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Have you ever sent steak back because it had too much gristle?

At a steakhouse, you order a steak, it's cooked just right, but it has too much gristle.

Curious as to what Chowhounds have done, or think is ok to do in such situations.

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  1. I rarely order steak when out, but this very situation occured last weekend when I was on vacation & out with friends. One of our group ordered a rare steak. It came, and was rare, but was full of gristle. He did tell the waitress & the manager came over, had another steak cooked, & removed it from the bill. The 2nd steak was much better. I see no problem with doing this, as the first one was basically inedible except for a few bites.

    1. Absolutely. That's basically the only other reason for me to send steak back. It's either not cooked as ordered, or it's a crappy piece of meat. That goes back.

        1. Yes, but this has only ever happened to me at a mid-grade restaurant (above the level of a Ponderosa or Outback, but well below a Ruth's Chris or Flemings. To their credit, they were very good about brining me a new steak AND taking it off the bill. It was a local place when I was in college and did much more business with steak sandwiches than steaks.

          3 Replies
            1. re: mymomisthebestcook

              Are you joking, or have you have had a charmed life? Gristle is cartilage, it resembles, and tastes like, a white rubber band if you wind up with a chunk that avoided detection as you cut your bite (or trimmed badly for a stew or whatnot). Have you ever had a bit of rubbery 'meat' that you just could not chew through? Working your way around it, wondering what the protocol is, in polite company, to get that thing out of your mouth without attracting any attention or offending anyone? That's gristle.

              Damn gristle.

            2. re: Fydeaux

              "Yes, but this has only ever happened to me at a mid-grade restaurant (above the level of a Ponderosa or Outback, but well below a Ruth's Chris or Flemings."
              it happens at high-end places too - i've had to send back really gristly steaks at Fleming's and Mastro's. the most bizarre part is that i only ever order filet mignon, and the chances of getting a gristly steak with such a lean cut are *extremely* low.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                It wasn't me, but my companion ordered a NY Strip.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                  May I ask why? Or have you never been served a steak with too much gristle?

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I guess I haven't been served many steaks with too much tough gristle. A little bit maybe, but never too much. That said, I just don't usually send dishes back, so that may be it too.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Yep, I'm with him. I don't send food back. If it's got a bit of gristle, I eat around it. If it's inedible, I don't eat it.

                      1. re: MGZ

                        If it's inedible and you can't (or won't) eat it you still will not send it back? Really? Why?

                2. 30+ years ago on a date at the Charthouse in Malibu got a steak with a huge gristle running through the middle, couldn't even cut it. Complained to the waitress and she didn't do squat. Wrote a letter to the company and no response. Never went back to a Charthouse again.

                  1. Never, at least not with New York steak. If I got a tenderloin with gristle I might consider it. Sending a NY steak back because of too much gristle is like sending a prime rib back because of too much fat. You just cut around it.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hsk

                      If I order steak, I think it would be unreasonable to expect a diner to "cut around" anything but marbling (or fat), or the bone.

                    2. Thank you IPSE for asking the question; I to have wondered about this same thing a time or two. I was thinking it was luck of the draw - a chance you took when ordering - but now I will send it back (if necessary) with confidence.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: joe777cool

                        I don't consider it luck of the draw at all. When I'm doing the meat buying, I can tell if a steak is good or not at a glance - it's not like gristle is hidden, it's glaringly there in almost every case. So the kitchen knew they were sending it out.

                        In short, I will definitely make it known when my server checks on the table. Gristle ticks me off.

                      2. I rarely order a steak because I am so picky. I prefer it to have gristle,as well as the steak itself be medium, rare. To me the gristle is the best part.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: blacvulture

                          I can honestly say I have never heard anyone say that before. Sure, a nice fatty piece of beef can be an indulgent treat, but "the gristle is the best"? Really? I mean, do you just chew it and spit it out? swallow mostly unchewed sinew?

                          1. re: MGZ

                            Saying the gristle is the best part of a steak is comparable to saying the shell is the best part of the lobster or the pit is the best part of the avocado.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              I believe blacvulture may be referring to tendon when saying that "gristle is the best part".

                              I know when I make Chinese beef noodle soup, I look for a cut of beef (usu. beef shank) that has a good amount of tendon (collagen) so that after hours of cooking it'll break down and create that nice creamy mouthfeel.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Jeez, Counselor, I'll give you credit for at least attempting a rational defense. . . . I have no problem accepting the notion that slowly cooked tendon (sinew), ligament, hell even skin, results in some tasty melted collagen, but, come on - "best part" of a steak??

                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    Hey, I'm just trying to play nice ...

                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                    Tendons have much more elastin than collagen in them. Collagen turns delectable when provided with a long, hot, moist cooking, but elastin just turns into nasty, inedible strands akin to rubber. Tendons and silverskin should be removed before cooking.

                                1. re: blacvulture

                                  Funny, my parents use to say the same thing. I know I say the same thing about a lot of foods that my kids find just as revolting.

                                  In some professional kitchens "the best part" is used to describe the scraps or waste parts of the food, usually destined for staff meals

                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                    Oh yeah. The waste parts of steak are always a feast in professional kitchens....


                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      Well, to be fair, I think that's how flap meat and tri tip were handled way back when before they got popular. Those were the leftover cuts that the butcher handed out to its workers, or so the story goes.

                                2. I once had a steak that looked almost perfect on the outside, but when cut into, it was almost all fat. Very odd. When it was brought to the restaurant's attention, they apologized profusely and replaced it. I'm not sure what happened on the bill, as I wasn't paying. If I remember correctly, it was at a Ritz-Carlton.

                                  I don't see anything wrong with sending something back that isn't the expected quality, as long as it's within reason.

                                  1. The only time I would have done it was at a function for a committee my wife is on. So I let it slide.

                                    This was at a fairly upscale steakhouse. Everyone was served a very large ribeye steak. Now I know ribeye can have that little knof of fat in the middle, but my steak looked like half an oreo cookie. A perimeter ring of brown surrounding a giant circle of white.

                                    I know, I should have said something, but it was an awkward situation. Though it was really inexcusable for a quality steakhouse to send it out - the cook must have noticed.

                                      1. Last night my husband and I went to Longhorn in Grove City, Ohio. We overheard a conversation at the next table that I could not believe. The customer complained that his steak had too much gristle. The waiter said to them "that's marbling)" Was this a true statement? My husband's steak was gristly too. Do they just serve low-grade meat?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: bettycracker

                                          There is a difference between gristle which is fascia and marbling which is fat

                                        2. Unless food is spoiled where there is a potential health hazard from eating it I won't return food.

                                          Regarding steak specifically (one of my my favorite meals) I wouldn't return a steak for gristle. As a rule I'm a Strip kind of guy, I don't mind a little fat, but I prefer leaner cuts, it's seldom you find a very gristly strip. It's for this reason I need to know or trust a place before I would order a rib eye. That cut can be very prone to fatty pieces of gristle, especially lower quality, so as a rule I don't order them out very often.

                                          You also have to take into consideration where you are ordering a steak. If you order any cut (outside of possibly Filet) at TGIF's or Applebee's, you are taking that risk in your own. If I were to (God forbid) order a steak there you have to understand where you are and temper your expectations accordingly.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            Really? I cannot understand not returning food that is of obviously poor quality (meat that is overly fatty or grisly), improperly cooked (rare chicken or overcooked steak) or poorly prepared or inedible for other reasons (hot food served cold, excessively salty, etc.). By not doing so, you are not only doing yourself a disservice, you are not giving the restaurant the opportunity to please you, and perhaps learn from it's mistakes.

                                          2. I've never returned a steak because of gristle, though I have returned them for overcooking.

                                            I eat a lot of steak at restaurants. I have a number of pretty nasty food allergies, so often times, one of the only things that I can have at a restaurant is a grilled steak and a baked potato. Maybe I'm tolerant, but I don't typically mind having to trim a bit off if there is some gristle - I've never had a steak that had more inedible parts than edible.

                                            1. At a steakhouse (a Ruth's Chris, Morton's, Fleming's sort of place) where I'm paying at least $35-40 for a steak, I wouldn't hesitate to send back a steak that was improperly cooked, excessively grisly, tough, fatty or lacking in quality in any way. We're not talking Sizzler here. If i'm spending 50 bucks or likely much more for a steakhouse dinner, I expect reasonable quality and not a grisly steak

                                              1. I have once or twice. I remember one that I couldn't even cut. I finally wrestled a bite off and chewed it for about 20 minutes or so before I got tired.

                                                1. Tell you a funny story; goodhealth will like as like him I always order a filet because I love both the taste and the absence of gristle. So I am at a Morton's for the first time, order a filet and see a nasty "tail" of gristle at one end - wonder if it really was a filet, but I am a guest of an important client, so say nothing, and imagined it was a one-off.
                                                  Next time I'm there, on my own dime, with friends - same order, same nasty "tail" - so I gently point it out to the waiter who replies in a condescending tone, "This is how we serve it at Morton's. Of course, if you want, I COULD ask Chef to cut it off for you."

                                                  Needless to say, thenceforth I have lived quite well without Morton's in my life, and they seem to be doing just fine without me. I have steered lots of out of towners away from them since, and still wonder if the "tail" is indeed a feature as SPESHUL as the - bow, genuflect, etc - one pound baked potato that seems to be a part of their unnumbered-hours devotions....

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Bigtigger

                                                    When they were bought by Landry's the quality of food and service took a dive