14 Unsavory Secrets of Steakhouses

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14 Unsavory Secrets of Steakhouses

If you're paying top dollar dining at a steakhouse, make sure you're getting your money's worth. Read on to discover 14 unsavory steakhouse secrets.

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In a recent Eatocracy post, food writer Josh Ozersky denounces the practice of laying beef kidney suet (a raw beef fat), butter and marrow on cooked steak to enhance the steak’s flavor, calling it “undeniably effective, but a swindle”. While traditionalists might feel cheated, some find no harm in using suet and other fats to improve taste.

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If both USDA Prime grade meat and Choice grade meat are on the menu, it's almost always better to go Prime. USDA Prime grade meat, sourced from young, well-fed beef cattle, has lots of marbling (fat interspersed with lean meat) that makes it an excellent choice for grilling. Choice grade meat is also of high quality but has less marbling than Prime. If you’re splurging on steak at a restaurant, the Prime grade shield makes sure you’re getting what you came for.

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Still, steakhouses don't always serve USDA Prime steak. Unless you are in New York City or the military, odds are you will have a hard time finding it.

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It's worth ordering dry-aged beef, but make sure you're getting the real thing. Dry-aging is a time-consuming and expensive process that brings out tons of flavor. By exposing beef to the air in a controlled, refrigerated environment for days or weeks, the beef dehydrates, loses weight and concentrates its flavor. If your steakhouse ages its own beef, make sure proper standards for temperature, humidity and ventilation are in place. If the dry-aged beef is sourced from elsewhere, make sure it comes from a reputable butcher like DeBragga.

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When you’re spending top dollar at a steakhouse, you come to expect a certain level of service and a knowledgeable wait staff – which is why it can be disappointing when you find such to be lacking. If the waiter doesn’t know the menu or can’t properly advise you, search for your next steakhouse dinner elsewhere.

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Perfectly cooked steak should have a golden seared crust; the browning is what makes meat so flavorful. If you're getting burnt meat, your steak will taste chalky (and come with a side of increased cancer risk).

On the subject of doneness, everyone has a preference for how they like their steak, but the longer it is cooked the tougher and drier its texture becomes.

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Besides beef kidney suet, what other kinds of flavor enhancers have steakhouses been known to use? A Time opinion piece accuses restaurants of unsavory practices like using MSG and other tenderizers.

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Since the USDA eased up on restrictions on Kobe beef, it seems like the expensive cut is everywhere. Kobe is from a small place in Japan and is only produced in small quantities. The U.S. legally purchased 72 tons of Kobe last year, but Americans consumed 13.5 million tons of the beef.

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A steakhouse employee told Slashfood.com that sometimes the meat isn't always the freshest. Apparently steakhouses will sometimes keep meat until it's past its prime and then use it when a customer orders his steak well done or medium-well. The more a steak is cooked, the more the flavor can be hidden.

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To make less than high quality beef taste good, steakhouses will cook with lots of butter.

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Sometimes the meat served in steakhouses has been softened with the jabs of thousands of needles.

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"Dry-aged" can mean that the steak has been left in the refrigerator for three days rather than a month in an aging room.

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Grass-fed beef has been on the rise since it's shown to be healthier for both the consumer and the cattle, but coming in at 26 dollars per pound, it's unlikely that every steak-serving restaurant will opt for the healthier option.

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Patricia Whisnant, president of the American Grassfed Association, believes that by 2016 grass-fed beef should account for 10 percent of overall beef consumption in America. Even though this is a promising proclamation, it's still not a very high percentage and won't necessarily persuade your favorite steakhouse to switch to the healthier beef.

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If you're a steak lover, have no fear! There are numerous ways to prepare delicious steaks in the comfort of your own home. Keep reading to see a few!

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Steak Au Poivre

This classic steak with a creamy brandy-spiked pepper sauce is a great one-skillet dish.

Get the recipe: Steak Au Poivre

All American Steak Burger

This all-American steak burger recipe is delicious year round!

Get the recipe: All American Steak Burger

Cola-Marinated Flank Steak With Frito Chilaquiles

Flank steak takes this chilaquiles (fried tortilla chips lightly cooked in salsa) dish to the next level.

Get the recipe: Cola-Marinated Flank Steak with Frito Chilaquiles

Grilled Balsamic-And-Garlic Flank Steak

The balsamic and garlic flavors make this steak super tasty.

Get the recipe: Grilled Balsamic-and-Garlic Flank Steak

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Don't get scammed at the steakhouse - when you're paying top dollar for a steak dinner, you should come to expect a certain level of service and quality meat cooked to perfection. Some restaurants are committing major mistakes that can cheat you out of a true steakhouse dining experience. From why Prime grade meat matters to what unsavory practices go on behind kitchen doors, discover the secrets that steakhouses don't want you to know.

Check out the slideshow above to discover 14 unsavory steakhouse secrets.

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