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chocolatechip's avatar

Why is steak in Western cuisine always prepared so poorly?

Asked by chocolatechip (3004points) March 26th, 2011

In every single Western style food establishment that I’ve been to in which I’ve had the displeasure of eating their steak (rare), the meat is always dry, tough, and flavourless. Granted, I’m no food connoisseur, but even the most casual eater can only enjoy a meal if it’s…well, edible.

Inevitably, someone is going to tell me that I’ve never had real steak and that X place serves the best steak. That’s not the point. Regardless of the quality of the restaurant in question, the steak is always of vastly inferior quality to the rest of the menu. For the record, I have had real steak, in my backyard. Heck, I’ve cooked unseasoned, unmarinated steaks from Costco that have tasted better than anything I’ve eaten in a Western restaurant.

That leads me to the conclusion that it’s not that Western restaurants can’t make a good steak, but that perhaps in Western cuisine, steak is supposed to taste like a sock?

Someone please enlighten me.

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35 Answers

incendiary_dan's avatar

I’m just wondering how a rare steak could be dry. It kind of defies logic.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

What do you mean “Western”?

I’ve had tons and tons of steak done really nicely. I’ve had my fair share of poorly prepared and cooked meat, but I don’t order it from places that don’t seem like they’d know how to do it.

sarahjane90's avatar

Where have you been? I’ve had many excellent steaks, even in less expensive restaurant chains. Maybe you have just had bad luck.

Have you been going to lets say, a seafood restaurant and ordered steak? I personally would probably stick to ordering steak at restaurants that are more well known for it… not to say a seafood restaurant isn’t also able to cook a good steak.

chocolatechip's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs Western meaning North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

@sarahjane90 What were those places?

I just find it strange that steak is always the one thing on the menu that is exceptionally bad, while the rest of the food is great. There’s gotta be someone out there that understands what I’m talking about!

chocolatechip's avatar

@incendiary_dan I That’s a testament to how bad it is. It’s just terrible quality meat. And I notice that Western restaurants usually don’t marinate/season the meat very much, so that you’re supposed to be able to taste the beef, but that doesn’t work when the beef is bad .Your average house cook can afford a decent cut of steak, so why don’t/can’t restaurants?

sarahjane90's avatar

In the States… Longhorns, Applebees, TGIs, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, even Denny’s steak was acceptable. I’ve also been to a few small local restaurants which got the job done.

In the UK… the ‘Beefeater’ chain, TGIs again, Frankie & Benny’s, a couple local pubs.

I am not a steak connoisseur, I’d rather have ribs! Regardless, I have had a quite a few and they were more than edible.

funkdaddy's avatar

So, in short, the only good steak you’ve had comes from your back yard?

I would guess you’re getting a different cut of meat at home than what you’re ordering out. Do you like lean meat or does it need a little “marbling” to really get you going? Some people love one but can’t stand the other.

If your’e looking for flavor at a restaurant, try to look for a smoked option on the menu, generally they’ll be very tender and have a lot of flavor beyond the meat itself.

In my experience (which may differ) restaurants don’t serve low quality beef as a general rule and some take real pride in the meat itself, sources, cuts, and how the prepare it. Are you trying steak at a steakhouse?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

What kind of restaurants are you eating in? What cities? You’re never going to get good steak (or other food) at an Applebees, but going to an independent steak house in the southwest of the USA is going to be just brilliant.

janbb's avatar

I’ve found it’s only worth buying really good steak to cook or getting it at a really expensive steak restaurant. I’ve had excellent steaks at places like Smith and Wollensky’s in the States but find it fairly uninteresting at cheaper places. I do believe it depends on the quality of the meat (grass-fed, marbling) and probably how long it is aged. Even with the best of steaks, I find I can only eat them once in a while because they are more boring than other foods..

chocolatechip's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs I’ve eaten steaks from a variety of places, from really cheap ones to independent somewhat expensive ones (but nowhere that has been outlandishly pricey. Max $30pp). I’ve had good steaks in really cheap restaurants before, and like I said, I can even pan fry myself a great steak for free (and I’m no chef). One should be able to get a good steak at a place like Applebees, especially if you’re paying what, like $10–20 for the meal? But for some reason, Western society dictates that you have to go to an expensive restaurant in order to get a piece of beef that is more appealing than a quarter pounder from McDonalds.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@chocolatechip Ok, first, McDonalds – not beef. Second, Applebees is disgusting. It may not be cheap (at least, as cheap as it should be), but along with restaurants like Chile’s, it’s just not going to be good – you go there for the atmosphere, not the top-notch chefs. I’ve had cheap steak be really good, but it was always at places that focused on preparing exquisite food and hiring good chefs.

chocolatechip's avatar

I’ve never been to Applebees, but I’ve been to Chili’s, and the food was good enough (again, I’m not a connoisseur), but get a steak from a similar restaurant and it will be terrible compared to everything else. The most recent bad steak I’ve had was $27. By contrast, I can get a vastly superior steak for like $8 at a Vietnamese restaurant, or cheaper if it’s fast food, which is why I ask if it’s a cultural thing. Is steak seen as some kind of delicacy? I haven’t eaten at enough Western restaurants to know, mainly because I don’t want to pay for “atmosphere” at the expense of a good meal, and I’m usually afraid to actually try the steak because it is always a disappointment. Based on my experiences though, it seems like good steak is some kind of special privilege.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@chocolatechip That’s because it is a special privilege.

chocolatechip's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs Why? What’s so special about beef in steak form?

chocolatechip's avatar

Chicken? Pork? Anything else? Why is steak always exceptionally bad unless you are willing to pay a lot of money for it?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@chocolatechip Perhaps you just don’t like steak enough for it to be worth it.

chocolatechip's avatar

I think it has more to do with the fact that I can get good steak with a much lower pricetag as long as it’s not from a Western establishment.

Besides, if steak is so special, then why can I still get it for the same price as chicken or pork from the grocery store? You’re telling me that steak is a special privilege but only when prepared by someone other than yourself? That seems quite silly.

wenn's avatar

If you’re so upset about eating steak from Bob’s Discount Meat Kart then stop going out for steak and make it yourself.

I’ve had plenty of steaks from various places and can only remember 1 or 2 that were not so great.

I recently had a hibachi grilled steak at The Cheesecake factory for my mother’s birthday and it was excellent. Only cost $19 too

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@chocolatechip But I think a lot of times it just tastes good because they flavor it so much. I’m not saying it’s not good, just that it’s a totally different dish (and the Asian places I go to don’t exactly use high-quality meat…). It’s like how I don’t think chicken is good unless it’s soaked in other flavors – that’s not because people aren’t cooking it right or the chicken cut is bad, I just don’t like chicken.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@wenn I can never get past their Shrimp Franchese.

chocolatechip's avatar

@wenn That’s why I don’t go out for steak anymore.

@MyNewtBoobs Well I understand that different cuisines have different styles, which is part of what I’m trying to find out from this question. But there are certain elements that are universally good to all cuisines, like how tender and moist the meat is. I know Western restaurants like to leave the steak mostly unflavoured, so that most of the taste comes from the meat itself. But is it supposed to be chewy as well? Is chewy beef supposed to be a good thing? With a good quality cut of beef, it’s hard to mess it up, which is why I think it’s intentional.

chocolatechip's avatar

A similar phenomenon is how white meat is more expensive than dark meat. Why? Dark meat is so much better! Why would you want to pay more money to eat a dryer, less flavourful part of the chicken?

pathfinder's avatar

There is a kinde of magic in simplicity.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@chocolatechip People who don’t like dark meat, like me.

WestRiverrat's avatar

You have to stop going to the cheap steakhouses. If you go to the Cattlemen’s club in Pierre, SD you will get a great steak, if you can get in. Or you can try Front Street Steak house in Ogallala, Ne

If you pronounce Pierre as pee-aire instead of peer, you won’t get in.

12Oaks's avatar

I had a steak recently at Applebee’s. It was freaking DELICIOUS!! Has the liquid seasoning and some flaky, peppery stuff, and I loved every bite. Unfortunately, the thing was like 5 ounces so “every bite” consisted of just about four. It was like an appetizer. I ended up having to eat a second meal sdo I wouldn’t leave hungry. Still, the steak was about as good as they get. Maybe you’re eating at the worng places.

Randy's avatar

With meat, it’s ALL in how it’s prepared, especially steak. I know what you’re talking about. Most chains tend to have dry, almost flavorless meat no matter how you order it. I blame their grills. The heat is too high because they have to push out the food as quick as possible and as cheap as possible to make the most profit out of the $13—$20 they’re charging you. There are really great places to get steak but you have to search them out. I’m a pretty big steak fan and even a shitty steak is worth it to me over say… a chicken breast or some sort of salad.

filmfann's avatar

@Randy With meat, it’s ALL in how it’s prepared
Not true. The first thing is the quality of the steak. In the United States grades are prime, choice and select with prime being at the top and select being the bottom. . You can taste the difference right away.
Many restaurants don’t pay the attention to a good steak, and they use inferior grades of beef.
I am sure that is what @chocolatechip is experiencing.

damn, I miss Hungry Hunter

Randy's avatar

@filmfann You can make a shitty cut and grade steak taste good with the right preparation. Now, having said that, sure, a higher grade meat is going to taste better with the same preparation but it is possible that a cheap steak can wind up better than a more expensive, higher grade cut all based on how they are prepared.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I have to agree with Randy, the proper care can make a poorer cut of meat taste great.

filmfann's avatar

My point was that it is not ALL in how it’s prepared.

bolwerk's avatar

If you think you can’t get a good steak in North America, have you considered the possibility that you just…don’t like good steak?

(Admittedly, a sublime steak is a bit tough to make, but it’s far from impossible.)

chocolatechip's avatar

@bolwerk I have had good steak in North America. I’m just wondering why you can’t get good steak for a reasonable price specifically in Western restaurants.

@Randy That actually makes a lot of sense. Western restaurants often serve really thick pieces of steak, while steak in Asian cuisine always uses thin cuts, which I suppose allows them to cook it quickly even with low heat. That, and you can usually get away with using lower grade beef if you’re using a thin cut, as the eater doesn’t have to slog through an inch of rubbery meat.

bolwerk's avatar

@chocolatechip: Oh, well, throw in the “reasonable price” dimension and it gets harder. I’ve paid hundreds$ for mouth-watering steakgasms. Outback Steakhouse, on the other hand….

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