First World Problems: The Shame of Ordering a Well Done Steak

well done steak shame

I read this article in the Wall Street Journal about well-done steak shame and I laughed because I totally relate. I know, I know. It’s like a have the taste buds of a 5 year old, but I can’t help it; I much prefer the texture of well-done steak. I don’t like rare or medium rare at all. If that’s what I’m served (and getting the plate cooked further isn’t an option), I end up eating the browned parts around the edges and giving the rest to my husband or kids. I really don’t like rare meat.

Even though I love steak, I often avoid ordering it because I know I’ll likely get some side eye or an exasperated sigh when I request it well-done. Yes, I shouldn’t care about anyone’s reaction, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood for a lecture. What can I say, I like what I like? 

According to the article the well-done steak shame may be changing. Or maybe more accurately, all the well-done steak lovers are done apologizing. Hah!

What about you? How do you order your steak? Do you die a little inside when you hear someone order a beautiful, aged cut of meat cooked well-done? And do you have any unpopular food preferences that embarrass you when ordering at restaurants? Tell me I’m not the only one!

P.S. — All the secrets of cooking on a grill.

39 thoughts on “First World Problems: The Shame of Ordering a Well Done Steak”

  1. I sometimes order a steak well done (or medium well) and I do get tired of comments from my fellow diners. I sometimes respond “I am not asking you to eat your steak cooked that way.” Some people put ketchup on their eggs, which I don’t prefer, but it is really none of my business how someone else eats their eggs (or their steak). Frankly, any kind of food shaming bugs me.

  2. I like mine medium/medium-well, but my mother is a HUGE proponent of meat that is cooked the whole way through and not a spot of pink. And that’s fine. Trying to get that from a nice restaurant is another story, and I’ve taken to just saying to the server, “if there is even a tinge of pink she’s going to send it back so please ask the chef to cook it until they think it’s ruined and it will be perfect. Thanks!”

  3. Ha! Funny stuff. I love my meat red and bloody, but then I go and request gluten-free versions of things (I’m not celiac). People get pretty worked up about food, don’t they? :)

  4. I love my meat rare/medium rare but I eat beef only a handful of times a year. Who cares how other people order their food?!

    (I confess to giving the side-eye to a client who ordered his steak – “extra well-done; charred really” after delivering a speech to the table about what a meat expert he was. And he was a smoker, so I wasn’t convinced he had any taste buds left to use.)

    1. To clarify: I mean who cares enough about how people order their food to confront them about it. People should be able to order what they want, how they want as long as the restaurant can accommodate it. You can come to Texas and eat well-done steak with us anytime, Gabby!

  5. I have an extreme aversion to Cilantro – and it’s not a preference issue, it is a physical issue. I can tell you instantly if I have taken a bite of food with unreported Cilantro in it – can you say Ivory soap?! Washing Cilantro is about the nastiest smelling process ever to me, all but makes me gag. As such I have developed an excessive need to quiz servers whether the dish I am ordering has ANY Cilantro in it. Since Cilantro (or fresh Coriander) has been rabidly embraced by so many mainstream restaurants, let alone Mexican, Latin American, Indian, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants to name a few .. I have to be very diligent. Since it is not an allergy, people don’t embrace the seriousness of this issue.

    Having grown up in the southwest, I enjoyed Mexican food for 20 + years of Cilantro free food. Not sure what changed and why it has become the definition of “a burst of freshness” to finish off any dish! About 10-years ago I learned it wasn’t just me and my reaction was legitimate.

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/09/14/161057954/love-to-hate-cilantro-its-in-your-genes-and-maybe-in-your-head

    1. YES. Even a speck of cilantro will completely ruin a dish for me. I’m not a picky eater but cilantro tastes like someone squirted Dawn dish soap all over my food. Ugh. It’s often left out of menu descriptions so I am always grilling servers to find out of cilantro is used in sauces, rice, as a garnish, etc. I live in Austin, Texas where cilantro is inescapable!

    2. I’m a coriander lover (and obviously a different Katherine) but I’ve read about the genetic thing that makes it taste like soap. I’ve had a few occasions now when I’ve had people over, cooked dinner and then thought- what if someone has that coriander tastes like soap thing?! I’ve asked each time and no-one has, but I’d feel awful expecting someone to eat it.

  6. This makes me laugh. I am a proponent of the medium-rare steak. I find anything else is like eating a shoe. Especially if you get a good piece of grass-fed steak, which needs to be on the rarer side because it has less fat content. My father-in-law does not like pink, and I ridicule him every time he orders his hamburger or steak medium-well or well done. I know, to each his own, but it’s hard for my taste-buds to understand how something so overcooked could taste good. It hurts my jaw to chew it.

  7. Ha! I love this post! Mainly because what you’ve written could just as easily have been written by me. My dad and I both enjoy our meat cooked all the way through, while my stepmom has been known to order hers “cold in the middle” and my husband enjoys it medium rare. My husband knows I need it to be COMPLETELY brown, and at times has actually cooked meat to suit himself and everyone else, and then taken the portion for me and finished it in the microwave or on the stove top. I also understand avoiding it at restaurants. If I end up at a steakhouse I always look for something on the menu that won’t be considered “ruined” if it’s well done–lucky for me the best steakhouse in town has a lovely chopped steak that totally fits the bill :)

  8. So I have to say I’ve been on both sides of this one.

    When I was younger I refused to eat anything but well done steaks and burgers, partly due to a food poisoning experience from an undercooked burger. i was definitely ridiculed for it, though the food poisoning story helped alleviate it somewhat.

    Then in college my uncle gave me a gift certificate to his fancy steak restaurant, and my then-boyfriend-now-husband ordered a medium rare steak. I was squeamish, but he insisted I try it, and since it was such a nice restaurant, I was a little less worried. First bite, and I was like “Ohhh, this is why people like steak.” Haha. I never thought steak was that great until that bite. There’s no going back now…I’m a medium rare girl now, and I try to convince others to be too (though hopefully not rudely!)

    I wonder if this type of conversion is common and maybe that’s why people give well-done orderers such a hard time?

    1. Yes, absolutely! The point is, if you want well-done, why eat steak? You should just order pot roast or brisket or something that actually thrives on long cooking. Steak, well-done, is shoe leather, plain and simple.

  9. Whitney Ingram

    Ha! My chef husband always jokes that you can tell a lot about a person by how they get their steak cooked. I love a medium rare- more on the rare side- steak.

    In nicer steak restaurants, they mention on the menu that they do not recommend cooking steaks past medium rare. This avoids the restaurants responsibility of the steak not tasting good and customers complaining.

    Coming from a food background, I can see how it can be irritating for chefs. Cooking is their art form and when someone orders a steak more cooked than they intend for their art to taste, it can ruin the entire dish and experience they are hoping you have.

    All this steak talk is making me crave a ribeye!

  10. Thankfully my husband and I both like our steaks the same – medium well. My issue is that I don’t like to see my dinner bleeding. I have no desire to ever eat prime rib as it combines rare meat and lots of fat, no thank you.

  11. I used to wait tables at a steak house (when I was vegetarian no less!) and heard all sorts of requests. One guy ordered it raw, no joke. Which of course is illigal to serve, but it was barely thrown on the grill and served up to him. Gross. People would often order a filet mignon well done, which I admit I couldn’t see the point. My favorite was a man who ordered his steak “so rare that a good vet could bring it back to life”. I never forgot that one.

    1. I can’t imagine eating a steak raw, but I love steak tartare! It is high quality steak that has been ground. It is served with a raw egg yolk on top which you then mix into the meat. My husband and I laugh b/c there’s one restaurant we go to here in Seattle where it is likely we will leave having eaten nothing that was actually cooked. We start with raw oysters and their salads are wonderful.

    2. Sheri Crockett

      that is awesome! I have to remember the “good vet” comment! I have a friend that prefers all of her beef on the raw side. In fact, when she had a sick kitty, and was desperately searching for something that he would eat, she would feed him raw hamburger meat. Although, she realized that she was going through a lot of meat, because she would eat it right along with him! That was a little past my comfort zone….

  12. Rare or medium rare here. I think there is a mistaken idea that a red steak is a bloody steak, but that’s not true. All the blood is removed from the animal before butchering. Most of the juice is water mixed with myoglobin, a kind of protein.

    If you would like to change your approach to how you cook your meat, start off with a few rounds of taste tests. Have someone cook some pieces of steak to varying degrees of doneness, and cut them in small pieces. Eat them, blindfolded, appetizer style with toothpicks. Chances are you will not even be able to detect a difference in the vast majority of the pieces.

  13. I eat well done. I literally cannot eat it with pink in it it makes my stomach turn. And frankly I think it’s too​ chewy that way, kind of rubbery A good chef can cook a well done steak that is tender and juicy. If it’s like shoe leather that’s a bad chef. Anyone who doesn’t like it can suck it up, I could care less. Haha I know that sounds harsh but I really get tired of people dictating food preferences. Who makes then the expert?

  14. Guilty :). Cannot fathom eating well done/dried out meat. And the timing is so funny because it came up at dinner with my mom who orders her meat dead. We will cook steaks and burgers etc the way guests prefer them, but something in me does flinch a bit. Drying out expensive meat is painful. haha. But on the other hand, I cannot eat an egg that is not fried over, broken, dead. Cooking vegetables the way my grandmother did–waterlogged and soggy is equally hard to imagine. Many people worry about bacteria from the meat, but I’m more afraid of what fast food or cigarettes or GMO foods do. I’ve been mocked for “bloody meat”, “eating the cow whole” and that sort of thing before.

  15. I realize the term “first world problem” was written with good intentions. But…the phrase is kind of polarizing and paint a false picture of the developing world. People in developing countries aren’t a homogenous bunch who only worry about dire, horrible problems. People in Guatemala can be concerned about cooking food well. People in Yemen can get annoyed with slow internet speeds. Check out this article!

    https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-firstworldproblems/248829/

  16. Interesting discussion! I have to admit, this is one of my pet peeves. Not necessarily the steak scenario, but the blanket statements about food preferences and the picky eating. I think we narrow our palettes unnecessarily. I think it’s an important life skill to get over our pre-conceived notions of how we like our food and experience it however it is presented. I once cooked a fancy dinner for my in-laws, and they both smothered their food in ranch. (Maybe that’s the only way they could choke it down. Ha!) Why are we so afraid of taste? It’s not going to hurt us even if we don’t like it at first or ever. And I hear people say all the time things like, “I don’t like eggplant. Period.” or “I could never eat raw fish.” I think the better attitude would be “I haven’t eaten eggplant I liked yet.” or “I’d like to try raw fish someday.” Allow the preferences to evolve! Wouldn’t the world be more interesting and enjoyable if we widened our preferences bit by bit rather than nearing the finish line with our likes and dis-likes defined in stone?

    1. I’m the opposite of you- one of my pet peeves is when people push me to try things that I don’t like or to eat things I don’t like, but at the same time I totally get why it would be annoying to others that I’m so picky. I do try most things once before I refuse to eat it, but there are certain things I can’t get into my mouth without a gag reflex, raw fish being one of them. And there are things I have tried that have made me nauseous before even swallowing. I mostly have an issue with textures of food, but occasionally it is the taste (mayonnaise, for example).

  17. My husband has the opposite issue- he would always eat his steaks bleu rare if he could, but very few places will cook it that way. To be fair, you need to get incredibly high temperatures and then the steak is in to cook for a super short time, so that the center is essentially uncooked. Not all kitchens can do that. Eh. Definitely not my cup of tea, but, different strokes for different folks.

    1. Hi Glenn! Yes, it is safe to eat even a rare steak, assuming it is cooked on the outside. Any bacteria is not inside the meat itself, but on the outside, introduced during processing and preparation. It is NOT considered safe to eat a burger that is not cooked thru (less than 160 deg F) because unsafe bacteria is spread throughout the patty. Unfortunately well done burgers are not optimal taste-wise, but this is how I got food poisoning, so I still insist on it!

  18. I like my steak medium-rare and my dad likes it a bit rarer than me, but my mom likes it as well-done as it can get. She gets a lot of comments from her father-in-law (my grandpa) who thinks she shouldn’t bother eating it at all if it’s that well-done. I don’t mind what others prefer, but I do very much dislike when she cooks the steak for all of us- it’s always way too well done. My dad usually cuts a piece to leave on longer for her. I do get a lot of sideways glances from people for my hamburger preferences- I like a bun, the meat, and a slice of cheese, with ketchup. If it has anything else on it, I probably won’t eat it. Same with other foods- I don’t like most sauces/condiments, so I’m always ordering things “without lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, onion, etc.”.

  19. I don’t think waiters should shame customers for any preferences, but on the other hand, my personal experience has been that the well-done meat demanders are the ones who tend to be self-righteous and rude about it – like my sister-in-law, who when served roast beef carefully roasted to 135 degrees said loudly, “I hope you’re not expecting me to eat THAT!!!”

  20. I just love that this is enough of a beef (HAHAHA) that you wrote a blog post about it. You are the best! And yes, you like what you like!

  21. This title made me laugh out loud before I even read the article. I can absolutely relate to well-done shame. I usually find myself offering an “I know- so lame” smile to the server.

  22. Most of our family has always preferred rare/medium rare meat, but my grandmother and great aunt always wanted well done. My uncle, who was a professional Culinary School of America trained chef, showed me what they do in restaurants when someone asks for well done- take a paper towel and blot the meat free of its redness (and its juice!).

  23. Order your steak however you like. I may think you’re wasting your money by ruining a great piece of meat, but you do you. I only comment if it’s my husband because it’s a long running joke between us. (As in “hey honey, we’re having steak tonight for dinner. Should I put yours on now so it’s cooked enough?” At 9am) I will only judge and shame you for the ridiculousness of putting ketchup on your hotdog. ;) (Chi-town native.)

  24. I’m definitely guilty of food shaming when it comes to beef. I’m a rare girl and often joke about liking it still mooing. No joke, I’ve used it to decide on men I deem worthy. My first husband, on one of our first dates, ordered a steak medium well. As smitten as I was with him, I said, “This won’t work. You’re gonna have to order it rare, maybe med-rare, and then we’ll talk.” Within the first 6 months, he became that guy who sent his steak back if it wasn’t mooing. Marriage didn’t last but he still devours rare meat! Current husband? Ordered it rare on the first date and we’re still happily married! LOL But I have a handful of my own picky tendencies. I LOATHE celery and green peppers. And beets. I also LOVE cilantro but HATE ginger. I’ve always found that odd b/c they both taste like soap. So, as much as I load up my Mexican dishes with cilantro, I can totally appreciate the haters. When I accidentally get a piece of ginger with my sushi, it’s likely to come flying out of my mouth like Julia Roberts losing grip on the escargot in Pretty Woman. In a nutshell, as a food FREAK, I enjoy the food shaming (both ways) b/c it generally opens up dialogue with others and introduces both sides to new options. I also find it forces me to continue to try things I hate in hopes of finding a way to love it. But that damn celery, nope. I did finally come to love olives, though!

  25. It’s not that I really like medium-rare Steak, but I always order the medium-rare one. Because I already so often eat the well-done meat in Rendang (my local food), and kinda bored, and just trying to get another experience by eating medium-rare meat when ordering Steak. Haha

  26. I’ve definitely received the well-done shaming from waiters and even once from a cook that come out of the kitchen to see what he was doing wrong. Extra well done is where I like mine. Extra well done does not necessarily mean dry either. I can’t stand the rubberiness and lack of flavor of a pink steak or biting into a vein or piece of gristle that I missed cutting out. I also don’t like the flavor of the fat. No, that’s not where the meat flavor comes from; unless you eat it raw I guess… Do you how hard it is to get a lean piece of meat actually cooked at a restaurant instead of served partially raw? Once the meat is cooked long enough to render out the majority of the fat and break down the smooth muscle and connective tissue then it’s done. I love the light crunch and flavor of a good char on the outside as well, but not a layer of carbon. I sent a steak back once three times at a Ponderosa and the chef came out to ask what was wrong with it. I told him ” My extra well done steak is still bleeding and could be mooing. If this is your version of extra well done then aim for a nuclear holocaust.” What I received was a little dry but at least it was finally edible. I even tried a medium well filet on Father’s Day this year to see if it was still bad. I gagged from the flavor and super rubbery texture. I had to completely drown it in BBQ sauce and eat each bite with a french fry to get it down (it was from a buffet so no sending it back). There would be no discussion at all if people stopped get upset because someone else likes their food cooked differently. I don’t care if someone else like to chew on a leg thats still kicking, just don’t try to force me to eat it your way.

  27. I rarely eat out anymore since most places cannot cook steak right for me, no matter how you want it. If I ask for rare, it’s raw (as in one-step away from grazing in a field somewhere) or if I ask for medium it’s usually tough. I am of the well-done crowd. I used to eat it medium rare, but I cannot eat a lot of red meat anymore and it screws up my stomach something fierce! When I do enjoy beef, it’s usually stewed or braised. If I want a steak, I buy a cut that can handle well-done, like rib-eye or hanger, but that’s a once-in-a-while treat for me. I’ve never judged people for how they like their steak. That sound so damn stupid! How the hell does someone’s food preference reflect on their character? There are many who don’t eat rare meat because it violates their religion, culture, spiritual path, etc. So their all bad people?! If it makes you feel good, then eat your steak how you want, but I wish people would keep the arrogant, weak-minded, fragile ego out of it, please! It is just a steak. Sheesh!

  28. Everyone in my family, Mom, Dad, Sister and Me, are ‘very rare’ steak eaters. That is, on the rare occasion we eat steak. The only red meat we order medium-rare is hamburger/chopped meat, as that has more opportunity to collect bacteria.

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