HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

When do you send back a steak for being under/over cooked?

For steaks and prime rib I'll accept one degree off, plus or minus. So if I order medium rare I'll accept rare or medium. I think this is fair. For hamburgers, when they ask for desired degree of doneness, I ask for pink/medium but usually get medium well or well done. In that case I say nothing and eat them as delivered.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I find even the Top Steakhouses today generally under cook their steaks, since it's far easier to cook up, rather than throw a steak out for being overcooked. I generally order Medium-Rare for most Steak Cuts or Prime Rib and the steaks always come out RARE. It's easy to tell, as the meat does not cut easily and it's more chewy than MR. I won't return them....but any steak cooked past Medium, i.e., Medium-Well, goes back. I'm not as fussy with Burgers.

    So, I'm much like you in this regard.

    14 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      This is exactly my experience as well. In addition to the reasons cited above, I think a lot of places do this because they bring the steak out on a screeching hot plate so it won't get cold as you eat. This, of course, has the effect of bringing the meat up one or possibly two notches, so they undercook to compensate so it sort of catches up with you as you work your way through it. I guess.

      When I was younger, medium rare meant pink and juicy throughout with a hint of red. Now it means seared outside and virtually raw inside. The more upscale/expensive the place, or the closer to the east coast it is, the more this tends to be true. You're pretty unlikely to see this happen in an Outback in Omaha, in my experience. But when not long ago we went to the best steakhouse here in Seattle and ordered the $115 Long Bone Wagyu Ribeye (how can it be the Ribeye if it's still on the bone? But I digress) and described how we wanted it, as above, the waiter suggested medium well. I was horrified at the thought. But he said he'd take it back if it wasn't right, so I acquiesced, and it was perfect.

      So Medium Well is the new Medium Rare. Even the meat thermomenters that used to say 145 is medium rare are certainly wrong. Who Knew?

      1. re: acgold7

        As I read I'm reminded of a few things.

        Here in the UK, people tend to get very fussed about warming plates - it's commonly done even for informal meals at home. I personally have never liked warm plates for precisely the reason you mention: they continue cooking the food. If you want rare meat, that's a serious problem. So if I know a restaurant would typically warm the plate, I'll ask them not to do so. (although if the plate came warm anyway I'd surely not send everything back)

        One other reason I find to send things back, much more commonly than doneness: when a dish has a sauce or condiment, not mentioned on the menu, put on top. So, e.g. I asked for a steak and got one with a huge ball of herbed butter on top. Or drizzled with some mystery sauce. That's likely to go back; they didn't mention it, I didn't want it, and it would have had the effect of severely diminishing my experience, possibly to the extent of inedibility. That's one thing I do think restaurants ought to be mindful of: never have "hidden" ingredients that you don't mention or even hint at, yet automatically add.

        I also think it's interesting, but not surprising, that people will more readily send back steaks (which represent greater cost to the restaurant) than hamburgers (which usually except for ultra-posh varieties at some places are lower-cost). Most of us are doing a "how much effort is this worth?" calculation when deciding to send something back, much more than a "is this really a serious defect that the restaurant should correct?" calculation.

          1. re: fourunder

            :-D (Presuming you've read my other posts)

            Luger's gets a special exemption from the usual severe whinging on such matters on account of the excellence of the steak.

            Though yes, it does still irk about the hot-plate thing. And that cutting-up-the-meat thing. Not, naturally, that I haven't tried to get them to do neither. The answer was, naturally, no. Part of the atmosphere, really.

          2. re: AlexRast

            "Most of us are doing a "how much effort is this worth?" calculation when deciding to send something back"

            I never figure in my effort when sending something back. For me at least, it does not take a significant amount of effort to explain the issue to the server and ask for a replacement.

            1. re: Fowler

              effort? no
              aggravation? yes
              inconvenience? yes

              it's a pain to send back food, your dining partners are pretty much finished eating by the time you get your food
              they feel awkward eating in front of you, so then you get the pity
              "here, have some of this" from everyone at the table
              you can
              A) say "no that's okay" and nibble on the bread or sit there an eat nothing, making your dining partners more uncomfortable
              B) take what their offering, eat it and then you're barely hungry enough to eat 1/3 of your freshly cooked steak

              THEN when the steak does arrive and they're all done eating (or nearly) you're the one that's holding up the table....
              "dessert? well, MAYBE.... we'll see when cgarner's done eating"

              1. re: cgarner

                Oh, I agree cgarner and that is why I said in my original response that if I sent a steak back it would depend upon the circumstances of where I was and who I was dining with. For example, if I am dining alone while out of town on a business trip I would be far more likely to send the steak back than if I were dining with a group of friends.

                In my reply to Alex I was simply addressing his statement about how "most of us" factor in effort when sending something back. Effort is simply not part of my decision making process to send a steak back.

                1. re: Fowler

                  This sounds just like a difference in interpretation over terminology - the "effort" word here is meant to incorporate "aggravation", "inconvenience", etc.: all those things that cost mental energy.

                  And on the "most of us" - yes, I'm someone who's going to try to summarise what appears to be general trends in thinking. It's never meant to be applied too deterministically or personally. It's like describing climate vs. giving a weather forecast. The climate anywhere has only a very vague relationship at best to the weather forecast for a particular place, at a particular time. Same thing with these sorts of descriptions; I'm just trying to capture common threads.

                2. re: cgarner

                  Interesting, I had a similar experience where I ordered a rib eye steak rare, the steak was so thin it came out well done. By the time I got the attention of our waiter, and based on where others in the dinner party were with their entree's, I told him to take it back and not bring a new steak. I just ate some bread and nibbled on my remaining salad.

            2. re: acgold7

              Interesting. It could indeed be a regional thing. Growing up in the NY/NJ area in the '70s, my parents introduced me to "Medium-Rare," which meant a warm, red (not pink) center. A hot, pink (not red) center was "Medium."

              As an adult I have learned that the fattier the cut, the more one might want to cook it. A highly marbled ribeye appeals to me more when the fat is thoroughly melted, so I have learned to order that Medium instead of Medium-Rare.

            3. re: fourunder

              I wish I had the same issue. I eat a lot of steak when dining out, because I have allergies, and a steak is generally a safe option for my allergies. Maybe it's my luck, but I order medium rare, and hardly ever have one come out under, but frequently come out over.

              I will accept medium, but medium-well or beyond is just not ok with me. Rare is workable for me, depending upon how rare. At home I probably cook things on the rare side of medium rare, but I don't like cold in the middle.

              1. re: jw615

                The most common reason you will get a steak that is cold in the centre, if cooked to some degree of rareness, is that it has gone from refrigerator to grill. No decent chef does this.

                I like my steak blue, and preferably with the bell still on. A great chef I worked with once told me it takes as long as a medium steak to make a great blue steak. Steak should begin it's cooking life at room temperature.

                1. re: cronker

                  Steak should begin it's cooking life at room temperature...

                  Unfortunately, that would get you a big fine in a commercial kitchen...

              2. For steaks, I prefer very rare; I'd definitely send back anything more than medium-rare, and if medium-rare, I'll note that to the waiter/waitress, without insisting that they redo it, but just so the kitchen notes it. I'm not particularly fond, when I get a steak asked for rare, that's actually *cold* in the centre, but by the time this is discovered I'll have eaten too much of it for it to go back.

                For hamburgers, I wish it were possible to get them rare! This is so uncommon, though, that it's usually pointless to expect it. I do get surprised looks every time when I ask if they can do that. Most of the time the answer is no. :-( There is one thing, though, that does bother me, and puts me in a dilemma. It's frequently the case that a restaurant will offer 2 grades of beef for the hamburger: an "ordinary" one and a "premium" one. But self-defeatingly, it's even more invariably the case, that they will be able to offer the "ordinary" one to desired doneness degree, but the "premium" one can only be done medium. What's with that? (My usual solution then is to vote with my feet and walk out)

                4 Replies
                1. re: AlexRast

                  At "Bern's Steakhouse, Tampa, they are very exacting on steak temperatures and degree of doneness, rare is defined in many variations from a "raw cold center to a cool center". If one orders a steak well done the menu states "not responsible for well done steaks".
                  the matrix below is from the Bern's menu, very interesting.

                  http://www.bernssteakhouse.com/Our-St...

                  1. re: ospreycove

                    I will attest the meat ordered RARE at Bern's is indeed raw when served.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Exactly what I mean. I loved Bern's when I was there, but to me there should be a difference between raw, Black & Blue, and Rare.

                      1. re: acgold7

                        Actually there is if you use the words/definitions on the "Doneness Matrix".......LOL!!

                2. I took the question slightly differently before I read the actual question (yeah, sometimes I do that, to my embarrassment, like Emily Litella), but I'll write my original thought-

                  After the first bite or two, right as you discover it's done wrong. Otherwise, you look like a real jerk for eating 3/4 of a steak or piece of prime rib and THEN saying it isn't done to your liking. You knew a long time ago, if you're telling the truth, and everybody knows that. We've dropped dining friends for being that way, they tend to be embarrassingly bad tippers besides, and spend the whole time looking for a reason to be comped. I HATES people like that!

                  Otherwise, I'm in agreement with you.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: EWSflash

                    You mean you don't wait until just that little tail piece of fat is left, demand a new one, and then take the new one home in a doggie bag?

                    1. re: acgold7

                      Oh God, now you're making me furious! 8^O

                  2. I can only recall sending a steak back once (in 1980) - it's only one of four times we've ever sent anything back, which is why I recall the year and which country we were in at the time. I recall it being undercooked but how much has faded from memory.

                    1. I like my meat cooked, which means no blue or dripping in blood. I order my steak mid well when I eat one, which is not often but I won't send it back if it's well as long as it's not dry like shoe leather. I will even keep it if it's medium as long as it's not red when it's supposed to be pink. Burgers have to be completely cooked for me or it goes back. I always cut my steak or burger in half when I get it and I will know right then whether I can stomach it.

                      1. I like steaks cooked medium rare, and I am happy if they are a bit under cooked. Cooked to medium is completely unacceptable to my palate. When I order a steak (and I don't very often in restaurants), I specify that I'd like "medium rare" and it's ok to "err on the side of rare." If it is delivered medium, it gets sent back. To me that kind of error is the cardinal example of when it's perfectly acceptable to send back a dish -- it is expensive, relatively easy to prepare properly, and directly contrary to what I requested. If I do not send it back under those circumstances, it is only because of the context of the meal setting.

                        On the other hand, if there is a screw-up in the done-ness of a hamburger (which I prefer medium), I would not send it back unless it was virtually uncooked. The difference in price-point between a steak and burger and the type of restaurant where I'd be likely to order either dictate my approach to these 2 situations.

                        1. My answer is assuming you are referring to being in a restaurant and not at a friend's house...

                          Steaks - In my adult life I have never been served one that was underdone so that has not been an issue. However, I will eat one that is one level overdone but when it crosses into two levels of being overdone I consider if I want to send it back. It depends upon the circumstances of where I am and who I am dining with.

                          Prime Rib - I have only had one case where it was underdone. Not rare but raw. That was sent back. To teach me a lesson for sending it back, the cook put it under the salamander and the meat was returned to me extra well done. That was sent back as well.

                          Hamburgers - This is a different story. Unless it has been cooked to the taste and consistency of a hockey puck I will not send it back. A number of places around here will only cook hamburgers well done. You can ask the server for the burger to be cooked bloody rare and it will still be cooked well done because that is their policy. If they are using the right blend of beef though, even a burger that is cooked well done can still be palatable.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Fowler

                            In regards to hamburgers, a great many restaurants use a cheaper cut of beef to grind into burgers, and get worried about cooking them rare due to chewiness and basically bad tasting burger. They also worry about the binding agents which need to be cooked through to ensure the burger doesn't just crumble apart at first bite.

                            1. re: cronker

                              In some cases the local health department won't allow burgers to be cooked below medium or medium well. The center is required to be a certain temperature before it is allowed to leave the kitchen.

                          2. My husband and I were at a very nice restaurant, it was kind of late, but not ridiculously so
                            I ordered a rib-eye (one of my two favorite cuts) asked for it rare, my husband got a filet, he asked for his medium… his was perfectly cooked for his liking, but they probably left my steak on just as long as his two inch thick filet, mine barely even had any pink in the middle.

                            The ONLY time I’ve ever sent a steak back (it’s hard to screw up rare)

                            What did I get in return? the mangled looking end piece, which had a huge vein of gristle trough the middle

                            When did I get it? in time for my husband to have completely finish his steak and I completely finished my ‘ala carte’ side of lobster mashed potatoes (which weren’t really all they were hyped up to be)

                            The waiter had a pained look while he put the plate down in front of me and forewarned me that this was the “last” rib-eye they had left in the kitchen….

                            For my trouble… the waiter took off one of my two glasses of wine

                            Yeah, I’m NEVER sending a steak back again

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: cgarner

                              This.
                              You really have to think it through before you pull the trigger and send that steak back.

                            2. I always ask the waiter to define what medium rare means in any given establishment so that I can order my steak the way I want it, which is with a warm/hot red center. I will accept a mostly pink steak at most places, but beyond that, it's going back. I've never had to send a steak back at a steakhouse, though, and only a couple of times at non-steakhouse restaurants.

                              I did have to send a steak back TWICE at a Daniel Boulud restaurant here in NYC once, though - that was pretty insane. Even after asking the waiter about their definition of medium rare and ordering the steak RARE to ensure a red center, I received a steak that was grey throughout, TWICE. My husband was mortified but at those prices, there was no way I was jawing through a slab of grey cement.

                              1 Reply
                              1. I have never sent a steak back. I have only been to high end steakhouses (Morton's/Ruth's Chris and a local high end place a handful of times.)

                                I have had overdone steaks served to me a few times. I generally just complain and eat the steak. My dining companions would be more annoyed with me than with the restaurant for their mistake. The worst steak I eas ever served was at The Mall of America. I was dining with my German friend who ordered his steak well done. I tried to convince him to at least go medium well. I ordered my steak medium rare. It came on a sizzling cast iron 'plate' and was well done by the time I was eating it. I had to use A-1 to get it down. After the meal, the waiter asked how the meal was and I told of my
                                disappointment. He said I should have sent it back. I said they should have cooked it correctly and not put it on a 300° cast iron 'plate'. The restaurant later closed.

                                The disruption of the timing of the meal and the ackwardness of the meal was not worth sending the steak back.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: John E.

                                  " had to use A-1 to get it down"

                                  NOOOOOO!!!!

                                  (that steak must have been pretty well incinerated)

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    One venue where I used to work had a button on the POS screen for "incinerated". LOL.

                                  2. I a Steak is medium rare I will send it back.I once ordered a Steak and it was not as done as I liked it.The waitress and manager were very nice about the matter and returned it to to kitchen.I wouldn't recommend returning improperly cooked meat to the Kitchen you never know what mood the cook will be in.From now on I order Steaks medium well instead of Well done.

                                    1. I won't accept anything over MR. I'd rather have it underdone than overdone.

                                      But then I rarely order steak out b/c I can make a killer steak at home for half the price.

                                      7 Replies
                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          If I order steak at a restaurant, it means that there is literally nothing else on the menu that appeals to me, for all of the reasons that lingua mentions.

                                          1. re: masha

                                            FIL will look past a dozen delicious sounding entrees and pick steak every time.
                                            Never fails.

                                            1. re: monavano

                                              Texas Road House Restaurant has a nice selection of Steak in their Meat Market for take out.

                                              1. re: Smiley881

                                                I just looked and there's none close by. We have a similar steakhouse place near us, and I think that will be our next dinner out.

                                                1. re: monavano

                                                  May I ask where you live?Is there a Sizzlers there?I love Sizzlers because I can get equal Steak/Seafood.

                                                  1. re: Smiley881

                                                    Acutally, I'm thinking about Lone Star Steakhouse because I've read some surprisingly good things on CH.
                                                    http://www.lonestarsteakhouse.com/

                                        2. Instead of using the term "medium rare," which in all but the higher-end steakhouses can often lead to confusion, I'll tell the server I would like it with a "warm, red (not pink) center." Actually, if it's cooked sous vide, it can be warm and red almost throughout! If I'm paying for an expensive piece of meat, they are going to cook it exactly the way I want it. Overcooked steak is worthless to me. Same for burgers, unless we're talking fast-food style, of course.

                                          15 Replies
                                          1. re: LorenzoGA

                                            Once my Ex-Boy friend worked as a Security Guard at Dennys Restaurant.Some Wise guy came in and ordered up a bunch of Steaks.This guy kept telling the waiter that the steak wasn't cooked right each time.I guess he saw that as a good way to get over on some Steaks.So finally he was told he was going to have to pay for those Steaks.I come out better ordering the steak medium well.Be cautious of sending that steak back to the chef.

                                            1. re: Smiley881

                                              Denny's has security guards? Rough neighborhood ...

                                              1. re: Smiley881

                                                Old story, and I've told it here before, but here goes.
                                                Worked in a functions department at big five star hotel. Lady asked for well done steak.
                                                No problem, I replied.
                                                If it has ANY, and I mean ANY pink, or blood, it's going straight back! She barked.
                                                Chef sends out a nicely well done steak.
                                                Not done enough, she yelled at me.
                                                Returned to kitchen, chef cooks it another five minutes, returned to guest.
                                                NOT DONE ENOUGH!!
                                                Returned again to kitchen. Chef fires up the gas burner and sticks a fork in the steak, and literally incinerates it until it's about a two inch piece of charcoal.
                                                Return to guest and she looks at me.
                                                "You expect me to eat this??"
                                                I just shrugged and walked away....

                                                1. re: cronker

                                                  I had the opposite, when I was a server, I had a customer who wanted his steak "rare"
                                                  I brought their plates and he literally grabbed my wrist and had me wait while he cut into the steak...a perfectly rare steak, he said "sorry this is too well done"
                                                  brought it back... another steak was fired up, same scenario... too well done... I went back to the kitchen, they looked at me like I was crazy and threw a steak on the flat top, barely kissed it on both sides, raw in the middle (just to be a smart ass) and lo and behold, FINALLY a perfect steak...
                                                  "now this is RARE!"
                                                  (I wasn't going to tell him, "no, it's not rare it's raw" because you know the customer is always right... right?)

                                                  1. re: cgarner

                                                    I almost might agree with your customer. "Rare" means cold and red inside. I suppose if it's cooked at all--even seared for one second--it's no longer "raw." Still, if I the customer wanted a steak that was merely seared for two seconds on each side, I would specifically ask for that, not ask for "rare."

                                                    1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                      A steak cooked extra rare like this is referred to Blue or Bleu. We used to cook these directly on the flattop, first dipped in clarified butter. Just a quick, white hot sear on both sides. In a perfect world the steak would be warmed to room temperature first so the raw middle would not be cold but that's hard to do in a restaurant.

                                                      1. re: zackly

                                                        Which is why I prefer mine med-rare, and always specify "closer to rare", so that it's a warm red center.

                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                          I'm with you on having it that way, linguafood. Perfection is a warm red center. Cold red center is fine for extremely tender and extremely lean cuts, like tenderloin, but for a more marbled cut I prefer it warm enough to melt the fat inside but still red.

                                                        2. re: zackly

                                                          I've never heard the term "blue"/"bleu" used in the US, but thanks for the education. It sounds good to me!

                                                          1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                            LorenzoGA, black and blue is a common term on the northern East Coast of the USA. It typically indicates a steak seared to black on the outside but still rare on the inside.

                                                            1. re: Fowler

                                                              Okay, Fowler. I spent the first 21 years of my life in the Northeast, and my parents introduced me to the pleasures of ordering steaks medium-rare, but I never heard the term "blue" or, for that matter, "black and blue." But that's not saying it wasn't a common term. I'm just surprised I never heard it. Of course, back then, few people were talking about food the way "foodies" do today, there was no Internet, etc., so I'm sure there were plenty of things right under my nose that I was unaware of.

                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                  I'm totally going to try this out sometime. (I mean, order a steak "Pittsburgh rare" in a restaurant, not throw a steak next to a blast furnace.) Thanks, lingua and Fowler.

                                                                2. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                  No worries, LorenzoGA. I am not a foodie and the only way I knew of the term was because when I would be out of town and go out to dinner with local business associates in Philadelphia, they would be asked how they wanted their steak done and many would say they wanted their steak cooked "black and blue". I had to ask them what that meant. When I lived in New York I heard it there as well but not as often. I am glad I did not say it was a term used in *all* of the Northeast because that would be untrue.

                                                2. My wife and I were in Keens a few years back. It's one of Manhattan's oldest steak houses, a place we would visit maybe twice a year. We were dining upstairs in one of the smaller, quieter rooms. A porterhouse for two, medium rare was ordered.

                                                  A few minutes into the meal, our waiter asked how things were. I said the meat was a little overcooked. Oops.

                                                  Hand wringing, consultations ensued. Next thing I knew the steak, sides and bread were whisked away soon to be replaced with a brand new meal beautifully cooked. Waiters, head waiters and captains were standing by. I was humbled and embarrassed. I nodded my approval and appreciation.

                                                  Lesson learned. There wasn't a real problem with the meal. I spoke without thinking of the consequences.

                                                  Keens has tremendous history, fabulous dry-aged steaks and the best single malt selection in town. I'll just think twice before making a casual remark.

                                                  14 Replies
                                                  1. re: steve h.

                                                    My problem is not steaks (beef), but with a nice pork chop.
                                                    When I order it I talk with the waiter, ' ....I want it pink in the center! We'll check it when it comes." 70% of the time it is fully well done in the center and it goes back.

                                                    1. re: steve h.

                                                      That's what real customer service - and responsiveness - is supposed to be all about. Keep those comments coming: it's what the restaurants that actually care about their customers (such as Keens) need to stay on top. If no one's giving them any feedback, they'll not know if they're doing anything even slightly wrong, and that's how possibly bad or sloppy habits creep in. Keens is clearly not about to let that happen.

                                                      No need to feel humbled and embarrassed; you're their guest; it's not your job or responsibility to keep them happy. Maybe there wasn't a "real problem" with the meal, which probably would have been OK for Keens if they weren't the kind of place that was satisfied with nothing less than perfection, but to them, that's the difference. Obsession wins. They belong to an older school of thought, that believes that you can always do better, rather than a school that thinks "good enough" actually is.

                                                      Casual remarks are exactly the sort of thing all great restaurants crave.

                                                      1. re: AlexRast

                                                        Hi AR,

                                                        I kind of agree with you and I kind of don't.

                                                        My wife and I have been dining at Keens for many years. This, perhaps, gave rise to the frenzy of activity that led to a new meal. And for that, I am grateful. Now, putting the shoe on the other foot, some diners could take unnecessary advantage of an over-indulging staff. I don't approve of that. It's a fine line. It's up to staff to figure things out.

                                                        1. re: steve h.

                                                          There are always going to be people who take advantage of what they perceive to be a situation to exploit. But it seems to me, that's their problem, not the restaurant's, to solve. If a restaurant decides to offer outstanding service I think it will usually be repaid countless times by customer loyalty over and above the few manipulative people who will try to cheat the system. Meanwhile the dishonest few are always paying the price in their own cynicism, which leaves little room for real enjoyment of anything.

                                                          In fact, any attempt to try to "catch" such people usually has the reverse effect of that intended: that honest people end up unnecessarily inconvenienced or offended, rather than that the dishonest get caught, precisely because the dishonest are relentlessly opportunistic and will always try to manipulate the system by taking advantage of people who give them the benefit of trust. So the only "solution" would be not to trust, but absence of trust is part of the very definition of poor (and contemptuous) customer service.

                                                          So seen in this light, passing comments to the restaurant is your way of showing that you trust *them*, enough to think that it's actually worthwhile to make a comment in the hopes that they will improve things. It's part of being a good customer.

                                                        2. re: AlexRast

                                                          Last week I ordered a ribeye at a mid-priced restaurant, and when it was delivered to the table the server stood aside and with hands clasped behind her back politely asked me to cut it open to check whether it was done to my satisfaction. I made some remark about approving of this procedure. The server said it was the restaurant's "Steak Procedure." I chuckled at the fact that management had given it a name, but I think it's a good practice.

                                                          When I ordered it I had made sure to describe my idea of "medium-rare" and get the server's acknowledgement. The steak was cooked ever so slightly beyond that description but didn't cross the threshold at which I would send it back. I took into account that the dim lighting could interfere with my observation of the degree of doneness.

                                                          1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                            This annoys me to no end when the server asks me to cut into the middle of my steak to check whether it is appropriately done. First, a good chef can check the doneness of a steak simply by touching the surface; the amount of yield will tell you the doneness. They should know before they served it whether it was cooked to my request. Second, I don't want to cut into the center of my steak. I start from one end and proceed towards the other; if it's overdone, I can generally tell when I cut the first piece off the end -- if the end is brown, then the middle is not going to be in the light red to deep pink range that I requested (i.e., medium rare, erring on the side of rare).

                                                            1. re: masha

                                                              I kinda agree. I mean, really. In a perfect world, the chef should have enough confidence in his or her steak prep that this shouldn't be necessary.

                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                I would understand the request if I'd sent back a steak and this was the 2nd one delivered. But if this is the original delivery of my entrée, I expect the server to circle back in about 5 minutes to ask if everything is acceptable. To me it just smacks of laziness by the server when they tell me to do this.

                                                                On the other hand, I am not the kind of diner who would eat more than a few bites of the steak before sending it back. Perhaps they've been burned by diners who eat 1/2 the steak and then complain so the server is instructed to make sure the patron has checked the center of the steak before he/she has eaten a substantial amount of it.

                                                                1. re: masha

                                                                  I just think that a steak shouldn't require the customer to check for perfect doneness, just as any other entree should be cooked in a way that doesn't require a "is it ok" test.

                                                                  Food coming out of the kitchen should be fine the way it is, or - in the case of a steak - the way the customer ordered it.

                                                                  No second-guessing, please. I can have that shit at home :-D

                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                    masha and lingua, I can appreciate the opposing point of view. You make valid points about not wanting to cut into the center of your steak and that the chef should be able to send it out properly cooked. But to me, the benefits outweighed the drawbacks under the circumstances. This was a mid-priced place and not a steakhouse per se. I appreciated their concern and attempt to ensure everything was correct before the server walked off. Now, in a truly high-end steakhouse, I would be more offended by the "Steak Procedure" than I was at this particular place.

                                                                    1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                      The mid-price versus high-end distinction is valid, although I still probably would be annoyed, but would comply with the request at a mid-price resto.

                                                                      1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                        LorenzoGA, you make a number of great points and I am not arguing with you, but I never immediately cut into a steak that is served to me even if the server asks me to do so. I have learned from working in restaurants that the time it takes for the steak to go from the grill to the customer is almost always not enough time to let the steak "rest" and redistribute the juices within the meat.

                                                                        1. re: Fowler

                                                                          Fowler, I understand the "rest" issue, but letting it rest won't cause the steak to become less cooked. Letting it rest will allow the steak to retain more juice when it's eventually cut. I'm willing to sacrifice a little juice for the sake of testing the doneness before the server walks away. No arguments here, just my preference. I am all in favor of resting a steak. Again, in a high-end steakhouse, I would be offended if they did not understand that I need to let the steak rest and am reluctant to cut into it immediately.

                                                                2. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                  I like that policy! In a restaurant setting its some what difficult to cook steaks to perfection especially if they are using a super high temp broiler. There is considerable "carry over" cooking that must be accounted for. If the pickup of the steak is delayed, because not all the dishes for the table are ready, a medium rare steak can become medium quickly as the heat internalizes. That's why restaurants tend to err on the rarer side because you can make a rare steak medium rare with a little more fire but not vice versa.

                                                            2. I once went to a very expensive restaurant where two people in our party ordered medium-rare steaks that came out well-done (charred). Four times. Each. That was about $700 down the drain.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: calumin

                                                                At that price tag, there is no way in hell I wouldn't have sent them back. Ludicrous.

                                                                1. re: calumin

                                                                  Jeebus, I hope that cook was fired! Should have just wiped his ass with the beef cut and flushed it down the toilet.

                                                                2. It would literally have to be burned to inedible - I would probably eat it raw. It takes a lot for me to send food back.