Sunday, August 24, 2008

On Cooking Steaks

I just walked into the One Block West kitchen after having been away on vacation for seven days. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you're away from something for a while, when you return, you see things in a different way?

The first thing I saw upon entering the kitchen was this poster directly opposite the kitchen door. I have seen this poster so many times that I no longer pay attention to it. Being away from the kitchen got me to focus on it once again, so I thought that I'd share it with you. I got this poster many years ago, probably as part of a ServSafe (food safety training) class. It was so hilarious that we had to post it on the wall of our kitchen. You'll need to click on the thumbnail provided here to read the words on the large photo.

This poster, from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and others, strikes us as very funny because it is yet another attempt by the government to protect us from us by trying to keep us from eating rare and raw meats. On this poster, the authors associated the common names that we use for doneness of meat (e.g., "rare" and "medium") with temperatures that a meat thermometer will read when the steak is cooked to this doneness. What's really crafty and Big Brotherish about this is that they have slid the temperature scale about 30 degrees Fahrenheit so that anyone cooking a steak according to this guide will overcook it by 30 degrees such that the final temperature of the steak ends up where the government wants it to be, in their so-called safe zone.

This is so absurd that I would immediately fire any grill cook who followed this scale. Why? Because the steak would be coming back from the dining room just as soon as the customer who ordered it cut into it and found it overcooked.

We don't generally use meat thermometers to determine doneness of our steaks—any grill cook who has cooked more than about three shifts in a restaurant can determine doneness by feel—but if we were to use meat thermometers on steaks, here is the scale that we would use:

XR, extra rare, 110 F, just barely warm blue center
R, rare, 115 F, blue with red around the edges
MR, medium rare, 120-125 F, warm and red in center
M, medium, 130-135 F, pink in the center
MW, medium well, 145 F, slightly pink in the center
W, well, 155 F, brown to barely pink in the center

As you can see, our "friends" would have us cook your medium rare steak to the degree of doneness that you associate with a medium well steak. Tell me, would you be happy if I did this to you?

1 comment:

  1. It's refreshing to hear a food professional state the obvious. I'm tired of being told "our hamburgers come only in medium, medium well, and well done," as if they're talking about an off the rack shirt, not a meal.

    The last time I asked, "So how do you define 'medium'?" I was told, "170 degrees," as opposed to any physical characteristics of the meat.

    Much to my sons' regret, we no longer patronize that matter how "Friendly" they may be.