Why Restaurants Might Under-Cook Your Steak


When was the last time you ordered a medium rare steak and it actually arrived medium rare?

If you're struggling to recall such a memory, because your steak always arrives so rare there's nothing medium about it, you're not alone.

In fact, undercooking steaks on purpose is rife in the restaurant business - but it's not because chefs simply want to aggravate diners.

There's a legitimate business strategy behind it: given that a lot of restaurants are forced to throw steaks away when they're overcooked, so many undercook them in the hope that they can always pop them back on the grill should a customer ask.

Obviously it is a little trickier to reverse the results of an overcooked steak, so the latter scenario is often preferred.

Mark Pastore, president of distributor Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, told the New York Post he first noticed the trend of undercooking steaks last year.

As a result, "the norm has become [for customers expecting medium-rare] to order by a new term," he said, "medium-rare-plus, because people found their steaks were arriving undercooked - like rare-plus."

New York-based restaurateur Stephen Hanson added that the undercooking tactic is primarily about economics, which makes sense given that steaks are usually one of the most expensive foods for restaurants to source and many restaurants don't want to run the risk of having to throw them away because they're too well done for a customer's tastes.

There is also a certain snobbery applied to overcooking steaks, explains Mark Schatzker, author of Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef, in that a rare pink steak is far less of an "aesthetic sin" than an overcooked dullish grey one - that definitely won't get much traction on Instagram.