At the time of writing, restaurants are slowly making their way back into day to day life after the global health crisis of COVID-19 and we’re now permitted to visit restaurants once more.
While the restrictions are still in place for outdoor dining only and with a limited amount of company, we’re still taking back to restaurants in our masses and reacquainting ourselves with the menus, the wine lists, and the relaxed ambience of al fresco dining that we took for granted such a little time ago.
But now we’re once again able to order our food at a restaurant, how do we ensure we are making the absolute best of this opportunity? You may think it as simple as pointing to a dish on the menu but actually, how you order is often times just as important as what you order. Especially when it comes to steak.
We are of course referring to “doneness”
We’ve previously covered the different levels of doneness being : Rare, medium-rare, Medium, Medium-well, and Well Done with Rare being the least cooked and Well Done being the most cooked. This is the standard system used to measure “doneness” and is the system used all over the world.
If you’re already familiar with the doneness scale then you’ll probably also be familiar with the furrowed brows and soft tuts if you order a steak Well Done or perhaps the light “Ooh”s if you are bold enough to order a steak Rare. You’ll also probably be aware that chefs and scientists alike will recommend Medium-Rare as the doneness or choice for 95% of steaks. But why is this? Why should you take a prized steak at a long awaited restaurant table and order it Medium-Rare instead of any of the other levels?
Experts believe that it is at this “Medium-Rare” level of doneness that optimal flavour of the beef will be released. When it is medium rare, the centre of the meat is pink and soft, and the sides are brown and firm with plenty of juice left in the meat for a succulent bite. If it is cooked anywhere above medium rare, expect that the flavour and texture will be diminished if not lost completely.
Knowing how to order a steak to the correct doneness is crucial to getting the most out of your restaurant booking. Check out our other articles to find out more about each level of doneness but, for 95% of occasions, go with the experts and steak lovers across the globe and ask for your steak Medium-Rare.
Now you know what level of doneness you want your steak, it’s time to think about the steak itself. Not all steak is created equal and can actually have vividly different tastes and mouthfeels but, armed with a little knowledge, you’ll be able to navigate the sometimes intimidating menus and order a steak
Which kind of steak do I need to order?
One of the key things to remember when it comes to steak, or any meat for that matter, is that fat = flavour. The fat on the meat is the source of its flavour and a fatty piece of steak may not be the wisest choice for your waistline but it will certainly be a pallet pleaser.
A relatively fatty cut such as a rib-eye, which is also known as entrecote, Scotch fillet, and Delmonico, among other names, will provide a fantastic balance between plenty of flavour and a lean piece of beef.
If you want the meat to be lean, go for a tenderloin, which has the least amount of fat. In most menus, they are often listed as filet mignon or filet. While this meat does have less fat and is a lot leaner, the muscle it is cut from does very little work in the cows life so it is extremely tender with very soft muscle fibres offering a very “beefy” taste but less of the richness you would get from a fattier cut.
Knowing your sources
Steak comes from cows. This is an inarguable truth yet a gross oversimplification. Where that cow is from, it’s upbringing, and even its lineage can all play a crucial role when it comes to the flavour of the meat on your plate.
Some restaurants would use specific names to identify the source of the meat they are using. For instance, if you see the word Angus, this means that it is from a cow bred in New Zealand or alternatively, the slightly more known “Aberdeen Angus”. Wagyu, on the other hand, is from Japan and is widely regarded as some of the most exquisite beef you can purchase with deep marbling, within the meat and produced by a cow which has enjoyed a very comfortable life.
If you order a good quality cut of meat from a reputable steak house and order it Medium-Rare then the odds are certainly in your favour for a truly spectacular piece of steak. If you’re still on the fence or not quite sure, just remember what we’ve spoken about fatty versus lean, the lineage of the cow, and how to get the proper “doneness”.
Any way you cut it, steak is a great choice for dinner and, more often than not, you really have to try hard to be disappointed with a good steak meal.