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Feb 2, 2009 08:00 PM

cooking steak and sitting out

well, I work at applebees and me and my boss had a little disagreement. Basically i was just wondering is it physically possible for a steak cooked medium(thin strip of red in center) to cook to medium-well or well-done(brown all the way through and tough) after sitting out for around 5-10 mins in a heat window. i told him that was ridiculous among other things, and i got wrote up. i was just curious to get some other opinions on this issue.

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  1. Aside from the definition of a steak cooked medium (let's not get into that right now), it pretty much depends on the power of the heating element and thickness of the steak. Well done meat has an internal temperature of around 70 degrees C. If the heating elements heat the air or the plates to that temperature, then yes, it can cook it to well done, especially if the steak is thin. I've never tested the temperature of a plate sitting under a heat window, but I can see it being remotely possible, though unlikely. However, I've certainly had plates under the window that felt like it was 70 degrees... whether it actually was is a different answer, putting a steak on a hot plate and then leaving it under a heat lamp will most certainly cook it further.

    I'd be as concerned about the window drying up the meat as it sits under that heating element.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Blueicus

      well I hate to dig on where you work, but if I was really picky about a perfect steak, it wouldn't be there.

      I am one of those that like it black and blue and a few minutes will make a huge difference to me - I'd prefer it served raw rather than overcook by a minute in my book. but I'm in the minority.

      if it's put up on the pass hot it will definitely continue to cook esp. under a lamp. residual heat and all.

      is the table service an issue, or were the sides/other orders not ready?

      I'd guess there are other kitchen issues, except maybe the steak being done earlier than what the rest keeps up with.

      1. re: hill food

        I don't care where you work -- I'm glad you're working. In fact, it's refreshing to hear from you! If your boss "wrote you up" ( and did he expect you to serve the by then well-done steak as a medium steak?), I would report him to the national headquarters, bypassing his supervisor. Quality control, good service, clean bathrooms, fair personnel policies, satisfied customers are very important to the chain's success, meaning bottom line. You'll be doing yourself and Applebees a favor, plus the customers -- they should get good value for their money.

        1. re: neverlate

          Well, if I'm reading this right it seems like the OP is under the impression that the heating element can't cook a medium steak to well done, then proceeded to tell off the boss ("i told him that was ridiculous among other things"). It seems like the cook is in the wrong here.

    2. A steak should never be let to sit for more than 1-2 minutes. It will definitely continue to cook even if it isn't under a heat lamp. Under the lamp it can cook much further and become well on the way too dry and inedible in 5-10 minutes.

      8 Replies
      1. re: JMF

        Actually a steak should sit for 5 - 10 minutes to rest during which time it will continue to rise in temperature (cook), as you mentioned. The grill cook should factor in that extra resting time and thus the rise in temperature. Also, the temperature of the actual plate (cold versus hot) will have an impact as well.

        1. re: HaagenDazs

          While steaks should rest before slicing, that rule was made for fairly substantial steaks, not thin ones and not steaks under a heat lamp. The purpose of the resting period is to let the muscle fibers that contract during cooking time to relax. That keeps juice in the steak once it is cut. In most cases, I don't think this would happen to a thin steak under a heat lamp. It would just continue to cook and tighten.

          1. re: EdwardAdams

            That's right; think of a hot air baloon. As long as you continue to apply heat, it's going to continue to try and blow up. A rest on the heat is no rest at all.

            1. re: EdwardAdams

              That's assuming that the heat from the heat lamp is applied at the same intensity as before (the grill/broiler). Obviously, it isn't.

              1. re: HaagenDazs

                I disagree. I don't have much experience with heat lamps but know that even a substantial steak put to rest on a very warm plate continues to lose juice at a much higher rate than one resting on a room temperature plate, neither of which is as warm as the grill I use.

            2. re: HaagenDazs

              Worked as a chef, yes 5-10 degrees can easily go up depending on the lamp the sides or what it is on like a bed a hot mashed potatoes or cooked spinach, the heating lamp above and the temp of the plate. All have an impact. Steak should always set at least 5 minutes before serving A chef or cook should take that into consideration when serving. Not serve at applesbees but even other restaurants I worked at let their meat set first.

              I would think yes they could continue to cook quite a bit.. But can't be certain.

          2. Right or wrong, you were insubordinate. When I was in management I wouldn't hesitate to write up or even fire someone who told me procedures were "ridiculous". Curious what the "among other things" entailed.
            That said, the temp will rise after removing from the cooking surface, and a the heat lamp likely added to it. Not a stretch at all to think it came off the grill medium and ended up medium well, or well done.

            6 Replies
            1. re: AHan

              Sounds like poor management -- why not seek to teach instead of punish? Cut the steak in half and see the results. Show the server how to explain the problem to the customer.

              1. re: neverlate

                Because the underlying issue wasn't the debate over how a steak cooks, it is over crossing a boundary between management and subordinate. There is probably a history the OP has not brought up also.

                1. re: AHan

                  There is probably a history the OP has not brought up also.

                  History goes both ways......

                  1. re: fourunder

                    People don't get "wrote up" [sic] for disagreeing. People get "wrote up" for crossing the line.

                    1. re: AHan


                      Sounds like you are taking a pretty harsh stance without all the facts known and making judgments based on assumptions.

                      Overbearing managers routinely write up employees without justifiable reasons. When I worked for a very large national chain just after finishing college, I was their Regional Certified Bar Trainer for the Chain. During one period, we had a new group of hires that I had to train for bar and wait service. These classes were based on the menu and policies, which required three hours a day for five days, for two consecutive weeks. Standard procedure for training in most franchises. At the time, I was also the head bartender for my location which required me to work my shifts until 3:00 AM. These training classes started each day at 7:00 AM, and I showed up 15 minutes late for two days the following mornings and was "wrote up". Where exactly did I cross the line? You can be sure I had my say with the offending manager who wrote me up, in front of the other managers.. ..I tore up my file card ....and I did not receive any reprimands for my actions. Managers are not always right.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        I was a manager for a few years and I didn't care if someone questioned or asked. I would try to teach the person and maybe to pull aside later and just suggest that it should of been discussed in person. But written up. I wouldn't of. There is a limit but I think most things can be handled differently. Managers aren't always right and staff are only human too. I really think a good manager should be strong and earn respect, but also by being human too he earns respect. It goes both ways. I think getting written up was wrong in this case. Just a personal opinion.

                        Regardless, The steak probably didn't continue to cook and probably was over done.

            2. sportsstar,

              If your boss wrote you up for not expediting the steak to the table, it is understanding, but a itle extreme in policy in my opinion. If this were the case, you should have delivered the entree and continued the discussion further afterwards. Having a disagreement is not a reason to be written up for violations against policy.

              Although many will not admit to the reasons...keeping a file on employees in corporate chains is a means of documenting behavior and conduct on an individual, should the need to terminate the employee arise at some point in time. If you feel being reported in this instance is unfair, you should file a grievance with the General Manager of the location first...and then the Regional Supervisor or an anonymous employee hotline. This obviouly applies to only negative posts....if positive comments were posted in an employee's file, one would assume it would lead to possible pay increases or promotion...however limited.

              with regards to the steak. I am in agreement the the heat lamps will raise the temperature somewhat if they are positioned close enough to the steaks....and I do not believe a thin steak has it's temperature rising too much to be significant in a resting period of 5-10 minutes, if it were not under a heat lamp. Not enough heat has been generated during the cooking process and the lack of mass of a small steak does not allow it to retain it's heat as time goes by. However, I do not believe any food at any restaurant is intended to sit under a heat lamp for anymore than a couple of minutes at most....even at chains. The manager probably based his actions on this policy in mind.....with the exaggeration added in for effect.

              1. So was the actual issue that you didn't get an order to the table as soon as it was ready, so the steak was overcooked and the customer complained about it being overcooked?

                Yes, it certainly can, and will, overcook if it sits for very long under the heat lamp. If I were the customer, I'd be pretty upset, and demand a new steak, I ask for it a certain way, I expect it to be within a certain range. Overcooked is just unforgivable to me. :) Of course, I like my steak RARE, so even if it got to just medium, I'd probably send it back (though a steak going from rare to medium under the heat lamps a LITTLE less likely than a steak going from medium to well, just because of the issue of residual heat).