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Reheat or Remake when sending back a steak?

We were at a steak house restaurant in our neighborhood that is considered very good. Service is great and entrees go for $25 to $45 a pop. I ordered a bone-in rib-eye and my wife ordered a baseball cut filet mignon, both medium rare.

My wife cut into the fllet and sliced off a couple of chunks. We saw it was very rare on the inside so we politely sent it back. They reheated her steak and brought it back after several minutes. The main piece of steak was closer to medium. The other chunks were very well done. Despite the temperature problems, she was hungry and didn't want to wait, so she ate it and enjoyed it fine. But it caused us to question if this was the best approach.

Should a restaurant reheat the steak you send back, or should they cook you a whole new one?

Cooking a whole new one would have taken more time, which would throw off our meal together. But the quality of the reheated steak seriously suffered. I think they should have made a new meal for both of us so we could enjoy a quality dinner together (total bill was $120 with salads & wine).

What do you think?

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  1. If it's undercooked, it will be reheated in a fresh pan. If overcooked and the kitchen was at fault (ie you ordered medium and they served you well done), a new steak or cut would be presented. That's standard practice.

    If they microwaved it, that's just gross. Steak does horribly there.

    If you wanted a new steak, you could have asked for it at the time, and it's likely your request would have been complied with. At a pricier steakhouse, the chef or owner might have been fuming, but at those prices, would have dealt with it and satisfied the customer.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Caralien

      I don't think they microwaved it. But I was surprised that they put the over-cooked smaller pieces back on the plate. I would think that a chef in a nicer restaurant would put a little more pride into every plate, even one that was sent back.

      1. re: Shane Greenwood

        I think many good head-chefs would bin it before it got to you.

    2. Off topic a bit, but I consider myself lucky that I've accustomed myself to appreciate all the different grades of steak. I'd have enjoyed it from anywhere upwards of raw (well, I'll eat it real bloody) to before light grey (I'd consider dark grey the optimum and anything lighter overcooked)

      1. I think what they did was acceptable because the doneness of steak is very subjective. One persons medium rare is anothers medium so I can see steaks getting sent back all the time. If steakhouses fired up another steak every time a steak was sent back they would not be in business for long. As I type this a thought just popped in my head and that is maybe steakhouses always slightly under cook so that if a customer sends the steak back it can be cooked to a degree higher but if a steak is over-cooked it will need to replaced.

        16 Replies
        1. re: KTinNYC

          That's true... Intersting thought.

          However, while I agree that one person might deem well done to be cooked more than another, there is a rule of thumb which everyone knows, with pinching different parts of your hand.

          As always though, if you want something well done, do it yourself :)

          1. re: Soop

            The rule of thumb you speak of where you touch your thumb to your different fingers and touch the meaty part of your palm is well know but I'm not sure this is 100% either. Does a 250 lb overweight grill cook have the same meaty palm as a 150 lb whip thin grill cook? I don't know.

          2. re: KTinNYC

            I agree there is a little subjectivity with regard to doneness. But this steak was very, very rare inside, not even close to medium rare. The waitress actually gasped when she saw it.

            There is no self respecting chef in the world who would intentionally undercook any food so they could cook it more if a customer sent it back. The job is to cook it perfectly the first time.

            1. re: Shane Greenwood

              "The job is to cook it perfectly the first time." If you ask 10 people to describe a perfectly medium rare steak I'm willing to bet you will get at least 3 different answers. A better way is to describe color, "slightly pink", "ruby red", etc, etc.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                Sometimes you have to ask for exactly what you want in unconventional terms--slightly charred on the outside, bloody on the inside. That seems to get the point across better than the ever-changing medium or rare (which some waitstaff has interpreted as well when taking the order).

                I agree that each restaurant/chef interprets things slightly differently, which might be due to the region. Medium at most places near my current location seems to be closer to medium-well. Even the hand check rule can vary--have you seen (or shaken hands with) an older professional piano player? Their hands are so muscular that even that rule varies considerably!

                1. re: Caralien

                  Caralien, that's exactly how I like my steaks - charred outside, blue inside. When I worked at steakhouses, we referred to that as "Pittsburgh" style, or "black and blue". Sometimes I get it done just right; most times, it's a little overcooked (to pink instead of red), but I can live with that.

                  But I agree with many posters that the definitions are subjective and subject to social pressure. When I was waiting on tables, practically everyone ordered their steaks "medium rare", which to me is red in the centre, and pink most of the way through. I can't tell you how often I brought out a perfect medium rare only to have the customer shriek after cutting into it that "It's raw!". What they wanted was medium or medium well but that wasn't the classic way to order, so they didn't.

                  I've noticed that many places now put definitions of various states of doneness on their menus, so that there's no confusion when ordering.

                2. re: KTinNYC

                  That's exactly what I do, but I'm wary of asking for that in a restaurant. I think that the till might have 3 steak options, or the chef won't be able to cut the steak open...

                  Another off topic, but regarding "resting" meat - I prefer the sensation when the steak is still piping hot. Therefore I have been known to eat in the kitchen, from the pan to the plate, then eating.

                  However, I've gone one better, and eaten it straight from the pan while it's cooking. You cut a little corner off, and if it's too rare, use your fork to sear it to the right colour. After a while I had half a perfectly cooked steak.

                  So anyway, what are your grades? Mine are:

                  Ruby red (inside) = raw
                  Red = rare
                  Pink = medium rare
                  Dark grey = medium
                  Light grey = well done

                  well done is a bit overkill IMO, since it's tough and has little moisture.

                  1. re: Soop

                    I think this proves the point. If it's gray, to me it's no longer medium. Light pink for medium, dark pink for medium rare, is the way I think of it. But I also don't think you should hesitate to be very specific...especially when you're spending for a good piece of meat.

                    1. re: Soop

                      In most high-end steakhouses it goes like this:

                      Rare: red throughout, cool center
                      Med-rare--red throughout, warm red center
                      medium: pink throughout, hot center w a trace of red
                      med-well: cooked through with a trace of pink in the center
                      well: cooked through

                      There are coresponding temperatures, but I don't remember them.

                      A good server should tell you what the steak will look like when you order it:
                      "I'll have it medium"
                      "Great. That will be pink throughout with a trace of red in the center."

                      In your case, you could then respond, "no, I don't want any pink" and everything could be adjusted.

                      If the server doesn't tell you, you should ask what it will look like so you can be sure you're on the same page as your server and get your steak cooked teh way you want.

                      1. re: nc213

                        Yeah, I got all that. The question is: If they make a mistake and undercook it, do you think they should reheat the steak or make a new one?

                        1. re: Shane Greenwood

                          As others have said, if it's under, bring up to appropriate temp (reheat). If over, remake. That's the standard in my experience.

                          Starting a new steak for a steak that's under is not standard, nor does it generally make sense since higher end places tend to have thick steaks that take a long time to cook.

                    2. re: KTinNYC

                      There is a big difference between extremely rare and medium rare. This steak was nearly raw on the inside. That is well outside of accepted variations in temperature. You are technically correct that there is some room for interpretation in meat temps, but that was not the case in this instance.

                      1. re: Shane Greenwood

                        You ask for others opinions on a food board. I gave you mine and you disagree, that is fine. You had your mind made up before you posted so maybe you should have just posted without asking , "What do you think?"

                        1. re: KTinNYC

                          Yeah, I have to say, you've stated quite a few times how raw it was.

                          Can I ask, what did the steak look like from the outside? Was it dark brown with char-grill lines?

                          1. re: KTinNYC

                            I just wanted to be clear that this wasn't as subjective as you were suggesting. My, "what do you think?" is directed at your opinion of the restaurant's response, not how to evaluate the temp of a steak.

                          2. re: Shane Greenwood

                            I think there is a tendency for some places to under cook a steak a tad since it can be touched up if the customer isn't happy. On the converse side when it's over done it has to be remade.

                    3. For me there is no question ...a whole new steak. If done properly the steak should of sat a few minutes before being served to let the juices distribute. If reheated to me you loose a lot. I understand it screwed up the meal but if it was just the two of you they should of also taken back the other meal to either keep warm, reheat or what ever was necessary.

                      1. Anywhere I have cooked meats to order, it would be redone, not reheated. The only time I have seen them reheated is if it was sent out well done and it wasn't 'well done enough'. Then the chef put it in the microwave, because he figured the person wouldn't know quality anyway.