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JKerr
03-14-2013, 05:15 AM
Out of interest, for those of you cook a lot of steaks, past or present, how do/did you gauge the doneness?

I'm an apprentice so I'm still learning and I don't work in an establishment that cooks steaks at all, so that makes it even harder to learn a skill I believe to be fundamental for all chefs. When I do, be it at home or doing service at the restaurant in school (once a week, if I'm on that section) I use a thermometer. I can take a pretty good guess from feeling the steak, but no where near confident enough to rely purely on touch. And only with specific cuts at that, throw in something like an eye fillet or a cut of wagyu and I'm back to square one.

Anyway, I was cooking steaks the other day (at school) and had 6 on the flat top at one time. Thankfully they were quite fat so there was no risk over cooking, but it seems it doesn't take too long before using a thermometer becomes incredibly impractical.

So how do you lot check your steaks? Thermometer? Touch? Sous vide and seal? or some sort of witchcraft?

Thanks in advance!

Cheers,
Josh

scotchef38
03-14-2013, 05:23 AM
Experience.You get to know after a few hundred.However it is still pot luck at times and a thermometer is always going to be the best way of ensuring accuracy,but as you say not practical if you are getting slammed.I think grill chefs have one of the toughest jobs as peoples interpretation of what is MR varies wildly and people ask for stupid **** like " Rare with no blood".

franzb69
03-14-2013, 05:32 AM
" Rare with no blood".

lol on this.

you could not have a lot of blood if you rest it nice and long but since it's rare, the problem there is that you might get a cold steak.


Sous vide and seal?

this is the most fool proof way but it's expensive. you'll have to have the steaks in several sous vide machines callibrated to different temps according to doneness and then sear it. or you can sear it beforehand then sous vide it. either way it's fool proof.


i do it by feel. you'll just know when it's there when you take your finger and touch the steak after you do it often enough.

resting it long enough is important so when you cut into it, it won't end up being too dry and the steak has had the chance to reabsorb its own juices.

when using a thermometer, you just have to know the temps of the doneness you want and a really accurate thermometer. thermapens are fast and accurate but more expensive but many people say they are worth the extra money.

Dusty
03-14-2013, 05:50 AM
Internal temp. I don't always have a thermometer on me, but I'll always have a metal thin cake tester, or an unravelled paper clip that I can probe the meat with and then touch to my lip.

Sous vide is good, but i get frustrated when i meet chefs who can't cook without it.

Notaskinnychef
03-14-2013, 06:34 AM
resting is key, as stated above, its incredibly vital. Granted I don't work in a kitchen, but resting will make everything better. allowing the meat to take up its own juicy goodness is huge. As for sous vide, its not too practical, but if you can pull the set up off, its great.

franzb69
03-14-2013, 06:55 AM
good thing about sous vide when cooking meats, so long as you set it at whatever temp you wanna get the steak done, the steak will never over cook. even after 1, 2, 3 days.... you can just leave it there and sear it or whatever when you need it.

another is that when you cook it that way, all the proteins have had the chance to cook so you get an even doneness all over (no ugly looking grey meat!) and the collagen has had enough time to melt and gives you an incredible mouth feel.

there's a cool video youtube by heston blumenthal on making the ultimate fool proof steak. edit** turns out there's a few vids on it by heston. lol

you might wanna check it out. don't need no uber high tech gadgets for it too!

Dusty
03-14-2013, 07:56 AM
I disagree. Meats that are overlooked sous vide end up with a different texture. If you take a piece of striploin and take or to say 52 Celsius, it will be med-rare. But if you hold it at 52 say overnight, the texture will eventually become pasty and mushy nd tacky.

It will still look med-rare, but have the texture of something unpleasant.

franzb69
03-14-2013, 08:09 AM
i guess it depends on the cut of meat and the kind of meat you're sous vide-ing.

coz the 24 hour steaks and 48 hour steaks at the place where i trained were quite verily awesome.

Salty dog
03-14-2013, 09:34 AM
I can honestly say I have never used a thermometer on a steak. I poke'em with a finger if I have to but usually just know.
It's hard to estimate how many I've cooked in 35 years. A conservative estimate of 1500 a month puts me around 700,000, x an average of 12 oz, thats about a half million pounds. No, I don't need a thermometer.

As Will Sonnet would say, "no brag, just fact."

berko
03-14-2013, 09:59 AM
its all experience to me.

marc4pt0
03-14-2013, 10:17 AM
it does depend on the cuts. short ribs or other cuts with large % of connective tissue call for longer cooking times. But your classic sear and serve cuts like filet and ribeye have no business cooking for 48 hours. Yes, it yields a soft steak, but what has happened is a larger % of the mayo globin (what people who don't know refer to as juices or blood) has been forced out which gives you a drier steak. Dry steaks are bad. take 2 ribeye, sear it 30 seconds on each side,twice, then allow it to cool thoroughly. bag separately and cook one at 56c to internal temp of 54 (time depends on size of Cut). cook the other for your 48 hrs. allow both the proper 3 step cooling methods. Afterwards, remove both steaks from there pouches, and then measure the liquids of both to contrast/ compare. You'll see that the 48 has Lost more juicy goodness. that's Not good. sure, you'll have a softer (read softer, NOT more tender) cut of steak after 48hrs. If you're very old and have concern for your denchers, than softer is Always better.
Again, longer sous vide times are meant for "tougher" cuts of meat, ones that you wouldn't grill to mr and serve. This it's why I believe that if a cook can't ace classic braising, than he/she has no business with sous vide.


As for meat temps, I'll pass the gift of the butter knife down to you:

My first ever grill job was at a Ponderossa steak house. I doubt many even knows what this is, but that's not important. :laugh:
It was during the holidays, and the place was in a mall parking lot, which means open to close constant ass whooping :spankarse:
I explained to the manager (yep, manager, not chef) that I didn't know my temps, but could make some mean grill marks. He handed me a round tip butter knife and said "let the steak rest a minute, then press this knife on the surface. watch for the juices coming out. red= rare, brown= medium, clear= well." Sounded easy enough. It was not. But I quickly got the hang of it. cooking hundreds of steaks all night didn't give me much of an option. And it was especially embarrassing having the attractive waitresses keep coming back telling me I under/over cooked yet another steak. (just made THAT other task all the more difficult...) :fanning:

franzb69
03-14-2013, 10:37 AM
it does depend on the cuts. short ribs or other cuts with large % of connective tissue call for longer cooking times. But your classic sear and serve cuts like filet and ribeye have no business cooking for 48 hours. Yes, it yields a soft steak, but what has happened is a larger % of the mayo globin (what people who don't know refer to as juices or blood) has been forced out which gives you a drier steak. Dry steaks are bad. take 2 ribeye, sear it 30 seconds on each side,twice, then allow it to cool thoroughly. bag separately and cook one at 56c to internal temp of 54 (time depends on size of Cut). cook the other for your 48 hrs. allow both the proper 3 step cooling methods. Afterwards, remove both steaks from there pouches, and then measure the liquids of both to contrast/ compare. You'll see that the 48 has Lost more juicy goodness. that's Not good. sure, you'll have a softer (read softer, NOT more tender) cut of steak after 48hrs. If you're very old and have concern for your denchers, than softer is Always better.
Again, longer sous vide times are meant for "tougher" cuts of meat, ones that you wouldn't grill to mr and serve. This it's why I believe that if a cook can't ace classic braising, than he/she has no business with sous vide.

thank you for enlightening me on this. i will keep this in mind.

ajhuff
03-14-2013, 10:54 AM
Truth is you just kind of know. I've been griling at home since I was about 10. Is was tasked with starting the grill and the meat before my dad got home from work. I double check myself at work with a thermapen. My eyeball gets it right most of the time.

On a side note, at work they are switching us over to frozen burgers. Kid told me they suck because you can't cook them medium rare or medium onky well done. I said BS and promptly cooked him one medium rare. Pulled out my thermometer to prove it. How'd you do that he said. I've only been doing it for 30 years.

One point, most people i have seen pull the meat too late. You're going to have some carry over cooking if you let it rest. So to have a steak go out medium you have to pull it closer to medium rare to have it finish medium.

-AJ

NO ChoP!
03-14-2013, 11:21 AM
Fish, steaks...it becomes intuitive. I cook upwards of a few dozen steaks daily, and haven't had a recook at my current job yet.

Dardeau
03-14-2013, 01:50 PM
I use cake testers to double check lots of things. When it's very busy and a cook gets in a hurry there is a great temptation to say "it's done, put it in the damn pass". The cake tester removes the doubt. If it confirms that you cooked it properly, great, it not you just saved yourself the time and disruption of refiring it.

toddnmd
03-14-2013, 02:06 PM
I think poking with a finger is the best, though it can vary somewhat depending on the tenderness of the cut. I have seen the method of gently touching a fingertip to thumbtip, then pressing the fleshy part at the base of the thumb. Index to thumb gives you approximate rare temp; pinky to thumb is well done. Not scientific, but it gives an idea.

A thermometer is the most sure method, can can help as you learn.

If you try to standardize the process by using the same heat source and settings, you'll start to get a pretty good idea based on time and outside appearance in addition to texture.

Salty dog
03-14-2013, 02:11 PM
it does depend on the cuts. short ribs or other cuts with large % of connective tissue call for longer cooking times. But your classic sear and serve cuts like filet and ribeye have no business cooking for 48 hours. Yes, it yields a soft steak, but what has happened is a larger % of the mayo globin (what people who don't know refer to as juices or blood) has been forced out which gives you a drier steak. Dry steaks are bad. take 2 ribeye, sear it 30 seconds on each side,twice, then allow it to cool thoroughly. bag separately and cook one at 56c to internal temp of 54 (time depends on size of Cut). cook the other for your 48 hrs. allow both the proper 3 step cooling methods. Afterwards, remove both steaks from there pouches, and then measure the liquids of both to contrast/ compare. You'll see that the 48 has Lost more juicy goodness. that's Not good. sure, you'll have a softer (read softer, NOT more tender) cut of steak after 48hrs. If you're very old and have concern for your denchers, than softer is Always better.
Again, longer sous vide times are meant for "tougher" cuts of meat, ones that you wouldn't grill to mr and serve. This it's why I believe that if a cook can't ace classic braising, than he/she has no business with sous vide.


As for meat temps, I'll pass the gift of the butter knife down to you:

My first ever grill job was at a Ponderossa steak house. I doubt many even knows what this is, but that's not important. :laugh:
It was during the holidays, and the place was in a mall parking lot, which means open to close constant ass whooping :spankarse:
I explained to the manager (yep, manager, not chef) that I didn't know my temps, but could make some mean grill marks. He handed me a round tip butter knife and said "let the steak rest a minute, then press this knife on the surface. watch for the juices coming out. red= rare, brown= medium, clear= well." Sounded easy enough. It was not. But I quickly got the hang of it. cooking hundreds of steaks all night didn't give me much of an option. And it was especially embarrassing having the attractive waitresses keep coming back telling me I under/over cooked yet another steak. (just made THAT other task all the more difficult...) :fanning:

Are you kidding? When I was a kid every Tuesday night my friend. I believe that was the cheap night.

Miles
03-14-2013, 02:24 PM
I remember the ol' Ponderosa steak houses well. When I was a kid, we'd go there with the family. Used to be always free standing units, but I remember they seemed to all end up in the malls as I got a bit older. Haven't seen one in years. Are there any still around???

For temping, I just know. Experience and my senses tell me what I need to know. When in doubt, a therm is a great tool if you're firing just a couple steaks, but if you've got a bunch going, you need to be able to do it without messing around with an extra tool.

zitangy
03-14-2013, 03:50 PM
[QUOTE=Miles;189999]I remember the ol' Ponderosa steak houses well. When I was a kid, we'd go there with the family. Used to be always free standing units, but I remember they seemed to all end up in the malls as I got a bit older. Haven't seen one in years. Are there any still around???


They even had a franchise in Singapore long long time ago.
I remember as i t with teh Cowboy/ western TV series with the big Guys Hoss Cartright character on Ponderosa Ranch.

Must have been a big and successful Steak House Player then..

rgds

d

panda
03-14-2013, 05:27 PM
using a thermometer, cook 4 same thickness steaks to each temperature. R, MR, M, MW. let it sit 2 minutes, then press each one of them with your index and middle finger tips. and repeat until you get a good sense of the firmness of each steak. the medium one should feel nearly identical to the feedback you get when pressing on the meaty part of the palm of your hand.

El Pescador
03-14-2013, 05:41 PM
Fish, steaks...it becomes intuitive. I cook upwards of a few dozen steaks daily, and haven't had a recook at my current job yet.

+1 with enough experience you just know.

sachem allison
03-14-2013, 06:23 PM
I can honestly say I have never used a thermometer on a steak. I poke'em with a finger if I have to but usually just know.
It's hard to estimate how many I've cooked in 35 years. A conservative estimate of 1500 a month puts me around 700,000, x an average of 12 oz, thats about a half million pounds. No, I don't need a thermometer.

As Will Sonnet would say, "no brag, just fact."
I'm with Salty here, The 1/2 dozen times I've had a steak returned in my career was more a matter of the customer not knowing what they wanted. You know between temps between medium and mid well. that sorta thing.

Mike9
03-14-2013, 06:34 PM
Poke test for me too - why put a hole in a good piece of meat? I think resting is key as well.

El Pescador
03-14-2013, 06:50 PM
Poke test for me too - why put a hole in a good piece of meat? I think resting is key as well.

That's what the window's for

rriley
03-14-2013, 10:03 PM
An instant reading thermometer - testing internal temperature.

stevenStefano
03-16-2013, 09:09 PM
I generally use a probe though I don't cook many. Some of the customers where I work are ********. Medium-well Done but not pink; they want it rare but not bloody; they don't want it blue, they don't want it rare, but somewhere in between; they want it very medium; they want it well done but not burnt

Crothcipt
03-16-2013, 09:37 PM
For a while I would let well done go out just at well done. I would just get them coming back wanting "more done". Later on I finally say screw it they will get it how ever it goes. I just poke any more. Funny thing I work with a guy who has worked with a grill for about 10 yrs. and he still uses a thermo..

jgraeff
03-17-2013, 10:56 PM
A good tip from Marco Pierre white which I have tested and it's true when you first see the blood on the steak while cooking its medium rare.

Honestly though its all about practice and experience. Plus each cut feels different as an example filet n strip, strip is much firmer even when rare.

Kriegs
03-25-2013, 05:19 PM
cake tester for sure. using touch works for me 90% of the time but some steaks just cook differently! cake testers are perfect because you are actually feeling what the heat level is like inside.

Mrmnms
03-26-2013, 10:01 PM
I used to show new guys with my fist. Gently closed my hand just into a fist and touched the fleshy point between my thumb and forefinger. Feels like rare. Gave my fist a gentle squeeze and touched the same spot for medium rare. Squeezed progressively harder for medium and medium well. Had'm touch the back of my hand or I tapped them on the forehead for well done. They seemed to get the idea.

tweyland
03-28-2013, 11:22 PM
In my humble opinion, sous vide is great for certain applications/situations, but I have yet to have a perfectly SV cooked steak that is better than a perfectly grilled or conventionally cooked steak.

As for learning, I think it's a complicated but learnable topic if you are trying to learn it thoroughly. If you want to just get your steaks out down and dirty, it's not as daunting. Whatever works for you.

-I suggest you learn all the different parameters (thickness, initial temperature of the steak [straight from the fridge or room temp], temp of the grill/pan, total cooking time, pan roasting time, resting time, when do I need to have it in the window, etc) that are involved.

-Each time you cook steak, use as many methods for checking doneness as possible. If possible, cross reference - use a thermometer, see what it looks like, Notice when the juice starts to come up, poke/pinch it, compare it to your fist or palm or cheek, and try to "calibrate" all those things together. For instance, 135 degrees looks like _________, it feels like __________, etc. Since you may not be able to use a thermometer on the line, you'll have built up experience with touch, cake tester, etc with some amount of reliability and repeatability.

-Try to be systematic, minimize variables, and try to get some feedback where possible. Preferably not from refires, ha ha. Buy a few steaks and have some friends over. Instead of each person getting one steak, practice cooking them different ways and everyone tries every steak.

I find it helpful to think about how to create the effect you/the client wants. Probably 60% of people want medium rare. But some will want Black and Blue on one end or dead, dry, hammered well done on the other end. Should you start it really hot and move it to a less hot part of the grill? Should you just sear it? Should it go at a somewhat lower temp for a longer time? And so on. Eventually, you'll know several ways to have a steak come out any particular temperature, just in case you need to cook a well done filet in 3 minutes or a skirt steak rare in 25 minutes. And you'll know when to use what strategy for the situation. Hope that helps.

Good luck!
~Tad

Miles
03-29-2013, 04:12 AM
I go through a whole spiel with my students when we do steaks, whether on the grill or in a skillet. I give them very valuable information but I think that when it comes down to it, if you aren't doing SV, it just comes down to experience. After you've done a few hundred steaks, you get a good feel for it.

Erilyn75
04-25-2013, 04:29 AM
I know I'm late to this discussion but I thought I'd mention a trick I learned from a cooking show while we were stationed in England. If you hold your hand out in front of you with all fingers extended like a high five, touch the tendon between your thumb and index finger. That's what rare should feel like. Now, take your index finger and hold it to your thumb like you're pinching something. Feel the tendon again, that's med. rare. Add the middle finger to the pinch so you have 2 fingers down on the thumb in a pinch. Touch the tendon again, that's medium. 3 fingers= med. well, all fingers pinched= well.

After you've cooked many a steaks, you'll know just by the finger poke but this was the way I learned how to cook a steak perfectly every time.

Edited to add: I hope this description makes sense. It's easier for me to show you than it is to explain it.