky at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


if the chef's preference is authoritative, why offer any option for doneness at all?

They're willing to operate within the parameters of what they think will impress the guest. If they think that their $50 steak won't taste any different than a $10 steak at well-done, then there's no point in serving it.

I had, in about 8 years of serving at a variety of places, never had someone rave about a well-done steak. The general comments were usually "it was a good steak" or something even blander like "did the job." They may say something about the sauce, but generally, the meat itself is unremarkable. Who wants to do unremarkable work in an industry that thrives on being remarkable?

I don't think that people shouldn't be allowed to eat out if they want well-done food, I just think that if a restaurant prides itself on something other than a)value or b)volume, they have a right to decide what they're willing to do with the taste of their food.
posted by Hiker at 11:35 AM on June 18, 2010


As far as I know, only the Europeans are guilty of this barbarism, and I for one, am grateful that this corruption has been contained there.

Canadians in pockets of the country are guilty as well, although that's really second-degree Europeans at work.
posted by Hiker at 11:36 AM on June 18, 2010


Come on. There is some consensus on standards.

and disparaging others for enjoying something on a basis that does not meet with your standards is snobbish.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:40 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


and disparaging others for enjoying something on a basis that does not meet with your standards is snobbish.

Yeah, fuck you Chicago. I like ketchup on my hot dogs.
posted by electroboy at 11:41 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


As far as I know, only the Europeans are guilty of this barbarism...

Your experience is too limited. I've seen it in Asia, too.

Also, if you don't like how someone else wants their food prepared, that's your problem.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:39 PM on June 18, 2010


The talk about overcooking food being disrespectful to the slaughtered animal really annoys me. I think the extension of that is that cooking the meat AT ALL would be disrespectful, and I have not yet heard that promoted. What is disrespectful is wasting the animal, not the method of preparation (in my opinion).

A hamburger, though, is made from ground beef, and you're essentially pooling your risk of food-borne disease with however many cows went into that batch of burger, perhaps hundreds.

I get my ground beef from the local butcher shop, and it appears he makes the ground beef in batches from the remainder of a single side of beef.

Does that mean I can safely eat this kind of ground beef "medium"?
posted by discountfortunecookie at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I buy a huge piece of wild tuna and feed it to my dog

We rotate the dogs' food around, but there's salmon in the rotation. I don't think there's tuna; you wouldn't want to give dogs tuna very often because of the mercury.

and disparaging others for enjoying something on a basis that does not meet with your standards is snobbish

And disparaging others in that way by putting "enjoy" in scare quotes, comparing their preference to desecration (implicitly comparing your own preference to the sacred), telling them what they do or don't appreciate, and then comparing their preference to destroying artwork, all without any hint of irony or playful-teasing, is just being an asshole.

An example of not being an asshole: "I prefer my steak differently! Have you ever tried it my way? You might find you prefer it too!"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:58 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does that mean I can safely eat this kind of ground beef "medium"?

If you want to do that, it would be safer to either grind your own immediately before cooking or to look for irradiated ground beef. If you've got Wegmanses around, they carry it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2010


Does that mean I can safely eat this kind of ground beef "medium"?

Eating beef is a bit like having sex. The only safe beef is no beef.

But beef is good, so you reduce the risks and take your chances. I'd feel comfortable eating butcher-ground meat medium, other people might not.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:20 PM on June 18, 2010


On the one hand it would be great if everybody irradiated their meat so that one could cook it as rare as one wanted (or even raw). On the other hand, I gotta believe that if industrial slaughterhouses knew the meat was going to be irradiated they would be even less sanitary and hygienic than they are now. So it is likely a wash.
posted by Justinian at 1:20 PM on June 18, 2010


On the one hand, there are people who view chefs as service providers and the people who eat in restaurants as customers and the whole experience is a transaction, with all the 'customer is always right' stuff that tends to entail.

Even acknowledging this, I don't get this perspective. 'The customer is always right' isn't something that you're morally required to believe or practice if you run a business. You might not get enough patronage if you blatantly don't, but then you go out of business for your failings. It's a free market, and the restauranteur is just as free to politely (or not) ask you to fuck off if you don't want to enter into a free market transaction with him/her as you are. If you don't like them doing that, don't eat there. They have no obligation whatsoever to provide a service or product you enjoy.
They might get more business if they do, but that's a consideration for them to make.
posted by Dysk at 2:07 PM on June 18, 2010


I had a fresh ground hamburger today at George's in Walnut Creek, the only place I'll willingly order medium rare burgers (which actually come out medium). But many cuts of steak should be rare as you can stand. Obviously there are other cuts that are better medium to well done (rare brisket sounds disgusting).

I wonder if the difference in quality between rare and well done filet mignon is much easier to understand with grass fed beef rather than corn fed? I think corn fed is so marbled you can get away with it being more well done. Maybe we wouldn't be having this argument if all beef were still grass fed.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:10 PM on June 18, 2010


Surely, this is paranoia,

A quick glance at the number of food poisonings, not least from so-called professionals (who are, apparently, not interested in whether the food they prepare leaves their customers squirting from both ends) would tend to suggest that worrying about food temperature isn't particularly paranoid at all.
posted by rodgerd at 2:18 PM on June 18, 2010


Steak: medium
Hamburgers: well done
Chicken: well done
pork: well done
beef: well done
bacon: well done

So for me, steak is the only outlier and I'll take my well cooked meat, please.
posted by zardoz at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2010


mix 40 year old Laphroig with coke.

I literally twitched when I read that.

...does laphroig even off a 40 year to mere mortals? I got a bottle of 30 as a birthday present before prices went through the roof a few years ago and it was sublime.

As to the live-to-eaters telling the eat-to-livers that they're doing it wrong... I think the idea is that if you're ordering a very nice cut of meat well done then it's just a poor use of the cut. I don't care what you eat per se, but it seems a waste of meat money and cow to have a well done filet when it's not going to taste any better than a well done cheaper cut.
posted by flaterik at 2:49 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh poor persecuted me! I'm constantly going out to expensive restaurants with professional chefs cooking me lunch and dinner, but my problem is I don't like everything on the menu! And sometimes when I order something, I worry about what other people think of me! I worry about what my favorite New York Times food critic would think of my eating habits!

Meanwhile, millions of Americans struggle to eat at McDonald's once in a while.
posted by straight at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


This idea spoke to me: I'm an earnest, Greenmarket-ing, Pollan-reading Brooklynite. Eating rare meat now seemed imperative. Forget questions of taste or pretensions to hipsterdom; this was a matter of "conscious eating" (admittedly, a pretension of its own kind). It was about being attendant to the flesh in a big picture way, not just its texture on my tongue. Choosing well-done meat is pathological; choosing rare meat is ethical.

This is a parody, right? Please tell me this is a parody.
posted by straight at 2:58 PM on June 18, 2010


bacon: well done

At a restaurant in Avignon, my wife and I ordered a mixed meat plate. (The place was called, translated, "The Patchwork Cow," so you see their general philosphy.) One of the items was uncooked bacon. It sort of horrified me at first, but it ended up being delicious.
posted by Skot at 2:59 PM on June 18, 2010



As for people making fun of someone for using a meat thermometer: I find it highly questionable whether you have the slightest clue of what you're talking about. I won't even think about cooking a roast without a thermometer. How else do you know it's right? Nothing is going to tell you it's perfect except a thermometer. Cutting it open during cooking is not an option.


Not even remotely true. You can use your finger to gently poke it. It goes from squishy when raw to tough and very firm when well done. Experience will tell you when it is where you like it.
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:04 PM on June 18, 2010


Meanwhile, millions of Americans struggle to eat at McDonald's once in a while.

I also struggle to eat at McDonalds.

And there is absolutely no reason not to use a meat thermometer if you are not 100% comfortable with your ability to assess doneness. Yes the "poke test" works well but it requires a great deal of experience. I use a digital thermometer all the time (not for steaks, but for weird-shaped roasts) because it eliminates any possibility of error.
posted by mek at 4:02 PM on June 18, 2010


mix 40 year old Laphroig with coke.

An extreme example, perhaps, but using good ingredients for cocktails does make them taste better. I lament the years of my foolish youth lost to drinking crap cocktails, having listened on the food snob bullshit line that if you're going to adulterate spirits by mixing them, you should use cheap ones.

(Also, good blends can be far more entertaining than single malts.)
posted by rodgerd at 8:15 PM on June 18, 2010


That, and the fact that with a steak, it's all one piece of meat, so there's less surface area for nasty stuff to latch on to. Ground meat, on the other hand, has lots and lots more surface area. Plus, it all comes in contact more potentially infected surfaces, like grinder blades, and stuff. I know some people who simply don't trust anyone to grind their meat but themselves, and only buy whole cuts of meat.

Absolutely. First, it's cheaper in the long run. Second, you can better control what goes into the grinder. Third, you can adulterate it as you wish - spices, raw garlic, etc. - depending on its purpose. Lastly, there is some satisfaction in knowing that you didn't pay four times the actual worth of the meat itself to have a dubious stranger run it through dubious equipment.

(As an aside, 30-year Laphroaig is 450 pounds a bottle to FoL members. It's worth it, too.)
posted by FormlessOne at 8:56 PM on June 18, 2010


The key element in the danger of ground beef is that it is typically made from "beef trimmings", which are much more likely to be contaminated with fecal matter as a result of the industrial slaughtering process. It's the stuff they scrape from the bottom of the barrel, almost literally.

If you buy a cut of beef and grind it yourself (even a crappy food processor will do the trick), it is very safe to cook the resulting burger to medium. And if you buy your ground beef from a local butcher who grinds it freshly from whole cuts, it is also safe. (But trust is a factor here.) Typically my butcher grinds up cuts they anticipate low demand for (such as my precious skirt steaks, which I grouch about), and while I'm not afraid of a little raw beef, I will go to the trouble of grinding it myself just out of fear of poisoning anyone. Haven't yet!
posted by mek at 10:19 PM on June 18, 2010


amyms wrote: "I almost always order steak well done at restaurants, because if I order it medium it usually arrives still mooing."

I find the opposite usually the case. My steak is almost always overcooked when I order medium, so I have to order medium rare to get it cooked right. And then the few times it comes done correctly I have to eat medium rare steak, which is still plenty tasty, just not as tasty as it should be.

If you have one of those countertop convection ovens, those can cook a reasonably tender well done steak without it taking 80 years, which is the only way I can make it work in the pan or on the grill...low and sloooow.
posted by wierdo at 11:14 PM on June 18, 2010


(As an aside, 30-year Laphroaig is 450 pounds a bottle to FoL members. It's worth it, too.)

Remember my comment about prices skyrocketing? The bottle I had was only 250 dollars. I wish I'd bought several thousand dollars worth, so I could have 2.66 times as many thousand dollars now.

I certainly would not have sipped away my profits

*muttering*stupid other people liking the thing I like and making it more expensive
posted by flaterik at 11:54 PM on June 18, 2010


straight: “Oh poor persecuted me! I'm constantly going out to expensive restaurants with professional chefs cooking me lunch and dinner, but my problem is I don't like everything on the menu! And sometimes when I order something, I worry about what other people think of me! I worry about what my favorite New York Times food critic would think of my eating habits! Meanwhile, millions of Americans struggle to eat at McDonald's once in a while.”

Oh poor persecuted me! I struggle to manage to eat rich, heavy food which has been prepared for me by a massive industrial complex more than once every two weeks or so! And sometimes I have to work a nine hour shift instead of an eight hour shift! And in the midst of this, the biggest danger really to my health is that I will eat too much!

Meanwhile, millions of people around the world are actually starving to death, or being tortured, or being beaten, or imprisoned, or living in the elements.

There is one person who is the worst-off person in the entire world; I don't know who it is, I just know that that person logically must exist. But for every single other person that exists on this planet, things could be worse. If we let the fact that things could be worse become an excuse for dismissing every bad feeling or sensation that we ever have as humans, we'd drive ourselves completely insane, and moreover we'd be acting as irrationally as ever anyhow; the fact that some people have it much worse doesn't change the fact that, for instance, health care should be better, or music is a good thing to make part of our lives, or love is awesome. None of these things go away simply because people somewhere are suffering.

Sure, some restaurants are unconscionably expensive. But that's not what you said; you seem to be saying that the only thing that gives a person any right to complain about something is their street cred, which is apparently earned by suffering more than other people. I hope it's clear why that's neither fair nor true.
posted by koeselitz at 1:38 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


i'm on metafilter and i could overthink a plate of fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
posted by tehloki at 10:57 AM on June 19, 2010


There is one person who is the worst-off person in the entire world; I don't know who it is, I just know that that person logically must exist. But for every single other person that exists on this planet, things could be worse.

Nit: Even the worst-off person in the world can be made even worse off. It just won't show up in their ranking.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:34 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anecdata: The girlfriend and I just came back from the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. We met her son and his girlfriend there. I'll just handwave the logistics of that...

Anyway, after a few hours of picture taking and beer drinking we decided to get some food. We went to Peggy O'Neil's which is next to the Brooklyn Cyclone's ballpark. I know one of the chefs there and so I went back into the kitchen to say hello. John was busy as hell but he still gave me a warm hello. I told him I'd get a table and not bother him anymore.

The only table was outside. Not a prob, I like a little sun if I'm at Coney. The place was rocking, both musically and busy. The kid went and got beers and we waited for a waiter. I forget his name but he was very attentive for a person on the cusp of a major breakdown.

The kid ordered chicken fingers with a mild hot sauce. The girlfriend ordered two hot dogs with fries. I ordered the sliders with cheese and fries.

The mini-burgers were cooked to perfection. Charred on the outside, a bit pink and juicy inside. The fries had to be twice cooked to be so crispy and yet tender. The hotdogs were snapping good and juicy.

I didn't try the chicken fingers but I was told that they were awesome.

This place was jam packed to the point that they had barbecues outside to cater to the crowd.

I didn't have to figure out why the food was so good. The waiter didn't know that I knew the chef. I didn't tell him. But they consistently produced food that was above and beyond the call of duty considering the crowd there.

Sometimes the chef cares a bit about the product. Even though he looks like he's about to drop dead from the stress. That's why I'll be back again.

And some times asking for medium or rare just isn't necessary. Some times the chef knows just fine how to make his food sing.

Like I said, simply anecdata. It means nothing.
posted by Splunge at 4:30 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


mix 40 year old Laphroig with coke.

I literally twitched when I read that.


What if. Now just what if. That's the way I liked it?

What if I took a 300 year old bottle of fine wine which might cost maybe $15000 or more USD and I remembered that my favorite memory of my childhood was mixing wine with cream soda?

And so I mixed the expensive wine with cream soda. Would I be wrong? Would you, finding about this, kill yourself? Or try to find me and hurt me?

How do you get the right to tell me what to do with my property.

Short of whining to your crew, what do you do?

Maybe I'll make Kobe beef meatballs with Velveta sauce. My choice, right?

Food is for the person that eats it. If they are happy, you don't matter.

This is a generalization and not an attack. Sorry if it came off that way.
posted by Splunge at 5:09 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


mix 40 year old Laphroig with coke

...off a beauty queen's abs.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:00 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Splunge, it's okay for you to piss away your money whichever way you want. Just as it's okay for other people to say "Good god, what a stupid thing to do."
posted by five fresh fish at 6:19 PM on June 19, 2010


Whenever a server at a restaurant asks me how I want my meat done, I invariably say "however the chef recommends". I figure they ought to know how it'll taste best. I've never ended up eating something that was well done.
posted by Go Banana at 6:21 PM on June 19, 2010


"Short of whining to your crew, what do you do?"

Twitch again, and possibly be sad that you have the Laphroig and I don't?

Did you even read the rest of my comment before having such an overblown response?
posted by flaterik at 7:18 PM on June 19, 2010


Tonight I overcooked a very nice farmer's market grass fed t-bone that was butchered just the other day (because it's not as thick as the steaks I usually buy and I didn't adjust properly).

Eating it is making me much less happy than it would if it were rarer.
posted by flaterik at 7:21 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Splunge, it's okay for you to piss away your money whichever way you want. Just as it's okay for other people to say "Good god, what a stupid thing to do."

Perhaps I am being too politically correct here, but raising a cow is not an environmentally neutral thing. Wasting that product is a sin upon the world.

Making one of the world's great scotches is like making a work of art. I don't think just because you have the money to destroy a great work of art you should be able to do it. There may be more than one bottle of 40 yr Laphroaig, yet but one Mona Lisa. Still there remains some aptness to this comparison. Given the economics and scarcity someone is denied art as the art of consumables is different from the art of visuals in that every partaking removes an opportunity for another art patron. If in this market you waste the art you are in some measure the same as the cad who buys and burns the Mona Lisa.
posted by caddis at 7:33 PM on June 20, 2010


Metafilter: time wasted over deciding exactly which carbon structures you're going to turn into feces
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:38 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just for fun I nuked a ribeye last night. Normally I'm a medium rare guy but this was medium well if not well done.

It was absolutely delicious. Melted in the mouth. The cut really does matter.
posted by unSane at 7:54 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


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