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MEAT DONENESS -- then and now

When you were growing up, how "done" were the steaks your family ate?

Did your parents cook them differently for the kids vs. for themselves?

How do you order steak nowadays?

I grew up with "medium" as my dad's default doneness, and that's what we ate. Now, I usually order "medium-rare."

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  1. My parents rarely (ever?) ate steak. But generally speaking, meat was cooked to medium or beyond, without benefit of a meat thermometer.

    My husband freaks out about pink meat, except for steak which we both like medium rare. Don't let the guy cook pork!

    2 Replies
      1. re: tcamp

        Yes, they were afraid of Trichinosis. Nowadays we can eat pork with a pink center, though lots of people still freak out.

      2. I grew up eating them RARE!!! As in 'walk the cow past the fire and slice.' That's how Daddy cooked them and how we all loved them. Still do.

        1. Steak was a rarity in my house. When we had them at all, it was one large flank steak or sirloin steak broiled under the oven. It was sliced or cut into pieces, respectively, for the entire family of 6. It was somewhere between medium and well. Meat thermometer? What was that?

          In my first marriage, my then-husband wanted his rare - bloody rare and I ate them that way for a while. These days, I prefer mine medium to slightly medium rare. And I mostly eat ribeye or hanger steak, with the occasional flat iron if I can find it.

          4 Replies
          1. re: mcsheridan

            Lots of good memories of one of my uncles buying one or two bone- in sirloin steaks....at least 1/1/2-2 inch thick...They would have a piece of filet sometimes as big as your hand. Cooked over wood coals on one of the old brick and mortar BBQ pits....the only light was a yellow light bulb over the pit. No Therm-O-Meter...just by feel, and looks. Sliced, it/they would feed several friends and neighbors. ~~ I bought and cooked many 'long bone' sirloins until they became very scarce. Now I like a very thick porterhouse, rib-eye, or when I can find a good specimen, a thick cut top sirloin....cooked medium rare.

            1. re: Uncle Bob

              The two things I remember most about those broiled steaks: the smell of the cooking meat & getting a piece with the crispy fat - OMG.

              My younger sister was a frail thing then; my father poured the jus from the platter into a small cup for her.

              1. re: mcsheridan

                When I was a kid, the jus left in the broiler pan was used to sop bread in. We called it dunk em.

            2. re: mcsheridan

              Very similar experience though it wasn't really a rarity in our house. But "steak night" generally meant Mom broiling a chuck steak (or, if on special, a sirloin)for the five of us. Always medium rare. She often basted it with a mixture of melted butter, Worstershire (sp) and chopped scallions. I luuurved the caramelized scallion bits. The other steak night involved a flank steak marinated in vegetable oil, soy sauce and garlic powder, sometimes broiled, sometimes sauteed, sometimes grilled. Very rare, sliced veeery thin on the bias.

              I had sleep apnea misdiagnosed throughout childhood (late 60s and 70s) as anemia so I are lots o' red meat and other iron-rich foods. Plus my dad had starved as a child so food was big in our house -- kids ate the same stuff as adults with a few exceptions. My mom cooked every day and we seldom ate out. I remember the first time I had my own steak, I was maybe 14 and we were at a nice but not fancy restaurant. It was one of those softball-shaped top sirloins, medium rar all the way through, brushed with a teriyaki glaze. Came with great housemade shoestring fries.

            3. When I was younger pork, fish and chicken well done. Steak medium well for everyone.

              Now, everything medium rare for my parents, raw to medium rare for me.

              Edit: oops went beyond steak. In the past steak was medium well now medium rare for parents and rare to medium rare for me.

              1. Steak was a restaurant treat when I was growing up and back then the default cooking temperature for children's orders was well-done irrespective of what was requested.

                Now it depends on the cut of cow, but anywhere between raw to rare. Occasionally medium-rare if I'm sharing, and that's because of the other person.

                3 Replies
                1. re: wattacetti

                  If that's what restaurants did it sounds like contempt verging on cruelty to children. About as unprofessional as I can possibly imagine. Such experiences could leave the poor children quite upset - and possibly put them off meat (or at least restaurants) for life. I can't see any possible justification anyone could put forward for this practice.

                  As for my own upbringing, red meats except pork were rare. Pork would have been medium - cooked but not dry. Poultry was cooked through but generally not overcooked.

                  Personal preference is:

                  Beef - except for stews and pot-roasts, as rare as it can be made. But not cold in the centre (this tricky balancing act, not even begun to cook, but warmed just above room temperature, does require split-second timing). I do love raw beef too.

                  Lamb - "normal" rare - what you'd get in a typical restaurant if you ask for rare.

                  Pork - medium well-done. That is, not pink. But NOT dry. Like the beef case, this requires split-second timing, and fairly fatty pork.

                  Poultry - just done. At the point where it's just finished cooking through.

                  1. re: AlexRast

                    Well, the soapbox indignation's certainly interesting, but we're talking 40+ years ago in Colorado. Not exactly the last bastion of fine dining or steak culture in Western civilization, and pretty much everyone who was working in a kitchen was also studying Agriculture at CSU so they were getting the USDA/HHS brainwashing on ensuring everything hit minimum temperature.

                    1. re: wattacetti

                      Still, if the brainwashing theory were the reason, you'd expect then they'd have done likewise for adult orders, which doesn't sound like what was going on. If they were, then fair do's, they just didn't have a concept of doneness, period. Steak came as it came.

                      But if they were applying the policy specifically to children and children only, I don't think the time, place or culinary sophistication present is really material. To disregard the customer's request in a restaurant is just unprofessional, in any era.