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Ill Logik
03-20-2004, 07:08 PM
This thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=245959) in Cafe Society regarding the best way to cook steaks reminded me of something I noticed while dining at the Outback.

Every time I go there, I get the Outback Special (9oz. sirloin). The last few times I've ordered it, at least one other person in our party has too. Also, they have ordered theirs medium-well, while I get mine medium-rare.

When the steaks are brought out, I notice every time that my cut of meat is a nice, thick, juicy looking cut, while the others look flat, dry, and, obviously, a little overcooked.

My question is this: Does Outback actually select differently shaped cuts of meat depending on how you order it? The difference in size and shape of the cuts might be due to the longer cooking time of one, but I doubt it. The difference I have seen is quite noticeable. My is that they do have different cuts of meat that they use depending on how you order it so that all cuts will be done at about the same time. Just a guess, so any info is appreciated.

don't ask
03-20-2004, 07:14 PM
Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential talks about "leaving for well done". This is the practice of putting aside the worst cuts of meat for people who order it well done, on the principle that it is ruined anyway by being well done and the diner couldn't tell the difference.

Harriet the Spry
03-20-2004, 07:17 PM
This has nothing to do with Outback in particular, but in Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain makes some mention of restaurants prioritizing the best cuts to be prepared in the ways where the meat's quality will be most obvious. That's kind of a delicate way to put it. More like, a steak cooked well done hides more flaws, so if the meat is slightly flawed you give it to the person who orders it well-done, not the one who orders it rare.

Longer cooking probably also results in flatter steaks, since more liquid is lost.

Shalmanese
03-20-2004, 09:11 PM
The more you cook steaks, the smaller they get. Its to do with the moisture escaping.

fezpp
03-21-2004, 05:47 AM
I think often it's just a case of kitchen management. By selecting a thick steak and a thin steak they can be cooked for the same time to produce a medium-rare and a medium-welldone respectively.

quiltguy154
03-21-2004, 06:33 AM
I think often it's just a case of kitchen management. By selecting a thick steak and a thin steak they can be cooked for the same time to produce a medium-rare and a medium-welldone respectively.

Analagous to the classic Burns and Allen dialogue about why Gracie always puts a 5lb roast and a 10 lb roast in the oven at the same time. When the smaller roast is burned, the larger roast is done. Well, it WAS funny, but you had to be there.

::slinks away, contemplating lame-ass attempt at hijacking humor::

Ill Logik
03-21-2004, 11:24 AM
Thanks for all the info. I guess the reason I am particularly curious about the Outback is because I kind of picture them as the "McDonalds" of steakhouses. I wouldn't be that surprised if they received big boxes of frozen cuts labeled "Rare," "Medium Rare," "Medium Well," etc., and all the cook needs to learn is how to throw them in an oven or on a grill and push a big red button that says "Cook Steaks Now."

kniz
03-21-2004, 07:28 PM
I am particularly curious about the Outback is because I kind of picture them as the "McDonalds" of steakhouses.
So why would you keep returning to the "McDonalds" of steakhouses? In my mind their menu is varied enough to exclude them from being a steakhouse.

Ill Logik
03-21-2004, 11:11 PM
So why would you keep returning to the "McDonalds" of steakhouses? In my mind their menu is varied enough to exclude them from being a steakhouse.

Because I don't let culture snobs determine what I should like. Give me McDonalds or give me Che' Le' Doux De Culture Snob Extroidanaire. I don't give a crap. Make sense? Now where did I put that Big Mac? :p

MeanJoe
03-22-2004, 12:50 AM
This is so funny, I had the exact same thing happen on Friday night at Outback when ordering the Outback Special.

Three different people, including myself ordered:

1.) Medium-Rare (me) - came out looking great, normal sirloin as you've described it.

2.) Well done - came out flat as a cheap flank steak, 1/3rd the thickness of mine and that is being generous. It was also VERY grained and grizzled.

3.) Rare - this throws the wrench in your theory and it was the first time for Mrs. MeanJoe. She usually gets a rare Special and it is fan-tabulous. This time, I swear to God, they took a section of a slice of Prime Rib and grilled it. It was very fatty, lots of grizzle, and well, it looked more like Prime Rib than a sirloin.

MeanJoe

rjung
03-22-2004, 02:29 AM
I guess the reason I am particularly curious about the Outback is because I kind of picture them as the "McDonalds" of steakhouses.
No, that'd be Sizzler. (http://www.sizzler.com/home/home.html) Nice clam chowder at the salad bar, and my wife loves their lemonherb chicken, but most of the steaks are definitely "it's from some part of the cow, just don't ask what part."

Haven't tried Outback yet, but from what I've heard, there's no way they can sink as low as Sizzler.

Chronos
03-22-2004, 06:56 PM
Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential talks about "leaving for well done". This is the practice of putting aside the worst cuts of meat for people who order it well done, on the principle that it is ruined anyway by being well done and the diner couldn't tell the difference.Of course, this practice is probably also why people think that well-done meat is ruined in the first place. Contrary to what steak elitists seem to think, cooking makes meat more tender, not less.

postcards
03-22-2004, 07:41 PM
...Haven't tried Outback yet, but from what I've heard, there's no way they can sink as low as Sizzler.

But Sizzler is still a step or two above Tad's!

Gary T
03-22-2004, 07:51 PM
Of course, this practice is probably also why people think that well-done meat is ruined in the first place. Contrary to what steak elitists seem to think, cooking makes meat more tender, not less.
Not always. Both filet mignon and flank steak are more tender done medium rare than done medium well. And all sorts of meats can be overcooked into toughness.

Rick
03-22-2004, 09:38 PM
When cooking a tender lean cut of meat such as a steak quickly under high heat, extra cooking will tend to toughen the meat.
When cooking a very tough piece of meat such as a brisket under low heat for long periods of time the connective tissue will break down and the meat becomes more tender.
Bottom line, different cuts of meat, different cooking methods.

Duckster
03-22-2004, 10:00 PM
3.) Rare - this throws the wrench in your theory and it was the first time for Mrs. MeanJoe. She usually gets a rare Special and it is fan-tabulous. This time, I swear to God, they took a section of a slice of Prime Rib and grilled it. It was very fatty, lots of grizzle, and well, it looked more like Prime Rib than a sirloin.

MeanJoe

When was the last time you visited a steakhouse? :D

Of all the restaurants I've been to the last several years, all of them, and I do mean all of them, will not cook anything less than medium (and in a few cases medium rare). It has to do with the transmission of food diseases.

Rick
03-22-2004, 10:34 PM
When was the last time you visited a steakhouse? :D

Of all the restaurants I've been to the last several years, all of them, and I do mean all of them, will not cook anything less than medium (and in a few cases medium rare). It has to do with the transmission of food diseases.

Last Thursday, and I cooked a mess of Ribeyes last night.

This has to do more with ground meat than steak or a roast. With a steak or roast any bacteria will be on the surface of the meat, which will get way above 160 degrees during cooking. The interior of the meat does not have to get that hot since there is not bacteria growing there.
Ground meat is the exception to this rule, since being ground the bacteria is spread all though out the meat.
At one of my favorite steak houses the menu describes doneness like this
Rare Cool red center
Medium Rare Warm red center
Medium Warm pink center
You get the idea. I order my steaks medium rare there.

Blown & Injected
03-22-2004, 11:37 PM
Another nice post from Rick!

There is a reason many places have a disclaimer about well done steak.

RIBEYES RULE!!!!!

Rex Fenestrarum
03-22-2004, 11:56 PM
Of all the restaurants I've been to the last several years, all of them, and I do mean all of them, will not cook anything less than medium (and in a few cases medium rare). It has to do with the transmission of food diseases.

Do you live in Massachusetts or some other "nanny state'?? Because here in the God-fearing South you can order a steak any damn way you want it. Hamburgers too (except South Carolina). Of course, any type of list that has the good things about the South always says "except South Carolina" anyway, so you're probably used to that.

watsondog
03-23-2004, 12:01 AM
[URL=http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=245959]My question is this: Does Outback actually select differently shaped cuts of meat depending on how you order it? The difference in size and shape of the cuts might be due to the longer cooking time of one, but I doubt it. The difference I have seen is quite noticeable. My is that they do have different cuts of meat that they use depending on how you order it so that all cuts will be done at about the same time. Just a guess, so any info is appreciated.

Our neighbour's niece worked at Outback last summer. She's staying over there, so I walked over and asked her.

She says they do have different steaks for rare, medium rare, medium, and well-done, but that the quality of the meat has nothing to do with how you order it. ALL Outback steaks come from the cheapest, toughest parts of the beast, and are artificially tenderized (ie predigested) with food-grade chemicals. These are safe to eat as long as you don't have any medical issues (meat tenderizer can affect blood clotting and sodium retention, and can cause pretty nasty allergic reactions in some people).

Whether your steak looks nice or not is just luck.

She says that the steaks are separated on the basis of temperature.The well-done steaks (or the steaks which are to be well-done) are kept at refrigerator temperature, the mediums are kept just below freezing, and the rares are kept at about 10 degrees below freezing (Celsius). That way, they can put a "rare" and a "well-done" on the grill at the same time and they'll both be ready at the same time. I didn't ask her about medium-rare or blue rare.

Rex Fenestrarum
03-23-2004, 12:16 AM
[QUOTE=watsondog]and the rares are kept at about 10 degrees below freezing (Celsius). QUOTE]

So THAT'S why their steaks suck!

Rick
03-23-2004, 12:38 AM
Our neighbour's niece worked at Outback last summer. She's staying over there, so I walked over and asked her.

She says they do have different steaks for rare, medium rare, medium, and well-done, but that the quality of the meat has nothing to do with how you order it. ALL Outback steaks come from the cheapest, toughest parts of the beast, and are artificially tenderized (ie predigested) with food-grade chemicals. These are safe to eat as long as you don't have any medical issues (meat tenderizer can affect blood clotting and sodium retention, and can cause pretty nasty allergic reactions in some people).

The last two times I ate at Outback, I thought I detected meat tenderizer on the beef.

MeanJoe
03-23-2004, 01:31 AM
When was the last time you visited a steakhouse? :D

Of all the restaurants I've been to the last several years, all of them, and I do mean all of them, will not cook anything less than medium (and in a few cases medium rare). It has to do with the transmission of food diseases.

I visit steakhouses quite regularly, my waistline is my cite!

Not to be snippy but what Un-American, Godless, Commie-Heathen state do you live in that will not cook steaks below medium? Seriously, to hell with Iraq, the deficit, Patriot Act, and other significant issues facing our great country. A steak cooked to medium or higher is just wrong! I've never heard of such a thing and if I encountered it I would promptly walk out. No self-respecting steakhouse I've ever been too would permit such a travesty.

MeanJoe


*Who has eaten everything from $70.00 steaks to 4.95 Ponderosa specials.

MeanJoe
03-23-2004, 01:33 AM
The last two times I ate at Outback, I thought I detected meat tenderizer on the beef.

Not sure if meat tenderizer is an ingredient but the Outback Special is "seasoned". Generally, I order it sans seasoning as I want to taste the blood and meat, not the seasonings.

BytopianDream
03-23-2004, 02:09 AM
I've been grilling steaks for nearly 6 years at Longhorn Steakhouses.
I can tell you by my personal usage of pre-cut or hand-cut steaks how I choose steaks and such. I have little knowledge of Outback Steakhouses, but I do know many people who have or do work there. If you really want the inside kitchen skinny, I'm sure I could get it.

But at Longhorn and my preference:

1. The difference between a hand cut steak and a pre-cut steak is too minute except for a decently knowledgable steak conosiour (spelling sorry). The tell tale signs though are: more fat around the edges, veins not clipped (cut to keep them from being one big bite) or pinned (jacarded to tenderize) and very, very consistent cuts of meat (whether bad or good).

2. When choosing a steak to cook for rare: I choose a pretty steak. I'm not cooking it for long, so it should look good without "molding" it. Molding is when I use cooking or steak-weights to form a steak to a decent looking form. Rare steaks are usually chosen tougher since they will not be cooked very long.

3. For medium rare: Pretty much the same as above, but I have more of a chance to mold the steak and I choose fewer of the "blooded" cuts. (Blooded steaks are full of blood and very firm steaks. It's because the cow freaked out before death and the blood is in the meat.) By molding, I mean this. Say I have a ribeye that was cut at either end of the loin. It might be shaped like this ">" or some strange odd shape. I have to use the steak-weight to press down and expand the raised end to conform to rest of the steak. It makes it look a lot better than if I just cooked it.

4. For medium: I use thick, but tender steaks. For one, medium can quickly turn to medium well while I'm tending the other 50-100 steaks on my grill (that's for thick). For tender, I use the more tender steaks because they eat better at medium than a blooded or firm/tough steak.

5. For medium-wells: I use thinner, tender steaks. The reason is as you would expect. It cooks faster. (I got 12 minutes at lunch and 18 minutes at dinner to get your food out of the kitchen. I get yelled at if I don't. Either by management, the guy who is setting up the plates or by servers.) I use the more tender steaks so they don't chew like leather.

6. For wells: The more tender and thinner the better. Sometimes my well stack will cook faster than my medium-rare stack. They cook fast, plus they leave in some juice. And they are more tender to eat than a tough steak cooked to well. Plus, I don't have to "stomp" the well done steak. Stomping is using a steak-weight to beat the heck out of a steak to get it to well done.

7. Extra wells: Ya gotta be kidding me! I just get the old shoe soles we got out back and warm them up. DONE!

Advice on steaks:
Don't order a top sirloin cut, ever. Spend the extra couple dollars and get anything else.
Don't order prime rib above medium. Seriously... quit being a moron.
Don't ask for a steak butterfly medium-rare. You are not clever.
Don't ask for a steak pittsburg medium or medium-well. Find a dictionary, read it.
I could go on forever... seriously...

Do management ask us to pick certain steaks to cook for certain temperatures?
Not us. But I am a "certified corporate trainer" (for the resume), so I teach the above. It was taught to me a long time ago. It is the best method for being a dead cow factory.

What about steaks/burgers cooked under medium?
The policy at Longhorn has changed to not allow any burgers or chopsteaks cooked under medium-well for anybody, ever, even employees.
We will cook any steak to any desired doneness.
We do not cook rare prime rib anymore.

Mad cow conspiracy tin foil hat stuff:
We changed gloves to a glove that has "smaller pores" so that any germs don't get to the "customers." I figure it's because they fear us getting or transmitting the crazy cow. Either that or hepatitis A. I still don't understand why people don't get immunized for it.