How do you like your steak cooked? This is a question most of us like hearing. It probably means we’re sitting comfortably in the pleasant atmosphere of a steakhouse, enjoying conversation with friends and getting ready for a great meal. Everyone has their own answer to that question. There are a lot of “medium” folks who don’t like it overcooked or undercooked at all. There are plenty of people who order “medium rare” who prefer a little more pink in the middle. And there are those who err on the side of “well done,” either because they enjoy the taste or because they’re concerned for their health.
Nobody’s wrong and nobody’s right — or are they? If you were able to survey all the steakhouse chefs in the world and ask how they feel steak should really be cooked and eaten, you’d certain hear a few different opinions. But you’d see a prevalence of chefs who feel that overcooking a steak — especially a really high quality cut of beef — is just about the worst thing you can do to it.
But let’s be honest, most of these chefs really aren’t addressing health concerns when they say this. A chef wants to bring out the flavor, tenderness, juiciness, and overall succulence of a great steak. Overcooking leads to a drier, less tender, less juicy, less succulent cut of beef. That’s what they’ll tell you, anyway. And they’re probably right.
But there may be other reasons why overcooking steak (or other types of foods, for that matter) is actually not good from a health standpoint. Growing evidence in nutritional journals and various sources online argue that cooking meat too long result in a less nutritious food product.
This is very much true for other types of food — including vegetables, starches, gains and so on. Any of these foods will rapidly lose nutrients beyond a certain point of cooking, and the same is generally true with the amino acids, proteins, and healthy fats locked in that raw piece of beef in the cooler.
That’s not to say that nobody should order a steak well done. Some people honestly do like it this way. But if it’s true that you’re losing some of the steak’s nutritious goodness by cooking it that way, you might be compelled to stick with medium or lower, and preserve more of the nutrients in the meat.
The next time you sit down to order a steak, you might want to think twice before you order your meat well done. Overcooking meat is still a contentious topic amongst the people who study these things, but there is plenty of compelling evidence that cooking steak too long actually does start to sap its nutrients — not to mention its flavor and overall goodness.
If you have any questions about how to order different cuts of beef, and what the effect will be for different types of preparation, you should feel free to ask your waiter. Any staff member at a quality steakhouse should be able to answer these questions for you, and help you make a great order.