Ordering a well-done steak: Unsophisticated?

I realized recently (when I saw some people do it) that I think of ordering your steak well-done as culinarily unsophisticated. Is that fair? Are there people who are in the know about food in general and steak in particular who would order or cook one well-done?

Gah! Food snobs. You like well-done, you order well-done. If the snobs don’t like it, demand they pay for your meal or they can suck your gristle.

I order well-done all the time. shrug I couldn’t care less what you think of my “culinary sophistication”. Blood (and it IS blood, not “juice”) is icky.

In my limited experience, yes, I’ve heard that ordering well-done is generally looked down upon. It is also said that if you order well-done, you can be assured that the cook WON’T give the better cuts. He or she will save those for other orders.

I come from a well-done/extra well-done family. Personally I find that medium-well usually comes out quite nicely.

Where would you draw a line between sophistication and mere taste? Sophistication in matters of taste, in my opinion, is not a matter of what you like, but what you try. For example, I’ll happily try bourbon, single-malt, blended malt, Highland, Lowland, and Irish whisk(e)y, with water and without, with ice and and without, and select those combinations that I enjoy. The sophistication in my opinion does not lie in the fact that I may choose Scottish single-malt whiskies with a drop of water to taste over bourbons with ice, but in the fact that I have made the effort to find the taste I like best through wide experimentation. I might call someone (and have called someone) who will stick by his one type of whisky without trying others unsophisticated; but not someone who has done so and just doesn’t like what I like. Same with steak: if you don’t like the blood, but have made an attempt to try it (with blood, I can see how some might not get it to their mouths), that’s all I can ask…

I like a steak with a LITTLE pink, so I usually order medium well.

MY opinion is, order what you like, and don’t worry about what anybody else likes. YOU’RE the one who has to eat what you order, after all. Why would you pay top dollar for a steak and then have it cooked the way somebody ELSE wants you to?

That said, there ARE many food snobs, and many snooty restaurateurs, who look down on patrons who order steaks well done. Celebrity chef Anthony (“Kitchen Confidential”) Bourdain spoke for many chefs when he said (I paraphrase, but this is NOT a misrepresentation, “I go out of my way to get the best quality meats, and so it hurts me personally when customers ask for a steak well done. If you come to my place and order well-done, I’m going to give you the worst meat I have. I’ll give you some shoe leather and burn it black.”

At Outback, nobody cares- they’ll cook what you want with a smile. But at classy joints, they may look down on you if you ask for your meat well-done.

Well, screw 'em. YOU’RE paying. YOU decide what you want.

…and he’ll likely charge you out the ass for it. What a dick.

I have heard this, but always found it laughable.

How is it more sophisticated to eat rawer meat rather than well-cooked meat?

The difference between an expensive piece of steak and a cheap one lies largely in the amount of intra-muscular fat. When cooked to between about 55C and 65C, this fat lubricates the fibres of the meat which makes prime steak incredibly tender compared to lesser cuts. However, when cooked to the 80C or so of well done steaks, all of the moisture and fat from within the muscle is squeezed out and you are left with equally tender steaks, that is, not at all. What this means is that people who eat well done meat are unable to appeciate the quality of the steak they are eating because all defining charecteristics have been cooked out.

Is this unsophisticated? Well, it depends on your own personal feeling. Do you think drinking high quality single malt whiskey straight is more sophisticated than drinking a cheap whiskey mixed into a cocktail? Do you think drinking lighter roasted coffee is better because you can distinguish more of the charecteristics of the bean? Is preferring sickly sweet wine to a fine bourdeux lacking in spohistication?

If the mark of a sophisticated palate is the ability to distingush subtle shades of quality and variation, then yes, ordering well done steak shows a lack of sophistication. But that doesn’t neccesarily mean it’s bad.

PS: If you ever order Wagyu/Kobe steak well done, I will fly over to your house, kick your ass and then make you eat 5 pounds of raw cow kidney to make up for it.

The red in red meat isn’t blood. It’s myoglobin

Look - there are two trains of thought happening in this thread:

  • clearly, taste is in the mouth of the beholder: Order steak the way you want to and “what’s right” be damned. Enjoy your food.

  • in terms of how food is “judged” then yes, be aware that, for reasons Shalmanese described, it is considered “better” to order quality meet rare or medium rare. Just like it is better to caramelize onions a certain way, prepare vegetables a certain way, etc. No one is say you HAVE to observe these rules - again, your call. But the more you can understand WHY those rules of thumb have emerged, the more you can understand what you like and WHY - whether you stick with the rules or not. I order meat medium rare, because that’s how I CHOOSE to - and I drink red wine or white wine - even though the rule says I should drink red. I have come to understand WHY red wine is considered a proper match with heavier fare like a steak, but sometimes I want a white. Life goes on.

Oh, I love this. The people who ordered their steak well-done (my British in-laws) drove me crazy this week by being very cautious about their food. They were afraid to try anything new to them. Several times there were things I would have bet they would have liked, but they wouldn’t even try them!!! It drove me nuts, as I will try almost anything. I grew up on fairly well-done steaks (ick, blood!) but as an adult, I tried them less well-done and realized that they tasted better. Ditto with french dressing on my salad. :slight_smile:

I agree with the “order what you like” philosophy, but with the caveat of “as long as you have at least tried other things or ways.”

I went through this with my wife and her family when we got married. I grew up in a household where well-done was the only way meat was ever cooked. My wife’s family came down pretty hard (it was “teasing”…but not very light or innocent teasing) when I first ordered steak that way in front of them.

Because I was still learning to try different things at the time, I eventually gave less-done meats a try, and now I typically order everything as “medium” because I actually enjoy the taste more that way. My mom, however, still prefers her meat well-done, and I’ve made my wife’s family accutely aware of the fact that it’s her right to do so and that the teasing isn’t appreciated. I think people in general tend to assume that she’s never tried non well-done meat and just doesn’t know any better, which is highly insulting. It’s her preference; leave her be.

I should say, though, that I’m a person who constantly has to defend his own rare-but-superior disgust with all things chocolate, so I may be a bit sensitive. :smiley:

I know several restaurants that will not cook steak “well-done” and they state that on the menu. Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential talks about “keeping for well done”. This is the process of the chefs putting aside the worst cuts of meat for anyone asking for their steak “well-done” because they will not waste good cuts on diners who eat meat “well-done”, they figure the meat is ruined anyway.

I also think that a lot of people who prefer steak well-done have never had a really good steak.

If we’re talking about an unremarkable steak from the supermarket, or at a cheap steak joint, I actually prefer the steak a lot more done, probably medium well. But if it’s a really good aged cut, I’d rather have it seared and basically raw on the inside.


I just like the taste of meat that’s so burnt you have to call in the dental records to identify it. Even the best cuts make me slightly queasy if they’re not cooked enough.

You probably put ketchup on it too, don’t you, you horrible person?

Even though there will always be exceptions to this (as Eve demonstrates), I find this to be true, from my experience. I have had three former well-done people turn into medium rare lovers afters having it in a good steak. The first was my brother, who discovered he liked medium rare when he went to a restaurant, ordered a file well done, and only got it medium rare. Rather than send it back, he decided just to eat it, and found it fantastic. My girlfriend, from Eastern Europe which has a habit of charring meat to hell and back again, had the same experience when I served her a medium rare steak. She was like “How did you make it so soft and flavorful?” “Um, I didn’t cook all the taste and texture out of it.” My cousin, same thing.

My mother still refuses to try anything less than well done. She’s completely icked out by the color red. That’s fine. I cook it how she wants, but I do save the better cuts for the people who do prefer the difference. Same thing with tuna. There’s a LOT of yellowfin tuna I would puke at the thought of eating raw but taste fine cooked all the way through. However, I love sushi grade tuna and would not dream of serving that to someone who wanted it cooked through.

Sorry, I just threw up on my mouth a little. = )

Medium rare, with more emphaisis on the rare. I don’t want the cow to moo, but then again, if it tastes good, let it speak.

If it’s a really good cut of meat then overcooking it ruins it, or at least eradicates everything about it that sets it apart from less quality meat. Of course you can eat your steak however you want but I actually do think it shows a certain degree of ignorance and unsophistication. It’s like mixing a really fine scotch with Mountain Dew. With cheap stuff it doesn’t matter but with the good stuff you’re robbing yourself of all the real quality and basically wasting your money because you don’ understand how to enjoy it.