By Eric Yang
on 6.2.09

how-to-properly-order-steak1

As a human, you are lucky. You are lucky to be comfortably situated in the food chain’s natural order. A place in which you are able (willing) to eat (enjoy) steak. Knowing that, you should adhere to the following paradigm: you are a man and therefore you must know how to properly order a steak. This is not a suggestion.

Unlike many laws, this upgrade will attempt to explain how you, as a man, should understand proper beef ordering etiquette, and its various bylaws. It will not touch on grilling techniques, but the basic dance of going to a restaurant, sitting down, and requesting one glorious cut of beef, prepared to order.

Know Your Beef Cuts

First, you should better understand the various cuts of beef on a cow. Somewhere in the back of your mind you have a vague idea of what your favorite steak is, but lets arm you with some knowledge. Below is a diagram of beef cuts on a cow. We’ll call her Marge.

cuts-of-beef(Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Marge, like a lot of things, has her goods and bads. The good thing is that with a little makeup preparation and clothing flavoring, can be coaxed into yielding great things. We’re focusing on unseasoned meat, though. You know, the kind of meat that requires a visit to the local butcher for a specific cut, or the kind of meat you order in a proper steakhouse – a steakhouse that has armed waitstaff ready to destroy any bottle of A-1 within 10 miles of the premises.

Here, Marge, is demonstrating the various cut you’ll find on any cow and should provide you a semi-comprehensive guide when you’re presented a menu with a myriad of cuts. Though, you rarely go wrong with a ribeye or porterhouse.

  • Chuck: Essentially, 2nd tier (not prime) one of the most common sources for roasts and hamburgers
  • Round: This is one of the leanest cuts of meat. There’s little marbling, and because it’s less tender than other cuts will typically require a wet type of preparation.
  • Ribs: What you’ve come to know as short ribs. Also yields rib eye steak and prime rib.
  • Short Loin: Strip steaks
  • Sirloin: Have more flavor than short loin, but are typically less tender. Typically broken out into top loin, bottom loin and tenderloin (see next)
  • Tenderloin: Yields your filet mignon or left along with the T-bone (get it?) for t-bone steaks and Porterhouses.
  • Brisket: No need to explain. You know what barbecue beef brisket is.
  • Shank: The toughest cut of meat. See recipes for stews.
  • Plate: More famous for producing cuts like hanger steak, a steak more restaurants are using to provide a lower price point for ordering steak.
  • Flank: Famous for the flank steak (or London broil). Often, this steak is marinaded or braised as it is tougher than rib or loin cuts.

Order To Your Liking, So Long As Your Liking Is Medium Rare

When you order a steak well done, you’re pretty much telling the world that you no longer deserve to be called a man, much less eat a piece of meat. Rare is great. Medium-Rare is genius. Medium is acceptable. Medium-well is heinous. Well-done is “stop reading this article, take a step back and re-analyze your life”.

Yes, varying cuts will require their own level of doneness, but you rarely go wrong with medium-rare. As most restaurants will lean towards the rare side of doneness when preparing your steak you’ll always have the option to send it back for a few more minutes on heat. Though, it’s not suggested you do this at steakhouses who pride themselves on their product. The key here is to be self-aware. Don’t be a snob about it (even if the restaurant is). Know what you ordered, and know the way you like it. If the restaurant deviates, especially if you frequent it often, then simply let your server know (nicely) and if the restaurant is worth its chops then they’ll handle accordingly. After all, you’re the one spending $50 when you could be at home preparing the meat yourself.

Order With…

Potato: Mashed potatoes are awesome. Scalloped potatoes with cheese are even more awesome. But, you are ordering a steak, and a proper steak is meant to be served with a baked potato. It’s the way of tradition. The only exception is if the steakhouse serves a house-side like potato croquettes, steak fries (steak frites), or a potato casserole of some sort. You’ll never go wrong with a baked potato and a few toppings and seriously, when is the last time you made baked potatoes at home?

Sides: Wedge salad with blue cheese, creamed spinach, roasted asparagus, sauteed portabello mushrooms, steamed broccoli with sesame vinaigrette, and grilled or roasted veggies are all fine options. Here’s a suggestion: keep the sides few and light. Focus on that delicious piece of meat you ordered, and save room for dessert. Especially if you’re there with your significant other. If you’re there with the guys (a man should break bread and cut meat with his cronies at least once a year) then go hog-wild. One side of creamed spinach (family style) for each, if you please.

Dessert: Ice cream or a derivation thereof. Enough said.

Wine, Beer, Beverages

properly-paired-steakLets get it out of the way… Merlot is fine despite what Paul Giammati said in Sideways. Regardless of your choice of vino, make sure you know how to pair wines to some degree. No, you don’t need to dwell on tannins or bouquets, but you should choose a wine that’s neither the most or least expensive. See if there’s one you know or ask the server if he or she has any recommendations. Typically they won’t choose the most expensive one or make you look like an ass (hello, tip?). There’s not enough room to dive into the details of exact wine pairings, but 99.9% of the time red wine + steak = bulletproof.

If the mood is right or if you generally prefer your meat with a nice tall glass, then so be it. After all, it’s what makes the meal (meat) better. Your best bet is to stick with ambers, porters, stouts, or pale ales like Samuel Adams Indian-Pale Ale. Heavier bodied or bitter beers simply match up the savory thickness of a well-prepared steak. You simply can’t go wrong with those options. Non-drinkers should stick with an iced cold glass of water. Seriously, it works. Club soda with lime, ginger-ale, or iced tea (unsweetened) also pair well. Avoid fountain-soda products.

Let’s continue the conversation. Do you have suggestions when it comes to ordering your steak? Share them below (with links if you can) and help your fellow man get his meat on, proper.

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