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What to do when steak (or other meats) are served cold?

I enjoy steaks and most other meats served medium-rare (pork served medium). Recently I've had a string of nice restaurants serve me meat entrees which were cold, or lukewarm at best (not high end steakhouses, but not Outback or Sizzler either). I hate eating cold food, but on each of these recent occasions when I've sent the food back, it was returned to me sizzling, but so well done as to be inedible. Of course, the ideal solution to a cold steak is to cook another one, but this is rarely done except at high end steakhouses where fortunately the problem rarely arises. What's the best thing to do when served a cold steak (or other meat)? It seems like sending it back is a no-winner!

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  1. Find restaurants that prepare meat properly/to your liking - as in, the first or *at least* the second time around.

    1. well, if i asked for medium rare and after i sent it back for heating, it came back well-done, i'd send it back again. and then cross that place off my list. it can't be too hard to get meats right - i can do it at home on my weber with consistency and i'm no genius.

      1. When you send it back tell them you will not except an overcooked Steak as a replacement. If it arrives overcooked have it removed from your bill and cross them off your list.

        1. When you send the meat back, you need to make it clear that you want it heated back up to proper serving/eating temperature, NOT cooked to a greater degree of doneness. It's the difference between putting it in a hot oven for a couple of minutes and nuking it on high power or sticking it under a salamander or into a sizzling pan.

          1. As if getting a cool steak isn't bad enough, getting it back cooked to kingdom come is just adding injury to insult.

            1. I happen to like my meat well done, but I always tell the restaurant I don't want it served underdone and then have to send it back to be recooked. They need to get it right first time IMO or it dries out.

              2 Replies
              1. re: smartie

                Isn't it already dry as a bone when it's well done?

                1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                  No, cooked right it's not dry, recooking it dries it out.

              2. I learned to only order steak when I’m eating at a really good steakhouse, where my chances of getting it cooked right are much better.

                1 Reply
                1. re: EM23

                  I'm more of a fish/seafood gal, but when I get a jones on for steak I always head to the better restaurants. I like mine in the range of medium to med-well, and stopped going to places that can't get it right. I don't have that kind of time.

                2. I've almost given up on getting a great steak that's consistent when we eat out. One great steak usually comes along out of about every three or four just ok or meh ones. It just costs too much to risk when I can order chicken or pork and it'll be right. I'm a little picky with steak though so there is that.

                  I never send food back. Ever.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: On_yun

                    I obviously do send food back, but clearly when it comes to cold food, the odds of getting it right are, in my experience, between slim and none.

                    1. re: josephnl

                      josephni: despite their names, and their stated abilities, most of the steak restaurants that are second tier or below, just can't consistently deliver.

                      your experience mirrors mine.

                      i stopped ordering steaks at such places decades ago because of this.
                      imho, there is nothing you personally can "do" to impart steak-competance to this class of restaurants.

                      my advice is to give it up. order a salad or a couple of drinks or anything that you think they might be able to actually deliver.
                      now that the price of steak has risen even more, the odds of this sort of problem persisting has also risen.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Tell me about it. I think the high end places besides having more competent cooks to start with, let them concentrate on what they're doing without having to stop and multitask so much. Chicken and pork is more routine so you can get a rhythm going, steak cooked to order breaks the rhythm. The "Steak is easy" attitude from management doesn't help, thinking you can just put anyone in front of the grill and they can git r done! They don't value people as much as they used to, make excuses, and are accepting of lower standards if they think it saves money. It's easy to demand excellence, seeing it through is another matter.

                        That's my theory anyway.

                        1. re: On_yun

                          sadly, this sort of thinking goes well beyond restaurants.

                          (hospitals now think an ever-changing assortment of registry/traveling nurses are a fine substitution for an actual, seasoned, nursing staff.)

                          as a "heavy half" restaurant patron, too many full-staff turnovers will send me packing. to me, part of the allure of any restaurant is a stable, competent, staff.

                        2. re: westsidegal

                          My experience has been similar here in LA, where high end places know how to cook a steak properly the first time. But I do have to say, Houston's or now Hillstone's, has always prepared my steak correctly and they are obviously a chain, and not what I consider top tier.

                          However, in other parts of the country when I visit relatives, we always end up at a chain steakhouse, and I have never had to send back my steak, always medium rare, there. I don't know if there's just less turnover of staff or what, but they seem to get it.

                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                            But Hillstone Restaurants (including Houston's, Bandera, etc.) are an especially well run chain where the staff are all carefully chosen, very well trained, and seem to be empowered to always take good care of the customer.

                        3. re: josephnl

                          Maybe I shouldn't have said never, at a middle of the road kind of place never. I don't want any tricks played with my food.

                          I actually don't mind rare on something like a strip so I'm a little more forgiving on temperature. Well, sometimes. I told you I was picky about steak, lol

                          1. re: On_yun

                            In this it's important to remember the server's job is to convey your instructions to the cook, not to do the cooking. Complaining about the steak to your server won't get you too far, they don't know how to cook after all, their job is to bring it to you.
                            POLITELY asking the server to take something back to the kitchen with CLEAR direction on what you want might produce better results. (Yeah, it should have been done right the first time, oh well, life is like that.)

                            1. re: iheartcooking

                              I've actually commiserated with the server before because the cook couldn't do steak right. Believe me, she was more fed up with the guy than I was. If I order medium rare that doesn't mean use the cool spot on the grill the whole time because it's easier and will come out the same time as a medium well in the hot spot. I don't know if I really should be telling anyone that since it's pretty basic, one comes out with a good char and the other is gray. Another thing I don't know is the cook or how personally they might take criticism. I'm not saying it's commonplace for them to intentionally do something to your food. What I'm saying is I'm a big chicken and don't want to risk it even if the chance is small. Let's just say I've seen it happen before and it wasn't at Denny's.

                              1. re: iheartcooking

                                A server doesn't do the cooking, but a server in a restaurant that serves steak should know basic degrees of doneness.

                                About 20 years ago Mrs. B and I were invited by another couple to eat a now defunct steakhouse (a franchise, not a chain). I ordered a rare steak, it came medium well. I showed it to the waitress and explained that it was overcooked. She looked at me completely deadpan and said: "i'll take it back and ask the kitchen to cook it some more until it's rare.'


                                I replied, please take it away and bring me a dinner salad

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    Too bad you didn't let her cook until it was rare! You'd probably still be waiting.

                                    Wonder if she's the same waitress who, at a Kansas City steakhouse, brought me the glass of red wine I had ordered, poured over a glass of ice. She apologized that the damn fool who stocked the refrigerator had put lots of white wine in the frig, but all the red wine was still on the rack!

                                      1. re: chefj

                                        More than 20 years since and i still get a laugh out of it

                                    1. re: iheartcooking

                                      Just my observation, but if it was cooked correctly then served cold, then the problem is not the kitchen, but that it sat too long before delivery.

                              2. I'd rather get it cold and rare than warm and over-cooked. for me it's all about the texture and (perceived?) flavor than the temperature. "ain't gonna get anymore rare now"

                                1. When telling the server that the steak is unacceptable...I make sure to say have them cook me another one, correctly this time. I would not accept a reheated steak. And since I would have cut into the first steak to taste it would be obvious if they tried to reserve the same piece of meat.

                                  If the server/restaurant is not willing to cook a new piece of meat correctly, then I'd say take it off the bill, I'll just have a drink while the others in my party eat. I then would not dine there again.

                                  Saturday night, we dined at a local steakhouse. It's been aroun about 40 years. Mid priced at about $26-29 for a steak with salad bar. the steaks are grilled in an open area behind the salad bar for all patrons to see. Never had a steak come out wrong. They open for dinner 6 nights per week, no reservations and they fill immediately. Limited menu, good food, cooked correctly with great service. Three generations of the family operating the place. No chain operations for me.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    We used to have a place like that that changed management, everything went downhill and we quit going. They closed a few months later. I REALLY miss that place.

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      I bet the folks cooking the steaks do nothing else at the same time. It's not too difficult to get it right pretty much every time if you have a bit of experience, and concentrate on what you're doing. My issue is not that food is improperly cooked, it has been that it was served cold and ruined during reheating.

                                      1. re: josephnl

                                        Don't bet the ranch. The grill is right behind the salad bar. There is one grillman. Saturday night I could see him grilling steaks, salmon, chicken breasts and beef kebobs. All 4 of these were served at our table of 6 and all was cooked perfectly. The grillman is extremely competent. Whereas the baked stuffed fish that SIL ordered was cooked served from the back kitchen.

                                        Key to getting your steak served at the proper temperature:
                                        This restaurant, like most good independent steak places, has an expediter by the grill who grabs the plates as soon as they have steaks on them, grabs the closest passing employee and directs where the steak is to be served. The plated steaks never sit waiting for your server who is busy getting drinks from the bar.

                                        I have never had a steak in this place arrive at my seat in more than 90 seconds from the time it was plated.

                                        1. re: josephnl

                                          <<I bet the folks cooking the steaks do nothing else at the same time>>

                                          AND i'd bet that there is not a phenomenal amount of turnover in the folks cooking the steaks.
                                          these days, lots of businesses look at any line cook as being interchangeable with any other line cook.
                                          any server being interchangeable with any other server

                                          you get the picture.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            Lots of businesses fail as well.

                                            Any properly trained line cook should be interchangeable with any other line cook. BUT a grill man in a steak house is a specialist, not an ordinary line cook.

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                I choose my words carefully.

                                                I think the key words are 'properly trained'

                                      2. Tell the waitstaff, 'I need a new one'.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: treb

                                          It's the only way to truly rectify the problem. Any restaurant that puts the steak under the salamander or worse, in the microwave, doesn't give a crap about you.

                                          1. re: monavano

                                            I'd have to disagree with you on this one...sous vide and reverse sear would require cool or cold steaks before reheating to serving temperature. I would have no problem accepting a rare or medium-rare steak heated under a Salamander...even if I returned it. If it comes back over-cooked, then that's another issue or concern to deal with.

                                            The OP states the steaks come out cold. If that were truly the case, you could look at the steak and tell without cutting in. Hot steaks have a sheen to the exterior and are not dull.

                                            for something like Prime Rib, one man's warm is another man's cold. Prime Rib is not generally served piping hot, but merely warm.

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              Sous vide is not found in most 2nd tier or lower steak houses, so while you have a valid point, it isn't applicable in most situations.
                                              A steak that's been cooked, cooled and finally put back under heat is just f*cked. Juices out, juices in, juices out, juices in.
                                              No thanks.
                                              The chances of that steak being worth the (generally) very high price I pay is slim to none.
                                              Let's put it this way- for $40+, I'm not settling for someone else's mistake.
                                              Prime rib is fine warm, and to me, I don't want a hot steak to begin with- any cut of steak.

                                              1. re: monavano

                                                Myself, I'd rather have a properly rested steak served warm on a very hot plate than a piping hot one straight out of the kitchen, so if I cut into it too soon, the juices run out.

                                                I've gone to my fair share of steak places...I rarely have experienced the issues the others have complained about or indicated.

                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                  I'm totally with you on how I like my steak served.

                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                    I would further add and question....The original ordered temperature was not indicated by the OP....I would also argue that a RARE or even MEDIUM-RARE temperature steak would never be very hot to begin with...especially if it's a thicker steak.

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      I usually order medium-rare or medium-rare plus. Of course I expect the center of the steak to be warm rather than hot. I'm talking about food being served cold...typically everything on the plate. This is usually a service, rather than a kitchen issue.

                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                        This guy blames it on the heat lamps. http://chefandthefatman.blogspot.com/...

                                                        My mom and aunt came to the U.S. from Ireland (with a 20 year layover in London) in 1960, and they never stopped kvetching about the fact that restaurant food in the U.S. was never served hot like it was in Europe.

                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                          "This is usually a service, rather than a kitchen issue."

                                                          If the internal temp of the steak is how the patron ordered it, and the outside of the steak is cool or cold, then you are exactly correct.

                                                        2. re: fourunder

                                                          Steaks are seared/cooked in hot ovens or hot grills/pans. Or, maybe that's the way they're finished, for the sous vide'rs out there.
                                                          There's a hot component there, no matter what your internal preference is.
                                                          We're simply not talking about internal doneness temps, the subject is getting a cold or really cooled down steak.

                                                          Moving on now...