The surprising thing you should avoid ordering at a steakhouse

We’ve all heard how to order steak: medium-rare, which translates to an internal temperature of 135°F. Most chefs recommend this temperature, as it brings out the flavor while ensuring that the cut stays tender, and also allows a little more time for a nice char on the outside. (Looking for a gift for that particular griller in your life? These gifts for the griller are sure to light up their board.)

But if you order your steak medium-rare these days, you might get it quite a bit more “rare” than you bargained for. In fact, some restaurant-goers are reporting receiving their “medium-rare” steaks to find that the steaks are almost completely raw!

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Hacks for the perfect steak
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Hacks for the perfect steak

(1) Bring your steak to room temperature and pre-salt before cooking.

"I like the steak to rest outside of the fridge to come to temperature for about an hour before cooking it," celebrity chef and restaurateur Jet Tila says. "But I also like to salt the steak during that time. In my opinion, it helps with a few things: Drawing out the moisture helps create a nice brown crust, as well and concentrates the flavor."

(2) Cook your steak in a cast-iron skillet.

“Use a heated cast-iron skillet with a little olive oil," Chris Coombs, chef and owner of Boston Chops, says. "When anything is put in a normal frying pan, it drops the temperature of the pan, but the cast-iron skillet is able to maintain the temperature without it dropping."

(3) Know when your meat is done.

"A good way to test the temperature of a thick cut of steak if you don’t have a thermometer is to use a cake tester," Denis Crutchfield, chef de cuisine of Craft in Los Angeles, explains. "If you put the cake tester in the meat for five seconds and put it on your lip and you feel no temperature difference, you have a perfect medium rare. You can use your judgment based on feel for the other temperatures (warm is mid, hot is midwell to well, etc)."

(4) Finish your steak with aromatics.

"When I grill at home, I like to blast my steak with butter, garlic and thyme," David Shim, executive chef of Cote, says. "Once your meat is about 70 percent done, keep the steak in the pan, add about a tablespoon of butter, crushed garlic and thyme, making room for your aromatics. Cook until bubbly (not brown) then remove [the steak from the pan] and pour over top. Finally and importantly, do not slice right away. Let the meat rest so that all juices from the steak have time to return to where [they] need to be. This will reduce bleeding once you cut it.”

(5) Buy quality products.

If you want the best results, you need to use the best products, Daniel Patterson, restaurateur and proprietor of Alfred’s Steakhouse, explains. "I buy from local ranchers who raise cattle on pasture [grass], and then finish on grain. Find a producer or butcher in your area whose steaks you love."

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Why Your Medium-Rare Steak Is Being Served Raw

The reason for this mishaps is not due to a personal affront from the chef or your server. It primarily comes down to one thing: cost.

The meat of it is, costs are rising all across the board. A quality pound of rib eye that was $6 two years ago now sells for $8. Rents are climbing. Labor costs are increasing. And competition between restaurants is fierce, resulting in even more expense as restaurants try to out-do each other with decor and advertising.

Editor’s tip: Is your steak dinner more pricy than your wallet can spare?  Learn how to make the best-ever steak in a cast-iron skillet at home.

How Cost Impacts Cooking

If a customer finds that their steak is underdone and they send it back, it’s easy to put that steak on the grill for a few more minutes and have it out to the table with no lost cost. However, if the table finds that their steak is overdone, that steak has to be thrown out, and the restaurant loses the money on the product. Pressured by tight profit margins, chefs tend to err on the side of caution, which can result in under-cooked steaks.

Here’s the trick to cooking perfect medium-rare steak at home.

Get the Steak You Ordered

To keep a raw steak from hitting your table, be communicative with your server about what you’re looking for. Order your steak “medium-rare-plus,” not quite medium but more cooked than medium-rare. This ensures you’re getting the juicy, ready-to-eat steak you’ve been waiting for. Bon appétit!

Grilling at home? Check out our 10 best grilled steak recipes.

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Good Eats: Steak recipes
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Good Eats: Steak recipes

Butter-Basted Rib Eye Steaks by Food & Wine

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Flat Iron Steaks with Blue Cheese Butter by Food & Wine

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Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit-and-Green-Tomato Salsa by Food & Wine

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Steak Fajita Salad with Tortilla Croutons by SELF

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Minute Steak Sandwich with Fried Onions and Sweet Mustard by Kitchen Daily Editors

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Strip Steak Frites with Béarnaise Butter by Food & Wine

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Chili-Spiced Skirt Steak Tacos by Food & Wine

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Hanger Steak with Warm Bulgar Salad by Food & Wine

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Skirt Steak with Roasted Tomato Chimichurri and Potatoes by Food & Wine

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Grilled Sirloin Steak with Cilantro-Sesame Marinade by Curtis Stone

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Balsamic and Rosemary-Marinated Florentine Steak by Food & Wine

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Steak and Soba Stir-Fry by bon appetit

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Minute Steak Stacks with Herbed Anchovy Butter by Food & Wine

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Grilled Balsamic-and-Garlic Flank Steak by Food & Wine

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Bulgogi-Style Pepper Steak Sandwiches by Food & Wine

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Coffee-Rubbed Strip Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce by Food & Wine

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Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Roasted Rosemary Potatoes by Food & Wine

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Grilled T-Bone Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce by Curtis Stone

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Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Summer Vegetables by Food & Wine

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Grilled Strip Steaks with Onion Wedges by Food & Wine

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Grilled Steak Tacos with Avocado Salsa by Food & Wine

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Hanger Steak with Herb-Nut Salsa by Food & Wine

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Chipotle-Marinated Flatiron Steak with Avocado-Corn Relish by Food & Wine

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Spice-Rubbed T-Bone Steaks by Food & Wine

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Skirt Steak with Paprika Butter by Food & Wine

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Steak with Tomato Gorgonzola Sauce by Campbell's Kitchen

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Cola-Marinated Flank Steak with Frito Chilaquiles by Food & Wine

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Warm Flank Steak Salad with Mint and Cilantro by Food & Wine

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Steak with Red Wine and Mushroom Sauce by SELF

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