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How do you eat a steak?

ipsedixit Mar 16, 2008 02:15 PM

Regardless of the cut, or how well you want it prepared, how do you cut up and eat a steak?

Let's say you've ordered a filet (just for purposes of argument), what do you do first?

1. Cut it in half? Inspect it's the right level of doneness, then proceed to cut and devour each half accordingly?

OR ...

2. Just simply cut off bite size pieces from the edges and work your way through the entire filet?

I'm told that No. 1, above, is preferred (or correct?) because it allows the diner to inspect that the steak is cooked properly and by cutting it open it stops the cooking process.

Conversely, I've also heard that No. 2 is better because it allows the diner to enjoy the steak through varying levels of doneness, from the charred outer layer to the soft and tender center core, which, depending on your perspective, allows you the best of both worlds. More importantly, by not cutting it open it allows the steak to retain its juices.

Thoughts?

  1. p
    pengcast Mar 20, 2008 07:41 PM

    This is just to heart wrenching to read. Will winter please end!!?? I want a big fat rib steak on the barbie. Steak grilled to perfection medium rare is the single biggest reason why I could never be a complete vegetarian.

    The only thing better than the first bite of a good steak is sopping up the leftover juices with sour dough garlic bread.

    8 Replies
    1. re: pengcast
      steakman55 Mar 22, 2008 08:45 AM

      I've been reading and contributing to this thread....and as you can tell from my name, I'm quite the fan of steaks. Last night (in Florida....great weather) I cooked a bone in ribeye on the grill. It was superb. Here are the final rules, and if you follow them, I promise a great steak:
      1) Get a good grade of meat. USDA Prime, if available, and it rarely is at your neighborhood grocer. Better chance if you are in a major metro area or perhaps have a Whole Foods around. Choice is usually okay for the grill, but Prime is better
      2) Get aged beef. I prefer dry aged. It has a different flavor, the beef is more concentrated. It is incredibly tender and can generally be eaten a degree less done than you might normally.. Wet aged is good also, but to me not as much. Again, good luck on finding dry aged prime beef. Web site purveyors such as Niman Ranch, Allen Brothers, and Lobels are all good and I recommend them.
      3) Get a decent cut of meat to grill. By that I mean a NY strip (called merely a "sirloin" in NYC steakhouses (go figure) or a ribeye. I don't mean to demean those of you who order a filet, but most people do so because it is "so tender." Well if you have teeth, you should get a strip or ribeye. They will be plenty tender and the flavor will be head and shoulders above a filet.
      4) Get a bone-in steak if available. It will be juicier and more flavorful. And there will be a bone to gnaw.
      5) Prepare the steak properly. Get it out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to cook it. Trim some but not all the fat off the sides. Leave the tail of fat on a strip steak. I usually open up a ribeye and cut out the huge nugget and streak of fat and then put it back together with a skewer. Works perfectly. Season the steak with sea salt or kosher. I just recently switched to sea; it has large crystals and melts slowly. Use more than you wold think. It seasons as well as helps form a crust. Save the cracked black pepper and garlic for when the steak is off the fire. Garlic burns.
      6) Cook over a relatively hot fire. I use real charcoal not briquets. Burns hotter and cleaner. Don't move the steak around a lot. Let it form a crust. Don't worry about rotating the steak for pretty grill marks unless you are a photographer for Bon Apetit. Flip the steak once and cook some more. First side will be presentation side. If it is a particularly thick steak, move to a cooler part of grill to finish it off or it will burn. Great steakhouses often sear the steak and finish off in an oven for thick steaks.
      7) Feel free to use a large grill fork. I do and always have. It won't "pierce the steak" and lose juices. That is, forgive me, pure bull. Look at the way the meat fibers in a steak are...the fork will be going down into and between them.
      8) Don't cut into the steak to test for doneness. Press down on it with your thumb. The harder the steak, the more done. I think medium rare is perfect for strip and medium rare plus or medium for ribeye, as it has more fat and this will render some of it out. Put the steak on a warmed platter and let it rest for 5 minutes while everything else is being put on the table (garlic bread, great salad, roasted asparagus, and some sort of potato). The big red cabernet or zin or shiraz should have been uncorked when you took the steak from the refrigerator. Don't "tent" the steak with foil or it will steam and soften the crust.
      9) Now.....cut into the part with some of the fat, and enjoy the rest. Sorry for the long post, I just imagined every step and kept typing.

      1. re: steakman55
        Caroline1 Mar 22, 2008 11:56 AM

        I agree with you on everything except the steak. I always buy Porterhouse. Two steaks at a price cheaper than either one individually. What are butchers thinking! '-)

        1. re: steakman55
          k
          KevinB Mar 22, 2008 11:58 AM

          Not that I disagree with anything you wrote, but what happened to the steaks of my youth - the T-bones and Porterhouses? As other posters have noted above, when we had these at home, it was de rigeur to pick up the bone after finishing the meat, and chew off the remaining bits. Of course, if I had tried this in a restaurant, my mom would have boxed my ears. I don't have anything specific against boneless cuts, but I prefer bone-in cuts.

          My wife prefers all her meat on the bone, and when we make or order bulgogi (Korean thin short ribs), no one in the family thinks anything of picking them up and gnawing (and at the risk of grossing some of you out, we also lick the bones). We do the same with lamb chops, chicken wings, and pork ribs. Why this stigma about doing it with steak?

          1. re: KevinB
            m
            moh Mar 24, 2008 09:28 PM

            I believe the correct term for Korean short ribs with bones is Kalbi, bulgogi is usually boneless.

            And yes of course I agree that gnawing on the kalbi bones is delicious! The best meat is there!

          2. re: steakman55
            Catskillgirl Mar 22, 2008 02:19 PM

            I've got just one question, while I'm drooling over your post. I *need* a steak, perfectly cooked, immediately. LOL! Anyway, I always press lots of freshly ground black pepper onto my steaks before cooking. You said that garlic burns, which I totally agree with, but why not pepper before cooking? I've never had a problem with it becoming bitter or anything?

            Just curious - I love tons of black pepper on steak!

            1. re: Catskillgirl
              steakman55 Mar 22, 2008 03:44 PM

              I always...until recently, also ground lots and I mean lots of ground black pepper on steak. Then I thought, it adds nothing during the cooking, but now put it on after cooking. The salt BEFORE cooking is essential.

              And for the other posts asking about tbones or porterhouses, I have eaten my share of those, but think you have to pay extra for the filet side . That's why I would just get the bone in sirloin strip. If I had to choose between the two, would go for tbone with just a couple of bites of filet. I did not mean to demean those who like those cuts, just wanted to urge filet eaters to branch out.

              And while I'm on it, one and a half inches is about perfect. 14-18 oz for a strip, a little more for ribeyes. It is almost impossible to cook a
              2 1/2 or 3 inch steak.

              1. re: steakman55
                Caroline1 Mar 22, 2008 04:32 PM

                Maybe my butchers are of a strange breed, but at my butcher shops Porterhouse is always cheaper than a NY strip steak or a filet. I will confess to being a bit frugal at times and buying the Porterhouse and turing it in to NY strip steaks for one meal and filets for another. Guests never suspect, and I get to keep the bones to myself

                From Nieman Ranch steaks (http://tinyurl.com/2gz3lj):

                2 24oz Porterhouse.........$69.96

                as opposed to

                2 12oz New York Strips...$36.98
                2 7ounce USDA Choice tenderloins....$43.98
                ----------------------------------------------------------------
                TOTAL..........................................$80.96

                I save eleven bucks and get the bones free!

                If you want to cook a 2 1/2 or 3 inch steak, char it in the pan or on a grill and finish it in the oven. Turns out perfect!

                1. re: steakman55
                  hill food Mar 23, 2008 02:20 AM

                  oh I'm sorry steakman, I agree on the thickness, but salting before the grill toughens it, I heavily salt after (no such thing as too much pepper), but...if it's a good cut it needs nothing except a tender hand.

                  YMMV

          3. k
            kjmerz Mar 19, 2008 12:24 AM

            one bite at a time.

            next question...?

            1. l
              lvanleer Mar 18, 2008 01:05 PM

              #2 is my usual method....never considered doing #1

              1. paulj Mar 18, 2008 08:58 AM

                3. Cut it all into bite size pieces before eating any. This is a sure way to bring the manners police out into the open. :)

                paulj

                3 Replies
                1. re: paulj
                  s
                  Sean Mar 18, 2008 09:12 AM

                  I have a friend (grown man mind you) who does just that, he cuts his whole steak up into bite size pieces before eating it...

                  1. re: Sean
                    b
                    Blueicus Mar 18, 2008 03:48 PM

                    My mother does that with french toast, which is slightly more understandable than with steak (makes the steak get cold faster, it seems)

                  2. re: paulj
                    k
                    KevinB Mar 22, 2008 06:45 AM

                    I'm sure you don't do it, but I've always thought this is the most infantile way to eat any piece of meat. I mean, it's what you do for little children. And the worst thing to see is the supposedly sophisticated people at a high end steak house who hold their forks vertically in their fists, and saw away, cutting it into little chunks. It just makes them look like complete rubes, IMHO.

                    Of course, I've never been a fan of so-called "American style", where you hold the knife in your right hand as you cut the meat, and then put the knife down, transfer the fork to your right, and then lift the piece to your mouth. My knife stays in my right hand, my fork in my left, and I'll finish my steak before ya!

                  3. c
                    currymouth Mar 17, 2008 10:57 PM

                    Maybe it's just me but after cutting from left to right and enjoying the steak rare/med rare. I then start on the bone, minus the silver ware. To me any meat left on it is the best tasting part of the steak, This, as you can tell, can pose some problems as to manners and proper decorum in a upscale steakhouse, but it's mine , I paid for it, and I fully intend to enjoy it to the very end.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: currymouth
                      m
                      moh Mar 18, 2008 05:41 AM

                      I am with you on the bone issue. I love the chunks of meat stuck in the corners of the bone, and you can only get these pieces if you throw away the cutlery and gnaw away. In fact, I've tried to take it off with the fork and steak knife, and it doesn't taste as good. Same goes for lamb bones.

                      1. re: moh
                        Veggo Mar 18, 2008 07:18 AM

                        And to leave about 1/4 inch of meat along the bones makes for better gnawing. And yes, the lamb t-bone, turned vertically. I suppose the term "gnawing" is one of those things best done alone, but if I observed the practice in a nice restaurant I would smile.

                        1. re: Veggo
                          c
                          currymouth Mar 18, 2008 08:05 AM

                          Thank you both,moh and Veggo. I don't feel quite so alone in my habit. I have got every thing from smiles to looks of utter disgust but I then ask myself , what are the chances of me ever meeting these people again?

                          1. re: currymouth
                            hill food Mar 18, 2008 05:05 PM

                            I was going to post "with fingers if necessary"

                            In order to gnaw in public, properly one asks for a finger bowl, extra napkins and makes appropriate growly noises (and no apologies as long as no fingers get near).

                            "F@*k YOU lookin' at?!?"

                            ok maybe that doesn't really work well outside the house.

                            I'll e-mail Miss Manners. She never answers my queries, but it's always fun to try.

                            1. re: hill food
                              Cookiefiend Mar 18, 2008 05:13 PM

                              I was going to post, "Right with ya"

                              Fellow gnawer here...

                              Oddly enough, Emily Post never answers my queries either...

                              1. re: Cookiefiend
                                hill food Mar 18, 2008 06:07 PM

                                if she does be sure to alert the press:

                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Post

                    2. f
                      FrankJBN Mar 17, 2008 08:09 AM

                      I'm another who falls into the "Cut it in half?" What? camp.

                      If I wanted to check for doneness, I would only cut through a radius (to, not thru, the center).

                      1. s
                        swsidejim Mar 17, 2008 07:55 AM

                        I always work my way towards the middle, or bone from the edges, never cutting the steak in half or checking to see is it is done correctly. I trust the top steakhouses in Chicago to be able to cook a steak medium rare, as I trust myself when I am grilling at home to cook the steak perfect(when paying for Prime, or dry aged beef at a restaurant, or when cooking at home I better be able to depend it being cooked right).

                        1. e
                          ESNY Mar 17, 2008 07:40 AM

                          I can tell doneness just by pressing the center. If it has the right spring to it, I know its cooked properly, which is my case is rare. If its even the slightest bit too firm, its overcooked.

                          Not sure where you got number 1, but I hope by the time you get to eating the steak, whether at home or in a restaurant, it has rested for at least 5 minutes and the cooking process and carryover temperature has finished. By this time, its not cooking any more and the juices wont run over the plate when you eat it.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: ESNY
                            t
                            tarteaucitron Mar 17, 2008 09:34 PM

                            Just wondering, does it always give the same "spring" regardless of the cut/quality of the steak? I never thought about pressing on it to test for doneness,
                            but have many a time undercooked steaks in fear of overcooking them, making
                            them blue instead of the rare/medium rare that I prefer.

                            1. re: tarteaucitron
                              e
                              ESNY Mar 18, 2008 06:33 AM

                              Eat cut of steak is going to have a slightly different "spring" depending on how lean/marbled it is or even the actual fibers but it shouldn't make a vast difference. Press the raw meat to get an initial feel for the meat and then as it cooks, you can feel it getting firmer.

                              I started out by using the hand/thumb method. You take your hand and touch your thumb to your index finger lightly (almost like an O.K. sign) and then press the soft area underneath your thumb. That is rare. As your move your thumb to your middle finger and touch the soft area again, it will feel firmer and more like medium rare. The ring finger and pinkie are similar to medium and then medium well. This of course isn't exact but should get you started. Or you can buy a meat thermometer and as a steak is cooked to your doneness, press on it and see how it feels.

                              1. re: ESNY
                                t
                                tarteaucitron Mar 28, 2008 06:56 PM

                                Cool, except that somehow I get the same springiness with all my fingers!

                                Thanks explaining anyway, and I will still try the touch test anyway from now on.

                          2. s
                            Sean Mar 17, 2008 07:29 AM

                            Just simply cut off bite size pieces from the edges and work your way through the entire filet. Cutting it in half will result in juices flowing out and the steak cooling to quickly. I must say that I am not a fan of Filet, it is tender but kind of dry and mushy, I prefer sirlion...

                            1. goodhealthgourmet Mar 16, 2008 05:49 PM

                              i'm a rare-plus fan, so slicing it in half would send all those beautiful juices running out...no thanks.

                              i look for the thinnest exterior part and slice a piece off there, because if they've managed not to overcook it at that point, it should be nice & rare in the center.

                              1. diablo Mar 16, 2008 02:58 PM

                                Huh. Never heard of slicing it in half. Never occured to me. I always just work my way through one bite at a time. I order it rare so if it is overdone a bit it will *hopefully* only get to med. rare by the time it's on the table and I'm eating it. Agreed that slicing it in two is much more suited to the "well done" crowd.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: diablo
                                  s
                                  smartie Mar 16, 2008 03:28 PM

                                  I certainly would never slice it in two, just a slice to the centre to check for well-doneness. I think it would be bad manners to cut it in half.

                                2. Caroline1 Mar 16, 2008 02:47 PM

                                  A filet is a long way down on the list of my favorite steaks, but cutting it in half (or any steak) is only viable, in my opinion, for those who eat their steaks in the range of medium to well done. For rare to medium rare, you will be draining the juices out all over your plate. In this era of crouton-less filets, that's not a good plan.

                                  My preferred steaks, depending on plans after dining, are anything with a rim of fat around it and well marbled. I like them super charred on the outside and rare to medium rare on the inside.Then I study the steak for the very best first bite that will have a nice segment of well seared fat and a nice tender bite of steak all in one fell swoop. You have to choose the first bite with care, because it is, nearly without exception, going to be the best bite of the meal. Disappoint your tastebuds with a poorly chosen first bite and the whole meal is a wash.

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: Caroline1
                                    steakman55 Mar 17, 2008 03:43 PM

                                    Caroline1 is exactly right. Press down on the steak with your thumb to test for doneness. The harder the steak, the more done. Cutting in half will lose juices and make it cool more quickly. If you are eating a NY strip, start at the small end that has a tail of fat while the fat is still hot. It will never be better. And if you eating a ribeye, eat a good chunk of the outside strip of meat that isn't really fatty, but has incredible tenderness and flavor. Those are the only two cuts of steak worth eating anyway.

                                    1. re: steakman55
                                      Cookiefiend Mar 18, 2008 03:29 PM

                                      "If you are eating a NY strip, start at the small end that has a tail of fat while the fat is still hot. It will never be better. And if you eating a ribeye, eat a good chunk of the outside strip of meat that isn't really fatty, but has incredible tenderness and flavor."

                                      You are SO right!!

                                      So I look for that wonderful little bit at the end of my NY strip, start there, and work my way in. Yum!

                                    2. re: Caroline1
                                      p
                                      Panini Guy Mar 18, 2008 08:48 PM

                                      Caroline - I dare say that that second paragraph is pure poetry.

                                      I can feel my taste buds tearing up in complete empathy.

                                      1. re: Panini Guy
                                        Caroline1 Mar 18, 2008 09:39 PM

                                        Thank you! You know, I don't think most people realize how critical the fat is to flavor, most especially when broiling. It's the smoke from the fat being charred that wraps itself around the steak and flavors it. If you have a good fat char working for you, then hold the hickory or mesquite or applewood 'cause you don't need them! And when you can find it, real charcoal (as opposed to briquets) really makes a flavor difference too.

                                        I used to buy steaks from a butcher shop that had good beef, for wet cured, but I couldn't seem to convince them to leave the margin of fat around a Porterhouse that I wanted. I would tell them to leave an inch of fat but when I got home and opened the package, they had it trimmed down to 1/4 inch! I finally stopped shopping there.

                                        Wow! I just looked it up on the web and 3 ouces of beef rib with fat on has 71mg of cholesterol. 3 ounces of boiled shrimp has 147mgs!!! I guess I'm gonna kiss my guilt goodbye next time I'm putting a nice bite of Porterhouse with fat attached into my mouth! I may give up shrimp altogether in favor of a nice piece of well charred beef fat! '-)

                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                          raf945 Mar 18, 2008 09:47 PM

                                          I have to agree.Your post drove me crazy too!!

                                          1. re: raf945
                                            Caroline1 Mar 18, 2008 10:46 PM

                                            Hey! Then it is true that the pen is mightier than the... ... fork? '-)

                                          2. re: Caroline1
                                            hill food Mar 19, 2008 12:11 AM

                                            and just try to get any butcher to save the beef fat for rendering into suet. must be some FDA thing.

                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                              k
                                              kindofabigdeal Mar 19, 2008 12:14 AM

                                              Many people are worried about the fat level of fat.

                                              1. re: kindofabigdeal
                                                hill food Mar 19, 2008 12:39 AM

                                                since you mention it, out of curiosity has anyone really studied the fat level of fat?

                                                1. re: hill food
                                                  k
                                                  kindofabigdeal Mar 19, 2008 04:32 AM

                                                  rumor has it that its quite high, but that's probably just more propaganda from those liberal, granola eating, raw food healthnuts in the NW.

                                                  1. re: kindofabigdeal
                                                    hill food Mar 19, 2008 11:19 AM

                                                    sorry KoaBD, but that just sounds overly simplified.

                                                    1. re: hill food
                                                      Caroline1 Mar 19, 2008 11:24 AM

                                                      I feel pretty sure that how good or bad the fat analysis is will depend entirely on the diet of the critter it comes from. Grass fed beef has all those good Omega 3s, and stuff like that. A feed lot critter raised on baled hey ain't gonna test too well. But hey, how many meals a day/week/month do you have beef fat for your main course? Gotta live it up once in a while!

                                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                                        k
                                                        kindofabigdeal Mar 19, 2008 09:27 PM

                                                        I'm totally in favor of living it up. as long as we all admit that's what it is. If someone wants to imbibe a cup of olive oil, so be it. but it doesn't make it a health drink.

                                          3. re: Caroline1
                                            k
                                            KevinB Mar 22, 2008 06:35 AM

                                            Oh yes - great char on the outside, rare inside (actually, I like them almost blue - when I worked at a steakhouse we called this "Pittsburgh style" - black and blue) Something to do with the Steelers, I understand. I really can't understand people who like well-done steaks - no juice, no texture, and way less flavour. As a waiter, I was trained to tell people who ordered medium-well to well-done steaks that we couldn't guarantee the tenderness of the final dish.

                                            My grandmother used to cook beautiful roasts of beef so well done that they didn't have a hint of juice. I used to drown it in gravy just to make it edible.

                                          4. jfood Mar 16, 2008 02:23 PM

                                            jfood slices a radius from one side and takes a peek inside for doneness. If correct he goes counterclockwise from the cut.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: jfood
                                              s
                                              smartie Mar 16, 2008 02:28 PM

                                              I always cut into mine first because it HAS to be well done without a tinge of pink. If it's fine I eat from the outside in but really couldn't say if it was clockwise or anticlockwise.

                                              1. re: smartie
                                                jfood Mar 16, 2008 04:39 PM

                                                if you hold the knife in your right hand probably counter, if in the left probably clockwise

                                                1. re: smartie
                                                  j
                                                  jungleboy Mar 28, 2008 09:16 PM

                                                  How sad for you, in whichever direction you choose to eat it...I hope you don't spend too much money doing that to a nice piece of beef

                                                2. re: jfood
                                                  Veggo Mar 17, 2008 08:03 AM

                                                  jfood, we are sometimes in accord, as there are 4-leaf clovers. I practice the same method, except when eating lamb in Australia, I move clockwise. Has to do with the left hand driving; not the swirl of the drains.

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