10/07/2014 11:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

In Defense of the Well-Done Steak (and Those Who Order It)


Credit: Stu_Spivack (Edited)

Of all the terribly annoying things you can do at restaurants, there's no better way to reveal yourself as a condescending suck-merchant than by criticizing someone for ordering their steak well-done. It's the worst.

Here are four common objections that self-important foodies, macho bros, and indignant waiters make to thoroughly cooked beef (and why they're all sucky, inaccurate, and flat-out offensive).

More: These are America's 21 best steakhouses


Credit: Flickr/Heartbeaz

Meat lovers, including us, start the bull with the claim that to cook a steak well (which by FDA standards, is the same 160°F internal temperature required by "meat mixtures" and ground beef) is to ruin it. It's not right. The meat is worthy of your reverence. Venerate that sh*t.

This is the dumbest. The cow was dead before the well-done steak was ordered. Even if it was alive -- farm-to-table freshness being what it is in 2014 -- it wouldn't "care", as it is livestock. No matter how hard Chick-fil-A's ad agency tries to convince you otherwise, livestock don't have existential crises.

In fact, just because the cow died doesn't mean anyone is going to respect its sacrifice. According to the USDA's loss-adjusted food availability report, 23.5% of beef that enters the market perishes, and is never eaten.

On top of that, a USDA report from 2007 found that restaurants toss 2-5% of served beef because picky red-meat aficionados claim that it's been -- wait for it -- overcooked. No matter how skilled the chef, he/she can't "uncook" meat once it's been advanced to a higher stage of done-ness, but well-done orders don't get tossed as much because it's no problem to cook "up" if the first try is too red for a well-doner.

Well-done steak is an easy target for allegations of meat-blasphemy but the truth is everyone else is actually just wasting beef.

Protectors of the Rare have long contended that too much broiling robs a steak of its key nutrients, rendering that cooked-through sirloin a useless mass of smoking calories. I'm obviously very concerned about my health, so I looked into this.

I found answers at Dr. Stu's Science Blog, where Stu ably parsed the beef-specific findings of this Swiss study on the health benefits of eating heated meat. I have no idea who Dr. Stu is, but I cross-referenced his post against the report and it seemed to check out. Nice work, Dr. Stu!

His words & emphasis below:

  • The longer steak is cooked, the fewer vitamins it contains
  • Cooking meat in water reduces its vitamin content further
  • The levels of iron and zinc increase with cooking
  • Fat levels drop with cooking

Well-done steak isn't going to turn you into a malnourished wretch. It's got fewer vitamins, but more minerals, and actually delivers less fat than a piece of red meat. I'm no bookie, but that sounds like a push to me.

We've still got more arguments to pick apart in favor of well-done steak eaters, including "You're cooking cancer into it" and "It's a waste of money" -- see it all on Thrillist!

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