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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.

                2. Mom cooked everything to death. So does husband. I want mine on the medium rare side. Even pork is still slightly pink in the middle. Husband stares at me and keeps asking me, "is it safe to eat that?" LOL
                  Hasn't killed me yet!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: AngelaID

                    This is my house, too. He wants steak cooked to death, but I prefer still pink/red in the middle. So, I put his on the grill way before mine, and we're both happy.

                    Growing up, everything was cooked to oblivion.

                  2. My mom cooked steak to everyone's preference. It wasn't something we ate a lot of. She likes hers pretty rare and that has always been my preference too. My dad and brother like theirs at least medium-well. Dad is not above nuking his if someone judged incorrectly and there's some pink left, which I find pretty nasty but whatever floats his boat.

                    1. They were medium, and the same for us all (Ma, Dad, me)...pan fried or broiled. The charcoal hibachi was for freshly caught fish (usually mackerel in foil) or hot dogs/burgers, three or four times a summer. We'd have steak maybe once a month, and never when we ate out (another rarity...reserved for birthdays and my parents' anniversary). When we ate out, it was usually a complicated dish or a seafood my mom didn't cook at home (fried clams, for example). At home, if we were eating beef, it was usually served as braciole, or in a stew, or in chunks with lamb over string beans or something. Steak was a luxury, kinda.

                      Now I order medium rare, but still tend to order fish/stuff I don't cook at home (because it's too time consuming or H won't eat it) when I go out. I cook more steak at home than my parents did, and more varied cuts. We also grill all year round.

                      1. Steak? None of that in my childhood.

                        Today, it's infrequent and medium-rare.

                        1. Growing up, my dad cooked steaks until grey, there was no preferences, everyone got the same. "Steaks" were whatever large, flat pieces of beef were the cheapest at the store.

                          At restaurants, my dad ordered his steaks rare and I did the same. Looking back on it, I assume the steaks were grey at home (and sometimes black on the outside) because my dad had no idea how to purchase or cook steaks. It isn't something he would have learned growing up. He did enjoy a nice restaurant steak dinner.

                          I don't remember eating a hamburger at home. My father was German and my memory is that his generation didn't like food eaten by hand. I probably didn't encounter a burger where doneness mattered until I met my husband.

                          Now I like my steaks on the rare side of medium and burgers well done.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: cleobeach

                            I'm surprised you like your steaks and burgers cooked so differently than each other.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              It surprises me too.

                              The preference for well done burgers started when our son was old enough to eat burgers at restaurants. We ordered well done for his sake (I am the mom that doesn't trust the food system) and I developed a preference for well done burgers. My husband developed the same preference and he also likes his steaks rare/medium rare.

                              1. re: cleobeach

                                Same with me on different cuts, different temps.

                                I like well done burgers, medium steaks and medium rare prime rib.

                            2. re: cleobeach

                              I don't need to add anything more, you just described my childhood steaks and pork chops perfectly.

                              These days I like a medium rare steak but my burgers have to be at least medium well. Not a fan of undercooked ground meat and fat, it has a pasty texture that's not at all like that of a rare steak.

                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                Pasty texture and I am not a fan of the juices soaking the bun.

                                I dreaded Sunday steak dinners growing up. The meat was just so bad and the salad so vinegary/peppery. (how I wish I could have one more now that my dad is gone....)

                                I had to warn my then boyfriend, now husband, about these steak dinners. He couldn't grasp the level of yuck because in all other areas, my dad was quite the eater/enjoyer of food.

                                In the later years, they (dad and husband) fought for control of dad's grill. There was an epic battle where my dad tried to cut buffalo filets in half because they needed to "be thinner to cook faster" A cousin distracted Dad while my hubby snuck out to the grill.

                                1. re: cleobeach

                                  oh, that sounds like some good stories right there! the grilling titans, at battle.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    It makes me laugh just thinking about it again! Had my father not been so frail at the time, it make have gotten physical.

                                    The partner in crime was a German cousin who was an excellent cook. Her husband kept dad in conversation while hubby and cousin conspired against him.

                                    Dad did rave about the filets and gave compliments to the chefs. We all smiled to ourselves.

                              2. re: cleobeach

                                My dad is German and about to turn 80 -- he never showed an aversion to eating food by hand, nor did my grandfather. They were very picky about what went into a proper sandwich though. My dad tried endlessly to get me and my older brother to give rye bread and various wursts a shot when all we wanted was white bread and American boiled ham, etc. Fortunately, I became a salami freak at 6 and relieved the old man a bit.

                                He also charcoal grilled quite a delicious burger.

                                1. re: heavysnaxx

                                  I never warmed to rye bread but loved all sorts of cheeses and cured meats my dad always had on hand so I was sort of given a pass on the rye issue.

                                  Maybe the hand-food issue is unique to my German family.

                              3. We did medium when I was growing up. Now I want it medium rare, leaning more toward rare for some cuts, more toward medium for others.

                                My wife couldn't stand anything other than medium. Now she wants some pink in the middle.

                                1. Didn't ever really eat steaks as a kid (beef or pork). My family prefers rare-medium rare meat though, and would have no problem eating raw beef or seafood.
                                  I always order steak rare, for burgers it's mostly medium rare, or sometimes rare just to let them know I'm serious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! about my burgers.
                                  I like my pork and chicken cooked less than most people find appetizing as well.
                                  Whenever I have people over I almost always cook all the meat the same, the way I like it. My friends know what they're getting into when they accept a dinner invitation.

                                  1. Mom was the main cook. Then and now, she cooks everything until it is well done and dry as sawdust. Steaks, Thanksgiving turkey, pork...all well done and dry.

                                    Now I usually do medium or medium-rare for steak, burgers, etc.

                                    1. When my parents married in 1944 my mother ate her meat rare and my father well done. By the time I (3rd child) was born 10 years later mom had gotten my father to medium rare and to make life easy she ate that as well.

                                      As children we ate medium rare, by the time I was a teen I preferred rare, but mo was no longer cooking for the family, I made my own.

                                      In the B home, Mrs B, youngest daughter and I like rare, oldest wants well done. If it isn't to her liking, she'll take a perfectly grilled rib steak and throw it in the microwave to kill it.

                                      1. Medium side of medium rare, except for my Mom's portion that would get incinerated. Turns out she just didn't really like meat but thought she should be eating it. Now she's a mostly vegetarian / occasional pescatarian. And today I like the rare side of medium rare.

                                        1. Then: My Dad and I preferred our steaks rare. My Mom and brother liked medium rare.
                                          Now: My parents are pretty much the same as they used to be, altho they rarely eat steaks these days. I like my steaks even rarer ("put it on the plate and walk through a warm room"), and my kids are the same. Mrs. ricepad likes her steaks medium/medium rare.

                                          When I worked the broiler in a restaurant years ago, I had an order come in for a steak cooked 'extra extra rare', so that's exactly how it went out. After a few minutes, the server came back with a concerned look on her face. "You know that steak that was supposed to be 'extra extra rare'?" (I braced myself for a complaint that it was overdone.) "It was TOO rare!" I told her to bring it back and I'd fire another one. When she came back she said the customer refused to send it back because it had been cooked to order, and he said since it was cooked as he'd ordered it, he didn't feel right sending it back...but he was used to ordering his steak 'extra extra rare' to get a rare steak.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: ricepad

                                            wow, that is sort of bizarre...but funny!

                                          2. My mom's family cooked steaks & burgers to death - as did my dad, still do and they really only eat that stuff in the summer at cookouts or the beach house - there is no love for it. Enter my step-father a man who new how to cook a steak. Life changing.

                                            1. I eat steaks (and everything else) very rare - black and blue. My daughter in law eats hers medium and can't bear the thought of rare. She also dislikes seafood. So, i started thinking about it, and it is true: many people I know who dislike very rare meat also dislike seafood. She says it is a texture thing. Thoughts?

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: JC2

                                                I will not eat "black & blue" steaks, or any range of doneness on the bloody side of medium rare.

                                                As far as seafood goes, I relish cooked seafood, hot or cold; crabs, lobster, shrimp. Fried fish, fried scallops, fish chowder, etc are also acceptable. No sushi, no clams, oysters, or mussels.

                                                1. re: JC2

                                                  Since we're just speculating, I'm going to go with the notion that such people simply don't appreciate good food.

                                                  1. re: JC2

                                                    Huh! I never thought about it before but now that I do yeah... I know a few people like that. Fried shrimp and fried fish about as far as they'll go seafood wise.

                                                    1. re: JC2

                                                      I like med-rare and rare steaks. I only eat SOME seafood - my major issue with seafood is fishiness - I have no texture issues.

                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                        You've piqued my curiosity... Do you live near an ocean or inland? FRESH fish should never smell or taste fishy. When it does, it means its old and probably should have been discarded. Yup. I grew up on an ocean. '-)

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          I live as far from the ocean as is possible - you are right on target.

                                                          I'll occasionally eat fish here at establishments who are careful to get the freshest, fastest seafood, but I am VERY leary otherwise.

                                                    2. My dad eats every meat product - well done then cooked again, so that's how all the meats were cooked in my family including steak.

                                                      I am a medium-rare in a restaurant to rare/still moving at home kind of gal.

                                                      1. I'm reading a lot of similar stories to mine, which is grew up well done (pass the A-1 please) and now love med. rare.
                                                        I'm fortunate that DH and I evolved the same way regarding steak doneness.

                                                        I think if anyone told me as a kid that I'd love to see a bloody steak on my plate, I'd have passed out!

                                                        1. My dad was a huge steak guy, and I was his tiny steak-gobbling daughter. We ate steak once a week at home, and went out to a "fancy" restaurant once a month or so.

                                                          Dad was a great steak shopper and griller. He grilled year-round, moving a smaller, legless Weber kettle to the basement fireplace in the winter. We usually ate prime grade, which was much more available back then, and better than it is now as well.

                                                          He and I ate ours medium-rare, of course! Mom ate hers charred to shoe leather, scolding us for "eating that bloody stuff!"

                                                          1. Where I grew up, steaks were sold thinly sliced. My mother would put them under the broiler until they were good and leathery. I had no idea steaks could actually taste like anything special until much later when I had one in Omaha.

                                                            I like mine on the rarish side of medium-rare. And if I have a good piece of meat I'll sometimes make steak tartare.

                                                            1. My father did not cook. My mother is a wonderful woman and I love her very much and she did the best she could with what, I now realize, was usually a pretty tiny budget -- but we very, very rarely had steak; never owned a grill; and Mom's default setting was "cook the heck out of it to make sure". Hamburgers were allowed to be pink in the middle, though. Once in a while when we visited my grandmother, who came over from England at age 12 but never, ever let go of some things, we had London Broil, cooked whole, so it was medium rare in the center with well-done edges. Man, that was good food (Nana did leave suet pudding behind in the old country, much to our relief).

                                                              I hardly ever have steak now, but like it medium rare. I wouldn't bother ordering it in a restaurant. Eating a slab of meat just doesn't appeal any more.

                                                              1. Don't really remember steak being a regular item on dinner menu till I was about 10 yo. Dad "abandoned" us 3 kids with grandparents to go to CA for a WWII reunion with Army biddies. When he came back, he was a RARE beef FREAK... they musta gone to some great steak places out there!?! Remember him cooking a THICK steak directly on the coals... ok, but a little gritty for me??

                                                                I like mine med-rare bordering on rare... just has to be HOT inside, no cool center for me. Have only been to Ruth's Chris a few times, but like how their steaks come to the table SIZZLING on a screaming hot plate. Meat stays HOT for a nice long time. Since I know it's still cooking during that time, I'll go with rare and actually turn on plate.

                                                                Late MIL would start FIL's "steak" at NOON for a dinner at about 5!! Talk about a waste of good meat/money!

                                                                I like my burgers really pink inside. If at event with friends/family (people I KNOW) and burgers are going on grill... I et as little "bossy" (at least have been told so!?!) and pick my burger and watch it?? While rest are becoming hockey pucks, I'll get mine pulled when I know it's still a bit pink.

                                                                A little OT... semi-MEAT related comment. Several years ago "they" (government) here in NJ decided to save us all by declaring all eggs must be cooked completely thru!?! What were they, CRAZY?? Imaging a diner breakfast with NO sunny-side-up or over-easy eggs!! A near REVOLUTION!!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: kseiverd

                                                                  "[A] diner breakfast with NO sunny-side-up or over-easy eggs!!"

                                                                  I remember that ban. Hell, I almost broke a fork on a poached egg once.

                                                                2. We were a grilling family. Early 70s, Dad had a gas line run out to his grill and it was used year round. The old man was pretty good; especially for someone who's only training was the trial and error of practice. Whole family got medium rare and they were doled out by size. Although, if one was a little less cooked than the others, I frequently could manage to trade for it.

                                                                  By around the time that Video Killed the Radio Star, I had served enough of an apprenticeship to begin tackling the task alone. Graduating from tray to tongs meant the biggest steak went on last, resulting in it being slightly undercooked for Pop's preference and extra flesh on the plate for the "growing boy". I had the cover of inexperience at my disposal, but around the same time I started ordering steaks rare in restaurants so no one was fooled for long.

                                                                  To this day, I'm still a rare guy and Mom, Dad, and little brother still stick with medium-rare - Oh, and I still get the biggest one!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. Steaks and burgers med rare, pork/poultry was cooked thoroughly.

                                                                    Now: steaks and burgers med rare ideally to 127/128, pork to low 140s and poultry to low 150s

                                                                    1. Medium rare growing up, medium rare now.

                                                                      1. steaks were cooked the way my mother liked them, well done for her and the children. My Dad liked porterhouses, and he grilled them, but my mother insisted ours be well done. I didn't care much for steak as a child.

                                                                        Then she remarried and he was a fan on Adolph's meat tenderizer on steak (uuuugggggghhhhhhhhhhhh)

                                                                        I found out about rare prime rib when I was 16, and I never looked back. That was g.o.o.d.

                                                                        Now I want steak rare.

                                                                        BTW, as much as my mother insisted on well done steak, she would pop raw hamburger in her mouth while making burgers or meatloaf.

                                                                        1. My mom likes them "bleu" -- sometimes we had to ask her to put it back to come out medium rare. Anything beyond that was overdone and "ruined."

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                            I am with your mom. My kids, especially dil's like them "fully cooked". it is all in the language. I am constitutionally incapable of making well done or even medium steaks.

                                                                          2. How steaks were cooked and burgers as well varied big time. My Mom did a consistent medium in a pan or under the broiler but my Dad was and is more of a food is fuel kinda guy, so if he was grilling 'done' could be rare to well and anything chicken or pork was grilled to death. Fussing over food was a sign of weakness.

                                                                            I'm pretty picky about steak now so I usually won't order it in a restaurant unless I just get an urge or something. I love black and blue IF the fat is mostly inter muscular marbling AND it's been aged or at least dried out some. Most steaks I just prefer medium rare with a nice crust thanks to a super hot reverse sear if they're thick enough to warrant it. Anything under an inch and a half just gets the fire.

                                                                            I've done caveman style with decent results but don't ever do it anymore, don't know why.

                                                                            1. Once we were hanging out spontaneously with some neighbors. He pulled some steaks out of the fridge, beautiful NY strips, and inch-and-a-half thick, and took them out to their gas grill and put them on it and closed the lid.

                                                                              He came back in and continued to chat and serve us beverages, not letting us leave when we kept saying we really should go. We must have been there another hour before escaping and they never checked the steaks, began side dishes, or seemed to care about those beautiful pieces of meat that they were...baking? Incinerating?....

                                                                              ?!?!?!

                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                LOL. I literally couldn't stop giggling at the story.

                                                                                But actually, what may have been going on is that they were barbequeing them. The slow, low-temperature way you might do for, e.g. brisket.

                                                                                Many people really develop a love for "falling off the bone" meat - or in this case meat without any bone, that was still falling apart. That becomes their definition of good - so much so that your neighbours may in fact have preferred their steaks that way.

                                                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                                                    I agree. And probably most, certainly many, would agree.

                                                                                    But there are people who are absolutely obsessed with the texture and flavours that come out of barbecue, as well as some for which the slow-cooked method for beef is the only one they've been exposed to (at least with any frequency).

                                                                                    Also if your natural preference were for well-done meat, and you really didn't like rare at all, a well-done New York strip done like a steak, grilled at high temperature, might seem rather meh. You might wonder what all the fuss was about over steak, because (at least arguably) once any steak is truly well done they come close to being equal in quality. Yet there must be *something* in the prime steak cuts, otherwise people wouldn't be paying so much for them.

                                                                                    Then consider how you might react if you then took the same piece of meat and barbecued it. It might seem like a revelation - because although I would argue almost certainly not the equal of a brisket, it would probably be more appealing that the well-done steak. There are certain cooking methods that are more suited to certain levels of doneness.

                                                                                    1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                      Explains this certain someone I know who crockpots a rib roast because chuck is cheap.

                                                                                      None of that cheap chuck stuff for this family!

                                                                                      It's funny stuff, people will pay five times more for an inferior product in a gourmet store when something that actually works can be had in a restaurant supply or ethnic grocery. Same concept.

                                                                                      1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                        Right, but you wouldn't get BBQ type texture, you'd get shoe leather. The reason why those meats get soft and luscious is the breakdown of connective tissue into gelatin and whatnot.

                                                                                        A NY Strip would just have the fat melt out and be a dry hunk of flesh.

                                                                                        I don't disagree that some jackwagon might be doing it anyways, but this isn't "the texture and flavours that come out of barbecue" here

                                                                                          1. re: jgg13

                                                                                            You're absolutely correct, jgg. There is not enough collagen in a strip steak for it to survive a low and slow barbecue technique until it hits an internal temp of 180-190 and still be edible. In fact, it pretty much requires a chop saw to cut.

                                                                                            The experiments which proved the foregoing to the satisfaction of a relative who loves both barbecue and well done steak also resulted in some beneficial insight. For example, a hybrid cook of a very thick strip or porterhouse can be an amazing treat. Basically, you smoke the flesh at 225 until the internal temp is around 110 (130 if you want to please my cousin with a well done slab in the end) and finish over direct heat for a crust. In a way, if you don't wear a shirt and add a twelve pack of Busch cans, you've got yourself a kinda trailer park sous-vide prep.

                                                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                                                              On the latter, I've done something similar although I tend to run my smoker at closer to normal oven temps for non-bbq type stuff (steaks, chicken, etc). Not as hot as I would inside, but much hotter than I would for ribs & brisket & friends. It does add a nice touch.

                                                                                  2. Nothing has changed. I grew up in SoCal where we grilled rare to medium-rare steaks often. Still do. Pork was juicy and just past pink, ditto today. We also grilled lamb and ate it quite pink. The first time I was served well-done leg of lamb, I did not know what it was, just that I didn't want to eat it [then or ever again]. Roast beef was rare but this was often eaten out at a restaurant or CC.

                                                                                    I never cooked anything differently for my sons, they ate what we ate albeit a day later when they were very young. My husband and I would sit at the le with the boys and have a glass of wine during their early supper; we dined later, after they were asleep - it was often our only quiet time together.

                                                                                    1. In my childhood household, meat -- ALL meat -- was cooked way beyond well done. Beef, lamb chops, veal chops, even hamburgers (which my mom called chop meat) were cooked until a chain saw was required for cutting into it.

                                                                                      Today I order my steak medium rare.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                        DH and I still shudder over my mom's pot roast- eye round cooked until it's a brick and so dry- shocking, I know!
                                                                                        Also, the crock pot was NOT her friend.

                                                                                      2. "Steak" in our house was chuck or top round, with salt, pepper and flour pounded into it with the edge of a plate and then fried. Then at some point when I was in high school an old friend of my dad's up in Paris, IL, who owned a couple of grocery stores there, bought the Edgar County Fair Grand Champion steer, and after a suitable interval for dry-aging invited us up for a steak dinner. My mom and Mrs. Curl manned two pans each on two separate ranges, one pan each of steaks and one of cottage fries. I have no memory of the degree of doneness, only that it was the best beef I'd ever put into my mouth and I had TWO of them, along with the fries and a big plate of fresh-picked green salad.

                                                                                        I was still growing into adult cookinghood when I met my first wife, a woman who insisted on sampling raw hamburger before buying any, and who liked her meat deep pink in the middle. #2 would eat anything she liked with no demands except that it be cooked and she could chew it. The current and final Mrs. O famously wanted her meat cooked just enough so that a good vet could have the animal back on its feet, right up until she decided to be vegetarian. As for me, I like a bit of char on the surface and a bloody middle for steaks, just pink in the middle for burgers, and I know why: few burgers have any flavor when they're still cool in the middle, but with a bit more cooking start to taste like real beef if the meat's of good enough quality.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                          "....up in Paris, IL..."

                                                                                          Where'd you grow up, Will?

                                                                                          Oh, my, I remember frozen cottage fries - loved those things!

                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                            @ sandylc: Marshall, the next actual town south of Paris. Our shared Big City was Terre Haute IN.

                                                                                            Cottage fries is what we had, referred to us simply as "fried potatoes" – peeled, sliced and fried in lard or Crisco, usually, sometimes with onion. My mom always made hers with cold boiled potatoes, a big improvement.

                                                                                        2. all animal proteins were cooked well done and we had steak a few times per week. for the longest time, i thought i hated meat and became a vegetarian as soon as i left home. m/r beef and rare salmon were a revelation later in life, lol.

                                                                                          1. My Dad loved T bones but my OCD mom firmly believed that deathly bacteria lurked in all meat that was not incinerated. So, dry,tough and well done was how steak was cooked in our home. Now, i like medium rare.

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                                                                                            1. re: Kat

                                                                                              The thing is, parents like mine actually enjoyed steak like this! It would be a real "treat" to order it at a restaurant and eat it done to death.
                                                                                              I'm glad for whatever reason, one day, I decided to test the waters with less done steaks and now I'm midrare too.

                                                                                            2. Steaks? Luxury! We used to have to get out of the lake at six o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of 'ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!

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                                                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                  Well o'course we dinna have it easy like some -- instead of steak and a broken bottle, our dad sold us to the farmers who used us as cow feed, transforming us, through the glories of the alimentary tract, custom butchery, and time, into the very steaks that our ma then grilled to the donenesses of incinerated hockey pucks, serving us back to our dad who, after consuming his progeny, merely asked, "What's for pudding, then?"

                                                                                                  1. re: heavysnaxx

                                                                                                    But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

                                                                                                2. Rare or medium rare now depending on the cut.

                                                                                                  Growing up, my dad usually cooked Saturday night dinner, which was either enchiladas, hamburgers, or steaks on rare occasions. He would not cook anything below medium well out of some misplaced fear of food poisoning.

                                                                                                  My soon to be mother in-law cooks steak until it's grey all the way through... over low heat... with a little water in the pan to keep it from "burning or drying out". I soon discovered that the excessive slathering of A-1 is a necessity in order to consume this proto-beef jerky meal without choking to death. Mixing it with the mushy side dishes that once resembled vegetables is also a viable option.

                                                                                                  My fiance thought she just didn't like beef (or basically any vegetable for that matter), especially the chewiness. The first meal I cooked for her was an epiphany.

                                                                                                  1. Growing up, Dad grilled steaks to about medium and Mom cooked roasts until they fell apart. Not much has changed. I prefer steaks medium well but never make roasts- there's only 2 of us. I do enjoy being able to buy higher quality meats. Dad supported a family of 6 on a mechanic's salary so, while we weren't poor, money could be tight and gourmet food wasn't on the list. Haha the second I moved out, I stopped eating canned veg!

                                                                                                    1. As a kid I didn't like steak as I don't like "dry" things. When I was 16 my late sil and brother were asked to stay with me while parents were vacationing. SIL told me we were having steak and I'd like it - she did medium rare and it was good! Realized Mother did well done. Now I like "very rare" bleed for me please lol!!!

                                                                                                      1. Interesting question! And of course, my answer will reflect my age because World War II landed plop in the middle of my growing up, meaning meat was rationed for a good four years of my youth. But my mother was resourceful! Meat was NOT rationed in Mexico, and we lived on the border. However, Mexican beef of that era, even when it was the super grade beef of fighting bulls, was NOT dry aged, so the strip steaks were "chicken fried" or "Swiss steak." But we did raise a steer during the war and had it dry aged at a local meat packing plant. It was hung for 21 days and THOSE steaks were always medium rare or Tartare.

                                                                                                        It was around that time that we had our first (and only) horse meat in the form of dry aged steaks from a cattleman friend of the family. My mother did NOT tell us it was horse meat until after dinner. I remember asking, "Is that why it was so sweet?" And I also remember my grandmother crying because she'd enjoyed eating a horse.

                                                                                                        Short answer: medium rare growing up and medium rare now. It's the only way to fly!

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                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                          Very interesting! When you did have beef, you did it up right.

                                                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                                                            When looking back, I've wished and wished my mom had bought at least a side of beef from her favorite Tijuana butcher shop and taken it to the local meat processing plant to be dry aged. She ALWAYS did her beef shopping during the war in Tijuana on Mondays, the day after the corridas del toros (bullfights) and her butcher always got a bull or two from that source. My mother's favorite cut was, and her butcher would often save it for her, the shoulder cut where the estoque (matador's killing sword) passed through. She would stuff the hole with garlic cloves prior to roasting.

                                                                                                            Bullfights were very popular during WWII because a trip across the border to Tijuana did not require a passport, as it does now. San Diego was then and is now "home port" for the 11th Naval District, and during the war Tijuana was a MAJOR attraction for the fleet! Yeah, they often went to bullfights, but they also turned prostitution in Tijuana into BIG business! Because of gasoline rationing during the war, lots of people rode buses. That meant a lot of very drunk young sailors on U.S. city buses that served the area, and the overwhelming smell of Tabu perfume (every "puta's" favorite) and alcohol. Fortunately my mother also bought gasoline in Tijuana, so I didn't have to ride a bus often, but to this day, if someone walks past me wearing Tabu, I get nauseous.

                                                                                                            But I would give just about anything for some WWII vintage Tijuana street tacos! Three for a dime from a glass enclosed street cart cobbled together from old windows, which helped keep the flies inside with the food! My mother would NOT buy them for me so I would save my allowance. She would scowl and tell me I was eating fried cats! If I was, they were deeelicious!

                                                                                                            Hey, see what I contribute to our foodcentric cultural literacy? How else would you guys get to know about Tabu and street tacos in the early 1940s???? '-)

                                                                                                        2. I don't remember eating much steak growing up. The most common meats on our table were pot roast, London broil, bone-in pork chops, chicken on the bone, and hamburger in various forms.

                                                                                                          Every single item on that list was overcooked by my current standards. (Except pot roast, because you can't really overcook that.) Pork chops were always served with applesauce, which I now realize is the only way we could really get them down. ;)

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                                                                                                          1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                            Oh, yes, pork and apples. At least the pork had flavor back then...

                                                                                                            And, yes, you can overcook potroast. My mother managed to get the edges almost black, hard, and chewy.

                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                              Your mom and my mom must have had the same pot roast recipe, down to the charred, chewy crust.
                                                                                                              It sucked the saliva out of my mouth ;-)