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How do you like your beef?

Put down the ketchup bottle

As a kid, I would never dream of touching a steak that was practically mooing at me, let alone one that had any pinkness to it at all. Well-done was the only way to go; and the only way to eat it was with ketchup. Turns out, I was all wrong.

When I met my husband, his family had been raising cattle for the locals for over 20 years. They knew the qualities of a good steak, and I think he about died the first time he attended a family dinner and noticed the ketchup bottle sitting on the table. The worst insult to a cattle farmer is to lather his/her steak in a sauce to eat it. If you want to save your friendship, or in my case relationship, and learn how to eat a good steak, step away from the ketchup bottle.

In a 2017 Men’s Health article, Americans Are Ordering Their Steak All Wrong, they studied steak ordering trends from 491 Longhorns over a one year period. They reported that 12% of Americans ordered their steaks well-done and less than 3% ordered rare (apparently, I wasn’t so weird as a child). What was the most popular order? Turns out, 37.5% of Americans like their steak cooked medium (my preference), 25.8% liked medium-well, and 22.5% ordered medium-rare. What do the experts say? Americans have it all wrong.

Not all steaks are equal

Before you select the appropriate temperature of a steak, you must know about the steak you are selecting. For instance, ribeye, porterhouse, and T-bone are highly marbled cuts and hold up well to longer cook times. Marbling refers to the fat (the white streaks in the meat) that blend with the meat to create a juicy and flavorful experience. We like to tell our customers that these cuts are more forgiving. Even if you are a bad cook, you likely will still have a good eating experience. Cuts such as the round and sirloin have the least amount of marbling and can’t hold up to well-done levels.

Not all beef is equal

Another consideration, before deciding on the doneness level of your beef, you should know how your beef was fed. If it is grass-fed, it is going to be very lean with very little marbling. This means that in order to have a good eating experience, you need to be okay with steaks cooked to a lower temperature (well-done and grass-fed just doesn’t mix). If you are at a restaurant and you don’t know, just ask. Most high-end restaurants will have it labeled either grass-fed or prime/choice (grain-finished). If it says prime or choice, it will be grain-fed beef; grass-fed cattle just don’t get enough marbling to reach these grades.

The Next Grill Master

Next time you visit a restaurant, or when you are throwing our steaks on your grill, consider the cut before considering your doneness. If you are still not sure about trying a pink steak, test it out at home. Throw a steak on the grill and cook it to the internal temperature of your target doneness (see chart below). We use a simple meat thermometer to determine the doneness. Start at your lowest target, try a bite, and if you don’t like it, cook it to the next target doneness until you have reached your preference. If you really want to own the experiment, try a blind taste test. Have someone else cook the steak to various levels and have you taste the pieces with a blindfold on. You may be surprised at what you select as your favorite.

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