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Do steakhouses really not use thermapens?

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    Do steakhouses really not use thermapens?

    Today…well yesterday at this point, was our anniversary. Wife and I went to a place we’ve never gone before that was a mid-range steakhouse called Firebirds. I rarely order steak out and when I do, I almost always order medium because my dining experience has been everywhere outside a prime steakhouse undercooks and I get medium rare anyway. Since this place was very steak focused and advertised 21 day aged steaks, I ordered medium rare thinking they should be able to nail it, it was definitely rare without the texture change that happens when you hit medium rare, or at least the change I’ve seen on every steak I’ve ever gotten to 125°. I’m just amazed that places cannot actually cook at steak to order when it’s so easy with a thermapen.

    Regardless, everything else was fabulous, service was great, steak was still decent for the first rare steak I’ve ever finished in my life and company was quite tolerable. I didn’t feel like upsetting the evening by sending it back to be finished. I had filet and shrimp with southwest au gratin potatoes and garlic thyme compound butter. Better half had the garlic sirloin and loaded baked. I didn’t take a cut pic for evidence as I felt bad snapping the pre shot on a special occasion dinner, but thought the presentation was pic worthy despite the poor photo trying not to disrupt the mood.

    Anyway, overall it was an enjoyable evening out, but it was also a good reminder why I don’t mind sometimes buying prime aged beef online and cooking on occasion as the steak itself had nothing on what I can produce and the wife even said as much making the dinner than much better. The appetizer and sides, well that probably had me beat.
    Attached Files

    Almost always the disappointment at a steakhouse is the steak, unless it's a really good steakhouse. I'm at the point now if the steak is decent, and the sides and service are good then I'm pretty happy. As long as they can make an actual Old Fashioned.


    • glitchy
      glitchy commented
      Editing a comment
      After the server dropped off my Knob Creek neat, I thought I should have ordered a Manhattan, so very funny the first response mentions them.

    Long ago I stopped ordering steaks and particularly pork ribs from restaurants. I have fine tuned how I like them to the point that they can just not match what I like. At the risk of appearing arrogant, when you have bowed at the church of Meathead, the bar is raised very high.


      I have to agree with others here. I am mostly underwhelmed when I eat out these days. There are a few restaurants that I like to frequent that are really good but they seem to be few and far between. Maybe I am becoming a bit snobby, I am not sure. Maybe old and set in my ways....Regardless, I enjoy the food we cook at home more for sure. But, I really do enjoy a great dining experience so eating out from time to time is a good thing.


      • RonB
        RonB commented
        Editing a comment
        I don't think you are being snobby at all. Once you know how great something can be, anything less is, well less. My wife now gives me "the look" if I say that I can do better, but she will occasionally say to me that my whatever is better. That is always nice to hear...

      I've found over the last several years that most of our dining out is for ethnic food or barbecue. I'm always on the lookout for better brisket or a good plate of rib tips. But when it comes to basics like steak or shrimp, I prefer my preparations to most restaurants.


      • glitchy
        glitchy commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah, we are normally the same. We had just had Italian and Mexican food multiple times over the past few days, so didn't feel like our usual Italian spots for special occasion dinners. There doesn't seem to be a lot of more upscale type of restaurants around here that aren't Italian or Steak Houses other than Sushi, Vegan, or super trendy places, and my wife wouldn't go to those and find anything she'd eat (nor do they really thrill me).

      I don't order steak anymore when we go out. For the prices they charge I can do better at home. And as far as BBQ I'm much more critical of how a restaurant does it. I'm usually disappointed and ticked off that I just spent all that money to find out mine is better. I've seen the meals prepared on this forum and you people are a hard act to follow


        I have to join the majority, I don't order steak very often when I'm out as I know I will be disappointed. When I go out I like to try new things that I don't cook at home so in most cases that means some form of Ethnic Fare.


          There was a documentary made on Discovery about a famous NY steak house, the very much and well revered steak chef put his steaks thru a salamander type oven then a sear.
          No thermapen just his innate sense of timing of how much and the extent of how each much steak was done.
          The place was jammed every night with people wolfing down his steaks.....if ya got it, ya got it....
          Oh, and the splash of garlic butter to finish.
          Personally I've never been able to accurately guess steak doneness. Its hit or miss.


          • crazytown3
            crazytown3 commented
            Editing a comment
            I think that splash of garlic butter or whatever else they might use is really what does it for most people.

          • Draznnl
            Draznnl commented
            Editing a comment
            I suppose if we cooked as many steaks as that chef, we might be able to guess doneness accurately. But until I take a job in a steakhouse, I'll rely on my Thermapen.

          The only time I order a steak out now is when there is nothing else on the menu that catches my eye.

          I buy the best lookin' steak I can find. Restaurants buy a 50 # box of steaks at a price they can make a profit on. Top notch steak houses excepted.

          When I'm cookin' steaks, I'm right there cookin' 'em. I'm only cookin' a few and not tending anything else. And I know how to get what I want.


            Its not "cool" to use a thermometer. You can only tell how a steak is cooked by poking it. NOT!

            I'm surprised higher end steak restaurants are not using sous vide to do steaks. You figure with their precision and being able to keep a medium rare steak ready for an hour or so it would make more sense for them to start doing this.

            I'll get Prime Rib out because it is so hard for me to do Prime Rib for two at home.But it has probably been over 5 years since I've gotten a steak at a restaurant. $30 at home gets me a 2" thick CAB ribeye steak when $30 out gets me a 12 oz. ribeye that is usually cooked incorrectly.


              Unless I am eating fast food, I never order food that I have made at home like turkey, roast chicken, steak, ribs, pulled pork, brisket etc. I have always found that my food is better or better suited for my taste.

              I do tend to order food that I can’t make at home easily or well, or where the recipe is very original. That way, I can get some very different takes on food or stuff I have never eaten before so I am not comparing it with the food I have made. That way, if I am disappointed, it is because the place screwed up on their recipe versus not making it as good as I can.

              For example, the recent burger week post had a ton of great burgers I’d love to try. Most of the time we eat out, it is usually breakfast where they might do a killer skillet with all kinds of neat ingredients, or sushi, or Middle Eastern.


                I don't think I have ever stuck a thermometer into a steak. Don't think it's even ever crossed my mind, which is odd I guess. But I'm pretty confident in my ability to judge a steak's "doneness", and can't remember the last time I was wrong. Guess that sounds cocky, but 99% of the steaks I cook are medium rare, and I buy my beef a half cow at a time and always have the same size (thickness) steaks. On rare occasions a guest may ask for something past medium rare, but for some reason my grills can't seem to cook past medium...

                As far as eating out, my family and I eat out frequently - at least weekly. The overwhelming majority is mexican or italian, and we like to try out new pizza places. Actually, every Friday is pizza night. Every other Friday we order from a new place or a family favorite (I actually have a pizza delivery bag to keep it hot as most places are over 20 minutes away), and on the alternate Fridays we make our own, either in the oven (rarely) or on the grill or in the pizza oven. Anyways, one thing I just will not eat out is BBQ. I have had good Q out, but I don't think it's ever been in Ohio. Stuff is expensive and never as good as what I can make at home. The only time I will think about it is if I am traveling and am in a geographic location known for its BBQ. Ohio is not that.


                  Still, I am glad you had a good time even if the steak didn’t meet your expectations.


                    I think most restaurants cook to time, not temperature. Kinda foolish, but its another reason over the past years I've tended towards burgers or other fare when dining at steak houses. I'm always disappointed, especially when paying $50 for a steak I could do better at home.


                      I quit using a temperature probe for steak, since I just did what I suspected steak restaurants do. Sous vide.

                      Think about it. The water bath is at X degrees. A restaurant can easily have multiple water baths set for a range of temperatures. So when a table order comes in for 2 medium rare, 3 medium, and one burnt - no problem. Grab steaks from the respective containers, open the bag, then quickly sear on a super hot griddle. Done. Minimal skill required. And everyone's food is done at roughly the same time. And the end result is a nice even doneness level through the entire steak, while minimizing returns to the kitchen.

                      Now as for the high end places, I am not completely sold on how their kitchens run. I do not go to the higher end places often enough to have a good opinion. But considering how they can (in theory) pay the staff more given the menu prices, maybe they hire more skilled kitchen staff. But for your typical mid price mega chain steak place, they just crank em out all night. You would need some VERY highly skilled people in the kitchens to pull it off, or you can cheat with sous vide.


                      • ssandy_561
                        ssandy_561 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        jfmorris My cousin took us out to Ruth Chris once. He would always comment on how good the steaks were. I got a steak and it was pretty good. He made a comment to me I would never have a better steak. I bet him $100 I could cook him a better steak for under $30. I bought a 2" ribeye, salted it the night before, brought it up to 120 degrees on my Weber Kettle set at 225. Seared it off for a minute each side after letting it sit for 10 minutes while the coals got screaming hot.

                      • ssandy_561
                        ssandy_561 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        He took one bite, looked at me, said two words I wont repeat here and threw the $100 at me.

                      • jfmorris
                        jfmorris commented
                        Editing a comment
                        ssandy_561 I felt that the steaks at Ruth Chris were under seasoned and just didn't have all that much flavor, even if the meat was good and properly prepared.


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