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Why you should have your steak rare

Friday, February 20th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

It’s amazing how many people go into a restaurant and ask for their steak to be cremated.  Some don’t like the thought of eating meat that isn’t cooked throughout whereas others think it is a health hazard.  If people knew the real facts behind rare steaks then maybe fewer chefs would be disgruntled at having to incinerate a perfectly good cut of beef.

For the uneducated there are several gradations of cooking steaks.  For the purposes of this article “raw” steaks will not be taken into account since most steaks ordered in restaurants are cooked to some degree.

Raw – for some special dishes the steak is not cooked at all.  Most famous is perhaps steak tartare which consists of seasoned ground raw beef topped with an egg.

Blue rare– the outside of the steak is seared so that the inside is warmed; the steak will retain much of the redness of the uncooked meat.

Rare – the steak appears cooked on the outside and is very pink on the inside; the centre of the steak, particularly on fillets, will be red.

Medium rare - the steak appears cooked on the outside; the inside will be pink, especially in the center.

Medium – the steak appears cooked on the outside; the inside will be slightly pink in the center.

Medium well – the steak appears cooked on the outside and there will be feint traces of pink in the center.  The steak may taste slightly dry.

Well done – the steak appears cooked on the outside; there will be no traces of pink at all in steak.  The steak will taste hard and dry.

From the description above it is clear that the rarer the steak the less cooked it is inside.  Taste aside, an argument for not having steaks rare is that they are not safe – this isn’t true.  In 2004 the University of Nottingham proved that the bacteria that cause food poisoning were not present in steaks cooked rare providing they were cooked with clean, sterile equipment (for more information see the news item Rare Steak ‘is safe to eat’ (685 clicks)).  So the issue is whether or not you have confidence in the conditions of the restaurants you eat in rather than whether or not the food is safe.

Why should you have your steak rare?  Look at the descriptions above and use plain logic: the more the steak is cooked the less juices there are in it.  The less juices there are the less taste there is.  Once your steak has been fried for a short time (at the point it reaches blue rare or rare) the juices are sealed into steak.  From this point onward the heat is forcing those lovely juices out of the steak.  People are often put off that a rare steak contains lots of blood.  This is a fallacy: a good quality steak shouldn’t bleed much (if at all) either.

So it stands to reason that the steak should be rare but that begs another question: rare or blue rare?  It is a matter of taste but providing the steak is of a good quality and is cooked properly you are guaranteed lots of juices.  Steaks should only be eaten rare if they are of a good quality such as fillet, sirloin and sometimes ribeye.  A blue rare steak will contain more juices but will not taste as hot throughout compared to a rare steak so it’s a matter of preference.

So you’ve gone for rare, good!  How do you know if it’s rare?  The most common mistake people make is sticking a knife in it to check the colour of the inside.  This is the worst thing you can do – if the steak does need some more cooking it will dry up quicker.  Simply press the steak; the quicker it springs back the less it has been cooked.  After time you will soon been able to judge the rareness of a steak by its firmness.  A steak can always be cooked for longer is too rare whereas if the steak is overdone you’ll either have to eat it as it is or throw it away and start again.

Consider the points raised in this article next time you eat steak.  If you’re dubious or paranoid about the conditions at the restaurants you in eat cook one at home so you can be sure the steak is prepared in clean conditions.  If your local butcher is any good he will be pleased to give you advice on what steak is suitable for eating rare.  Similarly, if you eat in a reputable restaurant they will serve you a nice rare juicy steak, E.Coli free and cooked to perfection.  As for those that insist of having their steak cremated . . . well, that’s their funeral.

6 Responses to “Why you should have your steak rare”

  1. k says:

    it’s a matter of preference. I personally like a well done steak – it has a taste all of it’s own.

    Also, a well cooked, well done steak is not dry at all, it’s not pink but still tender but has a more caramelised taste.

  2. cdncntrygrl says:

    I am very fond of my steak being cooked “blue rare” myself, and I actually quite like it cold inside still. I do mine on the bbq, no more than 2 or 3 min per side, enough to have grill marks, if it is very thick I will hold it and sear the sides as well. Not only do I find that the flavour is far better than any other way it is also far healthier.

    When cooking any more than that, not only do the lovely juices and flavours get cooked out so do all the nutrients & vitamins. So get organic and barely cook it and there you have it, healthy eating. Bon appetite !

  3. Myrtle says:

    I’ve been reading many articles on the pros and cons of both rare and well-done steak. Most have been severely biased, leaning towards rare and ONLY because of the authors’ preferences. This is not fair when it comes to a matter of preference. “The steak will taste hard and dry.” Hard and dry are not flavors, and well-done does not always equal to hard and dry in texture. Well-done steak can have a wonderful flavor if cooked correctly…not burned. Who would want to burn their steak? Of course seasonings and flavorings are a matter of personal preference, but sometimes steaks can be overly drowned in sauces and marinades that completely mask the natural flavor of the beef. Yet another matter of preference, but completely covering beef with new flavors makes me think that the person using those cover-ups must not like beef at all and should stop wasting their time. It really only needs to be lightly seasoned to enhance the natural flavors that are already there. But getting back to doneness, I do prefer well-done steak, but I’m not a downer of rare. If fact, I’ll eat a good steak tartar any day, and that’s to the extreme. The fact is, well-done steak isn’t as bad as bull-headed individuals make it out to be. Well done does not mean burned and charred as it keeps on being belligerently suggested. As k said above, it becomes more caramelized, concentrating the flavors, and actually rendering out more of the fat that is present and marbleized in most steaks, but still leaving the concentrated flavor. In that aspect, fat, it definitely is more healthy. When it comes to the carcinogens so-often spoken of that’s more prevalent when grilling is your cooking method, broiling brings that risk to none. My point is, a well-done, well-browned (not burned) steak can still be moist and bursting with it’s own natural flavor. We’re not all idiots eating “cremated” meat. Rare lovers aren’t eating a freshly ripped from the bone cow muscle on their plate, and well-done lovers aren’t eating an old leather boot. Red meat is supposedly horrible health-wise anyway. So why bully one preference over another?

  4. Myrtle says:

    …and by the way, I don’t prefer well-done because I’m an uneducated moron about the health risks. I know perfectly well that a rare steak won’t necessarily make me sick.

  5. apc says:

    Perhaps not a moron, Myrtle, but certainly uneducated.

    Fat is only a concern with conventional beef which is grain fed thus high in omega-6. Grass fed beef is much lower in omega-6 and higher in omega-3. The fat is good for you. Likewise there is absolutely nothing unhealthy about red meat. Except, of course, when it’s been abused to the point that it is no longer red.

  6. clippingpath says:

    Wow! it was really awesome post! thanks a lot for sharing..

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