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Are thin, tough, gristly steaks the norm in France?

g
gfr1111 Sep 14, 2013 11:10 AM

I just returned from France, the Alsace region. In five other trips, my girlfriend and I have spent 3 or 4 days in Alsace. In one trip, we spend 4 days in Paris. My girlfriend is (ahem) "unadventurous" about food. So she eats her way through France (well, Alsace, mostly) on steak.

We've eaten mostly at fairly expensive, respectable French restaurants--no five star places, but certainly three and four star. I have NEVER seen her receive a steak that wasn't thin, tough, gristly and expensive. She orders these medium rare, so cooking isn't the problem.

(In contrast, the food I receive is terrific.) None of these places specialize in steak, the way a New York steakhouse does. So my question is, are we just eating in the wrong places for steak? It just doesn't make sense to me that the French can do virtually everything else so well and completely and consistently blow it when it comes to steak.

What are the opinions of you French travelers and Francophiles?

  1. j
    John Francis Sep 14, 2013 11:22 AM

    Steak au poivre is made with filet mignon and isn't gristly or tough. Other than that, the French don't do much of what we call steak, they don't even have their own word for steak or beefsteak, which they call biftek. It may only be on the menu for the benefit of American tourists. When in France I've never eaten steak, so I couldn't say what's normal about how the French cook it. No doubt someone else here can.

    As for the price, in France they slaughter the animals young for veal, and I suppose relatively few are allowed to grow into beef - and maybe not the pick of the herd at that.

    15 Replies
    1. re: John Francis
      g
      gfr1111 Sep 15, 2013 06:35 AM

      John,

      I guess what astounds me most is that this is a culture that has devoted countless hours to making virtually everything that walks on hooves delicious. (It has spent more countless hours making most other things delicious. The French are culinary geniuses.) And yet, here is one of the most prominent food sources in the world--prized throughout the world--and the French seem to have blown off the whole concept of making it edible, at least in its simplest presentation. (They do a great job with more complicated, longer cooked presentations, e.g., beef bourguignon.)

      I anticipated that the answer I would receive from this board would be that I was eating in the wrong places and that the French prepared incredible grilled and pan-cooked steak. Apparently, that is not the case.

      This is akin to the slugger who plasters baseballs into the stand routinely but cannot hit a curveball.

      I will suggest the steak au poivre to her the next time we go to France (at least a year away from now), but I do note that she ordered the steak au poivre at one place this time and it wasn't filet mignon, but rather, the same half or three quarters inch thick chewing gum-like steak, which she received all over the place. (It tasted great, but you just couldn't swallow it.)

      1. re: gfr1111
        PhilD Sep 15, 2013 07:00 AM

        Just because its different and your gf didn't find it to her taste doesn't make it wrong. The French do many things differently some will be to your taste others not - that's the beauty of travel and experiencing other cultures.

        I find US bread far too sweet for my taste (there are rare exception from artisan places). But all I do is avoid bread in the US - I simply assume its sweet because that's the local taste it's not because Americans don't know to bake.

        1. re: gfr1111
          s
          Steve Sep 15, 2013 03:30 PM

          You have taken the responses at least a bit wrong. First, a good steak frites can be very nice, but it will not be to American expectations. Lots of people love it, but it is not a 'safe' order for people who expect soft meat with a kind of thickly fatty flavor that gets cooked medium or more. The steak will probably come out blue, and you may have to send it back twice if you want it cooked medium. At that point, it will be overcooked.

          "The French are culinary geniuses." The Chinese, Bengali, Vietnamese, Thai, and many others are not exactly chopped liver - or should I say paté.

          "one of the most prominent food sources in the world--prized throughout the world" The Kenyans and Ethiopians I know don't like our beef. They are used to naturally raised animals, and they object to the fatty residue of flavor that is part of the aftertaste of USA steak.

          1. re: Steve
            g
            gfr1111 Sep 18, 2013 04:40 AM

            Steve,

            Yes, the French are culinary geniuses. So are the Chinese. Food critics around the world recognize the genius of the French, the Chinese, and the Italians. The Bengali, Vietnamese and Thai certainly have a lot of good dishes, but food critics around the world don't praise them the way they do the top three.

            When I said, "one of the most prominent food sources in the world--prized throughout the world," I meant that beef was so esteemed, not necessarily that American beef was so esteemed. My point was that the French have no problem coming up with great dishes using lamb, pork, venison, rabbit, etc., but seem to have a blind spot about beef steaks. Whatever you feed the animals, I am not convinced that tough, chewy, and gristly are ever desirable qualities.

            1. re: gfr1111
              s
              Steve Sep 18, 2013 07:22 AM

              The gristly is because the restaurant is bad and serving a bad product. Chewy is something that can be a preference.

              The French don't go out for steak dinner like we do in America. It's a different product with a different flavor profile.

              I don't give a whit about unhelpful (and dubious) generalizations like "Food critics around the world recognize the genius of the French." There's too much fantastic food elsewhere for that to have any practical meaning for me. However, if it were to have any meaning, then it would be for more complex dishes than steak frites. it would be geared toward game, charcuterie, other animal parts, sauces, breads and pastries, herbs, and fresh vegetables.

              When I have a nice vinegary museau with cornichons served in the Auvergne, then I am more likely to appreciate the genius of the French.

              1. re: Steve
                t
                Tom34 Sep 18, 2013 08:51 AM

                "Different product with a different flavor profile" ......Very well put.

                A mild flavored highly marbled US steak from a younger animal that was finished on a feedlot would tend not to stand up to many french sauces.

                A grass finished steak would tend to be drier & considerably more chewy than a highly marbled US feedlot steak that came from a younger animal when cooked over direct high heat with no finishing sauce.

                1. re: Steve
                  sunshine842 Sep 18, 2013 09:02 AM

                  The French don't go out for steak dinner like we do in America.

                  Courtepaille and Hippopotamus would beg to differ.

                  1. re: sunshine842
                    s
                    Steve Sep 18, 2013 11:01 AM

                    My knowledge is apparently limited; you're right, but consider this:

                    If you wanted to eat nothing but big slabs of steak every night in the US, you could do so by going exclusively to seafood restaurants - yes, they usually offer steak too.

                    1. re: Steve
                      sunshine842 Sep 18, 2013 05:47 PM

                      I have no idea what you're trying to say.

                      Courtepaille, Hippopotamus, and Buffalo Grill are steak places where you can go and get a steak dinner.

                      They're all extremely popular, and can be found in every corner of the country.

                    2. re: sunshine842
                      Busk Sep 18, 2013 01:28 PM

                      The French love Buffalo grill, don't they?

                      1. re: Busk
                        sunshine842 Sep 18, 2013 05:46 PM

                        that they do -- I forgot that one in my list.

              2. re: gfr1111
                p
                Ptipois Sep 18, 2013 08:21 AM

                I haven't yet taken the time to read all the responses but yes, of course, you've been ordering steak in the wrong places (i.e. the starred restaurants). Although I am not quite sure what you mean by four or five stars — there is one, two and three stars, nothing above.

                Steak is part of the culture in France but not in the same way as it is in North America.
                And starred restaurants with tasting menus and sophisticated cooking are the worst places to order it. It is usually not on their menus. It might well be something they patched up hastily because someone unexpectedly ordered it (nobody ever orders steak at posh Michelin places) and, having stars and all, they feel compelled to deliver.

                Steak in France is simple food, family food, weekend food, bistrot food. If you had stopped in a corner brasserie and had asked an entrecôte sauce roquefort, you probably would have had far better meat.
                And I am not even mentioning the French 'steak houses' and the restaurants specializing in meat. When they're good, they're really good.

                1. re: Ptipois
                  g
                  gfr1111 Sep 19, 2013 03:58 AM

                  Hi, Ptipois,

                  Thanks for all your comments. I have a much better understanding now of French steaks. As for the stars I assigned to the French restaurants, I was just trying to give the reader a sense of the relative quality rating of these restaurants, from an American perspective. I was unaware that there was an official French rating system for restaurants, although I guess that I should not have been, since there is one for French hotels.

                  1. re: gfr1111
                    PhilD Sep 19, 2013 05:00 AM

                    Are you reallly not aware of the Michelin guides and their star system..?

                    1. re: gfr1111
                      s
                      Steve Sep 19, 2013 05:24 AM

                      There is no official rating system like for hotels. Anyone can give out stars if they choose. You can personally rank something with twenty stars, go ahead!

                      However, the Michelin tire company long ago got into the business of promoting travel, and as a mainstay of that is a rating system for certain kinds of restaurants. One, two, or three stars. Very few places even get one star, so it's not like every place is rated. If you open up your own deli in Paris, don't expect the Michelin inspectors to come knocking on your door. There are about 50 one-star places in Paris.

                      The system has gained enough notoriety that when you talk about a 'starred restaurant' in Paris, you are talking specifically about Michelin unless otherwise noted. Many publications have their own system, and when people talk about them they will sometimes say "2 stars from the NY TImes." Or similar.

                      If you care about that sort of thing... then that's the sort of thing you care about.

              3. Busk Sep 14, 2013 11:27 AM

                It is at bad places.

                We can tell you where you can get a steak in France that doesnt suck.

                16 Replies
                1. re: Busk
                  PhilD Sep 14, 2013 04:44 PM

                  So true. And also how you order it. Sounds like you should ask for advice.

                  1. re: PhilD
                    mangeur Sep 14, 2013 05:15 PM

                    I was almost always served overcooked steak in France. A renown Chow taught me to order it "bleu mais chaud", which works. Another brilliant guru swears by "crusty bleu". But I think that my accent might blow that one.

                    We don't want to talk about overcooked liver...

                    1. re: mangeur
                      v
                      VaPaula Sep 14, 2013 05:54 PM

                      Me, too, regarding overcooked, not because I didn't know how to order, but I do think some restaurants make sweeping generalizations about their clientele. I looked/sounded American, therefore I like my steak more done. Not true! The one time I tried to order it bleu, figuring they'd size me up and cook it more- well they cooked it perfectly as ordered! Go figure. I gave up after that, but I may try some of these tips-thanks,

                      For me, it's like Asian restaurants here at home. They're faced with a pale white chick and dumb down the spice. Big mistake.

                      1. re: mangeur
                        John Talbott Sep 15, 2013 07:37 AM

                        I ask for black/burned on the exterior, blue in the interior.

                        1. re: John Talbott
                          mangeur Sep 15, 2013 09:48 AM

                          That's Julot's Crousty Bleu.

                        2. re: mangeur
                          p
                          Ptipois Sep 18, 2013 08:26 AM

                          "Crousti-bleu" if you want to pronounce it properly (in France, that is).

                        3. re: PhilD
                          g
                          gfr1111 Sep 15, 2013 06:15 AM

                          Hi, PhilD. I'm asking for advice. How should I order the steak?
                          Thanks, gfr1111.

                          1. re: gfr1111
                            PhilD Sep 15, 2013 06:40 AM

                            Know the cuts as others have said, and accept the French like their steaks different.

                            For example Onglet is a great tasty cut but if ain't a US cut so is tougher but to me better flavours. It's also common and as "hanger steak" getting more common outside France for people who know their steak. That said gristle is probably a sign you chose a bad restaurant so more careful selection would be good.

                            I always order "a point" for a medium rare, and if possible select a place with a good reputation for their beef - often named on the menu.

                            Also French restaurant don't go past 3 stars so not certain where the three/four star comment comes from?

                        4. re: Busk
                          g
                          gfr1111 Sep 15, 2013 06:13 AM

                          Hi, Busk:

                          Thanks for commenting. So please do tell me where I can get a steak in France that doesn't suck.

                          Thanks,

                          gfr1111

                          1. re: gfr1111
                            Busk Sep 15, 2013 08:50 AM

                            In Paris, you want to order the cote de boeuf at a place like Chez l'Ami Jean.

                            I was also surprised by how good the cote de boeuf was at Astier in April. I was expecting an average meal, but they really did an excellent job with steak.

                            There are a lot of places, but these are two steaks i've had recently that were epic. I'd also try to order them on the rare side of medium rare which would probably be how the house would cook it if left to their own designs.

                            1. re: Busk
                              g
                              gfr1111 Sep 19, 2013 03:46 AM

                              Thanks, Busk.

                            2. re: gfr1111
                              p
                              Ptipois Sep 18, 2013 08:35 AM

                              So you want good steak or côte de bœuf?

                              In Paris, just to name the most obvious:

                              Le Severo
                              Le Bis de Severo
                              Chez l'Ami Jean (when they do have beef)
                              Charbon Rouge
                              La Maison de l'Aubrac
                              Christophe
                              Atelier Vivanda
                              L'Ami Louis (to the others: yes I know. But you should go only for the côte de bœuf. Caveat emptor: I'm not sure it's worth the torture of being there.)
                              Chez Denise/La Tour de Montlhéry
                              Astier
                              Le Bistrot Paul Bert
                              Robert et Louise
                              Bistrot Capucine
                              Beaucoup
                              Café des Musées
                              Les Pipos
                              L'AOC
                              etc.

                              And most big corner brasseries and some cafés serve decent entrecôte. This is also true outside of Paris.
                              Why, even the rather pedestrian Café Parisien down my street serves good entrecôte. Beef has become far better in recent years than it was before, during the charolais-über-alles era when beef was always too young, too lean and impossible to age. Now finally good beef from more marbled breeds (simmental, aubrac, limousine, normande) is again becoming available and it is really good. France is one of the few countries where the beef culture revolves around heirloom bovine breeds. Just don't order it in Michelin joints that are not prepared to serve it right, that's all. If you want cassoulet or grilled sausages you don't go to Pierre Gagnaire for that.

                              1. re: Ptipois
                                John Talbott Sep 20, 2013 06:15 AM

                                Pti's list is a real service; but in thinking of where I'd want to return, a thought that stimulates the gastric juices, there's something about the atmosphere and décor or lack of it at both Hugo Desnoyer's new joint in the 16th and the Atelier Vivanda that's more butchery/butcherblockery/meateatery.

                                1. re: Ptipois
                                  John Talbott Sep 28, 2013 01:05 PM

                                  "Atelier Vivanda"
                                  Carrier Pigeon arrived - ah you're all too young to know what that means - Google it - with the message that the master-owner-chef Akrame Benallal has let go the line guy and salle woman (who was today at Lazare) so let's have some reports on this great place.

                                  1. re: John Talbott
                                    Laidback Oct 3, 2013 12:03 AM

                                    4 of us went last week and tried 3 different meats; pork chop, veal chop for 2 and a pièce de boeuf. All were above average but we felt not as good as the same thing the week before at Hugo Desnoyer's new shop in the 16th and Desnoyer was there in person serving large orders of complimentary charcuterie of excellent quality then placing one of his terrines on the table to serve yourself before the gargantuan cuts of meat that we had ordered arrived. I am a trencherman of moderate repute as my girth indicates and there was no way everything got eaten but they graciously prepared doggie bags for take home.

                                    Back to topic, Atelier Vivenda was good, filled to capacity, but we would have been more impressed had we not just been to Desnoyer.

                              2. re: Busk
                                g
                                gfr1111 Sep 18, 2013 04:26 AM

                                Thanks, Busk,

                                Where?

                              3. t
                                Tom34 Sep 14, 2013 11:40 AM

                                I can't comment specifically to steak served in France but much of the beef served in Europe is from grass finished animals which is typically not as tender as beef that is grain finished on a feed lot which is where the majority of North American beef comes from.

                                1. mangeur Sep 14, 2013 12:54 PM

                                  Unfortunately, the reliable steak in France, a huge, thick, juicy rib steak, is usually served for 2 people. So you would have to forgo your adventure in order to help her out.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: mangeur
                                    Delucacheesemonger Sep 14, 2013 05:23 PM

                                    That is the exact answer. l will not even bother to mention my choice of restaurant for that cut, as it has been maligned too much.
                                    lt is my single favorite meal in the world, and l rarely eat beef.

                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                      g
                                      gfr1111 Sep 18, 2013 04:26 AM

                                      Thanks, Delucacheesemonger,

                                      Where can we find this steak?

                                      1. re: gfr1111
                                        Delucacheesemonger Sep 18, 2013 09:05 AM

                                        It is one of Ptipois choices above, l go no further..

                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                          p
                                          Ptipois Sep 19, 2013 02:13 AM

                                          Only for the côte de bœuf. It is indeed exceptional there, while not the best in Paris.

                                        2. re: gfr1111
                                          PBSF Sep 18, 2013 03:07 PM

                                          I'll be bold; the restaurant Delucacheesemonger refer to is L'Ami Louis, a controversial, polarizing bistro on this board.

                                          1. re: PBSF
                                            John Talbott Sep 18, 2013 07:11 PM

                                            "L'Ami Louis, a controversial, polarizing bistro on this board."
                                            Well said.
                                            1111 - go to one of Pti's other choices,
                                            Bis de Severo
                                            Charbon Rouge
                                            La Maison de l'Aubrac
                                            Christophe
                                            Atelier Vivanda
                                            and the beat goes on.
                                            The problem with L'Ami louis is well, oh, it doesn't matter.

                                            1. re: John Talbott
                                              mangeur Sep 18, 2013 08:06 PM

                                              1111, listen to the man. Or, the men.

                                              But just to put these recs in context, if your girlfriend insists on ordering "steak for one" and requesting it "medium rare", she is going to continue to be served the same old, same old. To quote you, "thin, tough, gristly and expensive." Cooking IS the problem. These steaks shouldn't be cooked past rare.

                                              To repeat, the most reliable steak is the cote de boeuf cooked bleu. You will have to share her order as these are cut to serve two people.

                                              Go to any of the restaurants M. Talbott or Ptipois has recommended, order appropriately and you should be well served. If you have sufficient means and enough attitude to cut through the service issues at DCM's L'Ami Louis, you should be very well satisfied.

                                              1. re: mangeur
                                                p
                                                Ptipois Sep 19, 2013 02:16 AM

                                                It is quite possible to get an entrecôte for one in most of the restaurants I mentioned. It will be a large, thick one, and now that you can get sufficiently marbled meat you can order it medium-rare, it will still be edible.

                                                The best place for that is Charbon Rouge, which serves beef from several breeds and origins, so you can control your "marbré" and decide on the doneness accordingly. They do have Australian wagyu, Argentinian beef, Limousine from France, Simmental from Bavaria, etc. - and it's all on the menu.

                                                I have a special fondness for the house-produced and house-aged beef at La Maison de l'Aubrac, recently I had a côte de bœuf there and it was stellar.

                                              2. re: John Talbott
                                                g
                                                gfr1111 Sep 19, 2013 03:41 AM

                                                Thanks, John Talbott, Ptipois, and Delucacheesemonger.

                                                I will keep this list for the next time we go to Paris. (I've only been there once before in my life.) Mystery solved! I am intrigued by the story behind L'Ami Louis but perhaps that is best saved for another thread.

                                                1. re: gfr1111
                                                  p
                                                  Ptipois Sep 20, 2013 08:00 AM

                                                  About L'Ami Louis, just google "A. A. Gill" and "l'ami Louis" and you'll find a detailed explanation.

                                        3. re: mangeur
                                          John Talbott Sep 15, 2013 07:41 AM

                                          1111; I think you might change your mind if you and she shared a good Cote de Boeuf, what US butchers understand as a "single rib cut."

                                        4. i
                                          INDIANRIVERFL Sep 14, 2013 01:05 PM

                                          For all the gustatorial reasons to go to France, steak is way down on my list. That being said, I have had some wonderful entrecote in a variety of bistros from Verdun through Strassbourg to Lyon.

                                          And the red housewine was always enjoyable.

                                          Next time have her try the chicken.

                                          1. s
                                            Steve Sep 14, 2013 04:07 PM

                                            If a steak is grisly it just means that it's a bad place to eat.

                                            The irony is that steak in France for the non-Chowhound is NOT a safe order. The French like their steaks bleu, and they use meat that is chewier than what you get in the USA.

                                            I often read the advice of 'just order steak-frites', but it is rarely a good strategy for people who are used to steak in the USA and want to eat something familiar.

                                            1. sunshine842 Sep 14, 2013 06:34 PM

                                              French steaks aren't aged...and they come from animals that have walked around their entire lives, so the muscles are far better developed...so yes, they're on the chewy side.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: sunshine842
                                                sistereurope Sep 14, 2013 09:21 PM

                                                Great explanation Sunshine. I find that I prefer steaks rarer (somewhere between rare and medium rare) in France (in the US I order medium rare always). I think your description is right on, the steaks in France are chewier but to me more flavorable than most restaurant steaks here. We actually had a really flavorable, rich steak frites meal in a small town in the Bearn, local grass-fed Blonde beef, that was all of 13e for a 3 course meal,,,blew away most restaurant steaks I've ever had here. I think the texture could put some off because it was definitely chewy. But flavor-wise it was deicous.

                                                1. re: sunshine842
                                                  t
                                                  theskyflyer Sep 14, 2013 10:11 PM

                                                  I over-hyped Le Severo (Paris) to my family members -- for them, it was quite a let down when we dined. My nephew even whispered 'Ruth Chris or Outback has nicer steaks'

                                                  I agreed that steak is not the best choice in France.

                                                  1. re: theskyflyer
                                                    p
                                                    parisjo Sep 15, 2013 05:10 AM

                                                    We had a wonderfully tender cote de boeuf for 2 at Robert et Louise a few years ago (but then both hubby and I like our steaks blue).

                                                  2. re: sunshine842
                                                    sunshine842 Sep 15, 2013 07:48 AM

                                                    I had good success buying bavette, filet, or faux-filet from a boucherie, where I could have the guys cut it a little thicker than the French norm.

                                                    Ironically, I found that the cheaper French cuts were usually well-marbled and more tender than onglet and the similar cuts usually found on French menus. (I did a quick saute with garlic and butter most nights)

                                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                                      John Talbott Sep 15, 2013 08:06 AM

                                                      "cheaper French cuts were usually well-marbled and more tender"
                                                      Confession time. Last week on impulse, a need for steak impulse, I bought the cheapest piece of beef in my Franprix downstairs, thinking I can toss it if it stinks - no, it was great.

                                                      1. re: John Talbott
                                                        Busk Sep 15, 2013 08:57 AM

                                                        Recently, I blew $US 100 on a deboned 3kg cote de boeuf from a butcher at Richard Lenoir market, and it was epic with a 2005 Clos Rene pomerol.

                                                        1. re: John Talbott
                                                          sunshine842 Sep 15, 2013 08:57 AM

                                                          yes -- it was a bit of a learning curve! But hey -- great-tasting steaks that just happen to be cheap? Yay!

                                                        2. re: sunshine842
                                                          Rio Yeti Sep 16, 2013 05:46 AM

                                                          I now buy my meat directly from a farm (through a "Ruche qui dit Oui", which, to make things short, connects people with produces coming directly from farms).

                                                          All pieces usually come as "two pieces of *something*". What I do now is contact the farm before the delivery, and ask them for one thicker piece, rather than the two thin ones...

                                                          Besides everything that's been mentioned (grass fed, chewy etc.), french butchers and restaurants do serve thin steaks, which is really a mystery to me as all my friends (french and others) prefer thicker cuts which are easier to cook evenly...

                                                      2. mangeur Sep 15, 2013 08:09 PM

                                                        We have at the moment 26 replies, none of which really provide a solution to your girlfriend's dining problems. Simply put, steak for one is a dicey order, while the more reliable order requires that you share her plate and forgo your larger French experience.

                                                        Easy for me to say, but I will suggest that France is one place where the unadventurous often find that green eggs and ham, prepared by an inspired chef, are really rather good, are, in fact, fabulous. It's worth the suggestion on a future visit. Worked for several trepid diners in our family.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: mangeur
                                                          Delucacheesemonger Sep 16, 2013 01:37 AM

                                                          Right at the heart, for very many years, have not ordered a steak for one in this country, but often a steak for two of us, generally works.

                                                        2. l
                                                          lemarais Sep 16, 2013 08:10 AM

                                                          American-style steaks can be had in France at the roadside chain called Courtepaille.

                                                          However, a french steak is a nice experience, as has been said, quite differently prepared than an American steak. Different culture, different tastes. Mostly pan cooked. My favorite is Cote de Boeuf. Best place for this steak in Paris, is, hands down, Robert et Louise in the 4th.

                                                          11 Replies
                                                          1. re: lemarais
                                                            f
                                                            francaise Sep 16, 2013 05:41 PM

                                                            We passed on the Cote de Boeuf at Robert et Louise when we were there recently, as they told us their beef was not of French origin, but was from eastern Europe. However, our Sunday lunch was most enjoyable. Instead, we had escargots in their shells grilled over the fire, duck confit, boudin with apple compote and rognon de veau.

                                                            1. re: francaise
                                                              Yank Sep 17, 2013 02:28 AM

                                                              Our best local steak place imports their beef from Germany, hangs it and butchers it themselves.

                                                              The place is always full of customers!

                                                              Good decent steaks.

                                                              1. re: Yank
                                                                linguafood Sep 18, 2013 10:27 AM

                                                                That's interesting. I can't remember ever having had a good German steak!

                                                                1. re: linguafood
                                                                  sunshine842 Sep 18, 2013 05:49 PM

                                                                  there used to be a good Argentinian steak place in the Altstadt in Koeln...I think it's gone now (I didn't make that choice, my hosts did.)

                                                                  But it could be argued that they weren't really German steaks...because they were all imported from Argentina.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                                    linguafood Sep 19, 2013 09:45 AM

                                                                    El Gaucho. Some of the best steaks I've eaten.

                                                                    And yes, Argentinian beef (as with most steak chains in Germany - Maredo and Blockhouse come to mind), which I prefer over US beef.

                                                                    1. re: linguafood
                                                                      sunshine842 Sep 19, 2013 06:56 PM

                                                                      there's an Argentinian butcher in Miami -- we go there every time we visit friends. Yes, it is fabulous beef -- tender AND flavorful.

                                                                  2. re: linguafood
                                                                    p
                                                                    Ptipois Sep 19, 2013 02:17 AM

                                                                    Simmental beef from Germany is some of the most remarkable meat that can be had. It is sometimes available at the Boucheries Nivernaises. Extremely marbled AND tasty.

                                                                    1. re: Ptipois
                                                                      linguafood Sep 19, 2013 09:46 AM

                                                                      Oh, if you look long and hard, and are willing to pay crazy amounts of money -- yes, you *can* find good beef in Germany.

                                                                      But generally, the steaks just aren't great.

                                                                      1. re: linguafood
                                                                        t
                                                                        tmso Sep 20, 2013 01:02 AM

                                                                        I would be willing to bet that's just the typical regional variation in Germany.

                                                                        In Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, I've eaten plenty of very good beef. It's a very similar situation to France, in a sense; it's even less likely to be eaten in the form of a simple steak, but if that's what you want, you can find a good entrecôte without any trouble. But the beef in those Rinderbraten is often excellent.

                                                                        1. re: tmso
                                                                          Yank Sep 20, 2013 02:16 AM

                                                                          The only good steak house in our part of France is owned & run by a Basque family.

                                                                          They bring their beef in from Germany. They bring in whole carcasses & do their own ageing in their walk in cold room.

                                                                          I think its the ageing that's lacking in so much of French beef.
                                                                          Obviously there are taste differences due to breed of cow, grass fed vs corn fed, but I think ageing is the key factor in tenderness.

                                                                          1. re: Yank
                                                                            sunshine842 Sep 20, 2013 04:05 AM

                                                                            I agree with you.

                                                            2. ChefJune Sep 17, 2013 07:42 AM

                                                              We had luscious steak frites at Aux Tonneaux des Halles last November. Whatever cut they use, it wasn't gristly nor tough. Steaks in France are grass fed, so they are going to be chewier than the mush most Americans seem to prefer. And this was definitely a neighbothood "joint," not a high end restaurant.

                                                              18 Replies
                                                              1. re: ChefJune
                                                                t
                                                                Tom34 Sep 17, 2013 06:19 PM

                                                                All steer are grass fed, and I agree that grass "finished" is chewier but I disagree that high quality American feedlot grain/corn "finished" beef is "Mushy". Based on what the Japanese are willing to pay for it, I don't think the Japanese think its mushy either. Neither do the Saudis or other extremely wealthy Middle Eastern Countries who's imports of high quality American feedlot finished beef increase every year.

                                                                1. re: Tom34
                                                                  sunshine842 Sep 17, 2013 07:23 PM

                                                                  put 'em side by side -- I wouldn't say 'mushy', but there's a significant difference in texture.

                                                                  There is no feedlot system in France. The cows walk around until the day they're loaded on the truck to go to the abattoir.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                                    t
                                                                    Tom34 Sep 18, 2013 06:35 AM

                                                                    Yeah, definitely a different texture and without a feedlot often inconsistent flavor depending on many factors such as breed, region raised, type and maturity of grass finished on.......

                                                                    I think cooking styles are also important factors as well. High value cuts of nicely marbled feedlot North American Beef require no marination & finish very nicely over high direct heat with minimal seasoning which is arguably the most common way it is prepared in the US. The finished protein is also not typically competing with a finishing sauce. If it were, the milder beef flavor would likely be overpowered.

                                                                    1. re: Tom34
                                                                      sunshine842 Sep 18, 2013 09:06 AM

                                                                      Not inconsistent flavour - incredibly consistent flavor, because it's breed-specific. Grocery stores have different refrigerated cases for different breed, and many restaurants group their menus by breed. People choose their dinner on breed on a regular basis.

                                                                      French beef has fantastic flavor -- and with a little homework, can produce a meal at least on par with the finest filet mignon at any steakhouse in the country.

                                                                      (ironically, buying "filet mignon" in France will net you pork nearly 100% of the time)

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842
                                                                        t
                                                                        Tom34 Sep 18, 2013 10:54 AM

                                                                        Thats my whole point with grass finished beef, flavor varies dramatically as a whole depending on Breed, region, grass & grass maturity shortly before slaughter. Great for locals who over time get to know the different flavors different breeds and regions bring to the table. For the US traveler who is used to the tender, juicy consistently mild flavor of US feedlot beef, the experience might not be to their liking.

                                                                        1. re: Tom34
                                                                          w
                                                                          wally Sep 18, 2013 01:42 PM

                                                                          That is what everyone has been saying. You're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

                                                                        2. re: sunshine842
                                                                          p
                                                                          Ptipois Sep 19, 2013 02:20 AM

                                                                          That's right. Filet mignon in France is exclusively pork. There is no such term for a beef cut.

                                                                          1. re: Ptipois
                                                                            sunshine842 Sep 19, 2013 06:57 PM

                                                                            I saw it just once, marked "filet mignon de boeuf" Never saw it again, even at that boucherie.

                                                                            They were asking the moon and stars for it, so I passed.

                                                                    2. re: Tom34
                                                                      m
                                                                      mr_gimlet Sep 17, 2013 09:09 PM

                                                                      What is this, the American Beef Board rapid response social media team? No-one has used the word 'mushy' in this thread, so I don't know who you think you are disagreeing with.

                                                                      I'm sure Japanese and Saudi customers enjoy their US beef. I'm also sure they enjoy their Canadian, Brazilian and Australian beef.

                                                                      Going back to this thread, most French beef will be grass finished and so will have more texture. If you prefer an extremely tender steak, then you are going to be disappointed in France.

                                                                      1. re: mr_gimlet
                                                                        t
                                                                        Tom34 Sep 18, 2013 06:00 AM

                                                                        Dear Mr. gi miet,

                                                                        The term most definitely was used by Chef June so therefore I know exactly who I was disagreeing with and she is specifically to whom my "reply" was directed. Might I suggest you re-read the third line of her post keeping a keen eye out for the word mush..

                                                                        I agree with you that the Japanese & Saudis also enjoy highly marbled Canadian AAA feedlot beef as they pay quite a bit for that too.

                                                                        Back to the thread, grass finished will not only tend to be more chewy, the flavor can also vary greatly depending on many factors to include breed, region raised, type & maturity of grass.

                                                                        1. re: Tom34
                                                                          sunshine842 Sep 18, 2013 09:07 AM

                                                                          See my comments upthread about breed....and terroir is highly-treasured by the French in all things, including meat.

                                                                          1. re: Tom34
                                                                            ChefJune Sep 18, 2013 10:00 AM

                                                                            Perhaps "mushy" was not the best choice of terms, but some feedlot beef definitely is that.

                                                                            Tom34, you are very welcome to eat all the feedlot beef you like. I won't be joining you.

                                                                            1. re: ChefJune
                                                                              t
                                                                              Tom34 Sep 18, 2013 10:42 AM

                                                                              Mushy texture is not a feedlot issue. It usually results from poor handling after slaughter. It can also occur when tenderizers are used by low budget retailers or low budget restaurants to make the bottom of the Select grade tender. Mushy is rarely if ever associated with High Choice or Prime.

                                                                              I will have to be honest with you June, some of the best steak I have eaten has been grass finished. Unfortunately, so has most of the worst steak I have ever eaten. My neck of the woods has both consistency & price problems with grass finished.

                                                                              1. re: Tom34
                                                                                sunshine842 Sep 18, 2013 05:50 PM

                                                                                well, then you keep yourself out there with all those corn-fed, feed-lot cows and don't ever venture to somewhere the cows actually *use* their muscles.

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                  t
                                                                                  Tom34 Sep 18, 2013 06:31 PM

                                                                                  Come on Sunshine, all steer use their muscles on the range, the feedlot bunch just don't use them for the last 30 to 60 days before slaughter.

                                                                                  1. re: Tom34
                                                                                    sunshine842 Sep 18, 2013 08:56 PM

                                                                                    French cattle are frequently 5-7 years old at slaughter, are never sent to a feedlot, and aren't pumped full of chemicals designed to keep the meat tender and fatty.

                                                                                    It's not even a discussion.

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                      t
                                                                                      Tom34 Sep 19, 2013 04:44 AM

                                                                                      Do they tuck them in at night and read them a bedtime story too :-)

                                                                                      1. re: Tom34
                                                                                        sunshine842 Sep 19, 2013 06:58 PM

                                                                                        No, that's the American ones. French cattle write their own books -- about philosophy, natch.

                                                                    3. Parnassien Sep 18, 2013 01:41 PM

                                                                      Just a little aside. When I lived in San Francisco, I was often astounded by how quickly Americans consume steaks... huge bits are carved out, chewed a bit, and swallowed. Me, I cut my meat into very small pieces because I am used to chewier French steaks... and the smaller the piece the easier to eat. So maybe it's not the meat but the mechanics of eating it that is more important.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Parnassien
                                                                        ChefJune Sep 19, 2013 10:19 AM

                                                                        Parn: notice again. Most Americans eat all their food very rapidly. I think that's directly related to the desire for enormous plates piled high with food...

                                                                        1. re: ChefJune
                                                                          Busk Sep 20, 2013 12:36 PM

                                                                          I blame Cookie Monster.

                                                                      2. j
                                                                        jarona Sep 20, 2013 12:47 PM

                                                                        The steak we buy in France from the boucherie is always really, really, really good! My s/o and his family call it "bifstick"..or something that sounds like that. I love the way it is presented with that little ribbon of white fat. Yum. Seriously, the steak I've had there is tender and better-tasting than any steak I've had here.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: jarona
                                                                          i
                                                                          INDIANRIVERFL Oct 3, 2013 05:49 AM

                                                                          Did the shop have a horse head over the door? That may explain the difference.

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