How To Order Steak

Ordering from a steakhouse can be intimidating, especially if you find out during your visit that there is more to it than asking for just a steak. There are many types of steaks and ways to cook them. Each cut offers a different texture and flavor. However, the most important is the doneness level, which determines the steak’s final flavor, texture, and color.

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Steak Ordering Guide: Key Tips

Before ordering a steak, you need to know what you expect. You should pay attention to the type of steak, the level of doneness, the grade of beef, and even the steak side dishes. Below we explain all the key aspects that have a significant impact when ordering steak.

Which cut of steak to order?

The cut of your steak determines from which part of the cow the beef comes. It also affects its flavors and textures. Depending on which steak you order, it will be more or less tender and flavorful. Good knowledge of beef cuts will allow you to judge whether the steaks available on the menu are worth the price.

Check out our list of the best cuts of steak to get a better idea of the cuts available and know which steak is most likely to meet your expectations.

Here is a list of the most popular steaks available in restaurants:

  • Strip Steak: This reliable choice usually has a good level of marbling. It is popular for its texture and ability to showcase the flavors of the meat.
  • Tenderloin: Tenderloin is usually the most tender and buttery selection available. This choice gives you a thick cut of meat with a milder flavor, generally enhanced by steak butter or sauce. Filet mignon is cut from a specific section of the tenderloin.
  • T-bone and Porterhouse: These cuts combine tenderloin and strip steak, giving you the best of both worlds. A porterhouse is a larger cut than a T-bone steak. It is expensive and a bit trickier to cook, but it gives you a tender and flavorful cut with multiple textures.
  • Ribeye: This cut is decently priced and bursts with juiciness due to its high-fat level. Tender ribeye steak is often considered the best cut in terms of flavor.
  • Sirloin: Sirloin gives you a leaner cut of beef with a rich flavor. It also tends to be an affordable option compared to other steaks.

How should the ordered steak be prepared?

Before going to a restaurant, you should find out how they prepare steaks. Grilled steak differs from that cooked in a pan in terms of external texture and color. There are multiple ways to influence its flavor and texture. 

Grilled steak with perfect sear marks makes it impossible to take our eyes off it. On the other hand, pan-cooked steak has a better crust all over its surface. 

How cooked should you order your steak? 

Deciding on steak doneness is one of the most well-known parts of ordering a steak. If you need help choosing, check out our detailed guide to steak doneness or read the summary of the key information below:

  • Blue Rare: These steaks are challenging to find because their cooking temperature around 115 degrees can be dangerous if improperly handled. The outside is brown and warm, and the inside has almost no pink rings, appearing purple instead.
  • Rare: Most restaurants serve this as the closest option to raw steak. The inside is red with a small pink ring near the lightly charred outside. This bloody cut is chewy but flavorful, with juices that will run over your plate. Ribeye and porterhouse steaks are often ordered rare.
  • Medium-Rare: Your cut will have a decent amount of red and pink on the inside with a firm brown exterior. The temperature is usually near 140 degrees. This option is the most common selection and is generally recommended by chefs.
  • Medium: Right in the middle with an internal temperature of 150 degrees, medium steaks are still juicy and tender. They have a rich brown exterior and some red in the center.
  • Medium-Well: Your steak will only have a bit of pink in the center and will be significantly firmer. Cooking at this level or above risks drying out the steak.
  • Well-Done: These steaks have absolutely no pink in the middle. They are typically tough and not juicy, but a good steakhouse can give you a well-done steak without burning the outside.

Don’t forget to order side dishes for your steak

It is worth ordering a suitable side dish that perfectly complements your main order. In this case, it is best to ask for help from an experienced waiter who will help you make a good choice.

Other aspects worth considering when ordering steak

Based on the previously mentioned hints, you can already place an order that will meet your expectations. However, if you expect more, pay attention to the following tips.

Ask what grade of beef the steaks are

If you are a steak lover and want to order the perfect steak, consider the grade of the beef. The USDA sorts beef into qualities that have significantly different tastes and textures. 

Look for these USDA Grades when you see steak on the menu:

  • Prime: This is the best quality steak with visible marbling, showing fatty deposits in the raw meat. In addition to adding flavor and keeping the steak juicy, this gives your steak a tender texture. 
  • Choice: While still high-quality steaks, this meat comes from older cows or has other imperfections that result in less marbling. They are still tender and delicious, with the benefit of lower prices than prime steaks.
  • Select: These steaks are a step up from average grocery store beef. You will still enjoy their tenderness, but a lack of marbling means less juice and flavor.
  • Standard: This is the kind of steak you find wrapped in plastic in grocery stores. There is almost no marbling in this meat, so it is significantly less flavorful than steaks from restaurants.

We explained USDA beef grades in depth in another article. Remember that different beef grading rules apply to Japanese Wagyu; learn more about the wagyu beef grades from our article dedicated to this topic.

Cow breeds and beef brands

As a result of competition, some restaurants serve steaks from particular breeds of cows or beef brands as a selling point. The following are the most commonly specified:

  • Angus: This breed hails from Scotland and usually has better marbling than cows typically used for steak, resulting in juicy and tender cuts. However, many restaurants lie about serving Angus steaks, so only certified beef is guaranteed to come from Angus cows.
  • Wagyu Beef (Japanese cattle): Wagyu steaks are some of the best in the world. They have incredibly heavy marbling that far surpasses typical prime-grade beef. Wagyu beef is also challenging to find, even in major restaurants, and the ones that serve them do so with extremely high price tags.
  • Kobe Beef (I’ts wagyu brand): Another type of beef from Japan, Kobe steak has even more marbling than typical Wagyu. Only a few restaurants in the United States serve Kobe steaks, which can sell for as much as $300 a pound.

Is the beef aged?

Unlike other foods, you do not typically want your steak fresh. You need to age the beef to make it tender. This aging naturally occurs during shipping, but some restaurants age the meat for longer to give it more flavor.

Beef is aged either through wet aging or dry aging. Wet aging places the meat in cold, vacuum-sealed bags to allow its enzymes to tenderize the meat. Dry aging keeps the beef in sanitized rooms, usually for up to 60 days. While both methods bring out the flavor of the meat and tender it, dry aging is generally more expensive and considered better.

Is the beef natural or organic?

When a restaurant says it serves natural beef, it means that the cows are not treated with antibiotics or hormones. Organic cows have the same benefits, unlimited outdoor access and a diet that only includes grass and grains. These better living conditions promote better health in the cows, which results in improved flavor, and, of course, healthier meat.

Time to place the perfect steak order

After learning all there is to know about steak types, the only thing left is to place your order. The right way to order your steak is to find out what you like and order it confidently using the information we have given you.

Steakhouses and other restaurants offer you options for a reason, so you should trust their ability to prepare a delicious steak to your liking.

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam is the founder of Steak Revolution. He loves sharing his knowledge of steaks with everyone, ensuring you get the perfect steak every time.