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The History of Steak

A steak is a cut of meat (usually beef) and the word originates from the mid-15th century Scandinavian word steik, or stickna' in the Middle English dialect, along with the Old Norse word steikja. The Oxford English Dictionary's first reference is to "a thick slice of meat cut for roasting or grilling or frying, sometimes used in a pie or pudding; especially a piece cut from the hind-quarters of the animal. An early written usage of the word "stekys" comes from a 15th-century cookbook, and makes reference to both beef or venison steaks. When the word "steak" is used without qualification, it generally refers to a beefsteak. In a larger sense, there are also fish steaks, ground meat steaks, pork steak and many more varieties of steaks.

Steak Cuts & Types

Most steaks are cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers, improving the perceived tenderness of the meat. Exceptions, in which the meat is sliced parallel to the fibers, include the skirt steak that is cut from the plate, the flank steak that is cut from the abdominal muscles, and the Silverfinger steak that is cut from the loin and includes three rib bones.

  • Chateaubriand steak - usually served for two, center cut from the large end of the tenderloin. Sometimes it’s extra thick top sirloin.

  • Chuck steak - cut from neck to the ribs.

  • Cube steak - cut of meat, usually top round, tenderised by fierce pounding with a mallet or mechanical blades.

  • Filet Mignon - cut from the small end of the tenderloin; the most tender and usually the most expensive cut by weight.

  • Flap steak - cut from the bottom sirloin.

  • Flank steak - cut from the underside. Not as tender as steaks cut from the rib or loin.

  • Flat iron steak - cut from under the shoulder blade.

  • Hanger steak or (French) onglet - A steak from near the centre of the diaphragm. Flavourful, and very tender towards the edges, but sinewy in the middle. Often called the butcher’s tenderloin or hanging tender.

  • Popeseye steak - thinly sliced rump steak, originating in Scotland and available in the UK.

  • Rib eye steak (also known as Scotch fillet / Spencer) - rib steak cut consisting of the longissimus muscle and the spinalis or cap. This comes from the primal rib used to make prime rib which is typically oven roasted as opposed to grilled as is typical with rib eye.

  • Round steak, rump steak, or (French) rumsteak - cut from the rump of the animal. A true grilling steak with good flavour though it can be tough if not cooked properly.

  • Sirloin steak - cut from the hip. Also tends to be less tough, resulting in a higher price tag.

  • Skirt steak, Outside - cut from the diaphragm. Very flavourful, but also rather tough.

  • Skirt steak, Inside - cut from the flank or bottom sirloin similar in appearance but more tender than the outside.

  • Strip steak, also known as Kansas City strip, New York strip, and Entrecôte - high-quality steak cut from the strip loin, a muscle that is relatively low in connective tissue, so it is particularly tender.

  • T-bone steak and Porterhouse - cut from the tenderloin and strip loin, connected with a T-shaped bone (lumbar vertebra). The two are distinguished by the size of the tenderloin in the cut.

    • T-bones have smaller tenderloin sections,

    • while the Porterhouse – though generally smaller in the strip – will have more tenderloin.

    • T-bone and Porterhouse steaks are among the most expensive steaks on a menu because of the large individual portion size.

  • Tri-tip steak/roast - also known as a Triangle Steak, due to its shape, it’s a boneless cut from the bottom sirloin butt.

Steak Seasonings & Sauces

Prepared condiments known as steak sauces are generally on the table in steakhouses. Tenderized round or sirloin steaks, breaded, and pan-fried or deep-fried, are called chicken fried or country fried steaks, respectively. Classic sauces and seasonings to accompany steak include:

  • Béarnaise sauce

  • Café de Paris sauce

  • Compound butters such as parsley butter (to create Entrecôte à la Bretonne), garlic butter or snail butter

  • Demi-glace, a rich brown sauce in French cuisine used in the preparation of Tournedos Rossini

  • Mustard

  • Horseradish cream

  • Fresh Rosemary

  • Peppercorn sauce

  • Sauce Nivernaise

  • Sautéed mushrooms

  • White wine, to create Tournedos au vin blanc

  • Worcestershire sauce, a traditional commercial condiment

  • Commercially produced bottled sauces for steak and pre-mixed spices are also popular.

    • In USA, A1 Steak Sauce has enjoyed over 50% of the market share for all meat sauce products.

    • Montreal steak seasoning - is a spice mix used to flavor steak and grilled meats that was based on the pickling dry-rub mix used in preparing Montreal smoked meat.

Steak Cooking Styles & Direction

In North America, steaks are typically served grilled, pan-fried, or broiled. Steak is often grilled in an attempt to replicate the flavor of steak cooked over the glowing coals of an open fire. Steak can also be cooked in sauce, such as in steak and kidney pie, or minced and formed into patties, such as hamburgers.

  • The more tender cuts from the loin and rib are cooked quickly, using dry heat, and served whole.

  • Less tender cuts from the chuck or round are cooked with moist heat or are mechanically tenderised.

  • Thinly sliced ribeye or other tender cuts, cooked on a hot griddle and shredded slightly, and served on Italian style rolls are called Philly steaks, named after Philadelphia, the city in which they became famous.

  • Step 1 – Prepare the steak

    • Allow to come to room temperature for about 20 minutes.

    • If bought from mail order, defrost overnight in a refrigerator, in original packaging and pat dry.

  • Step 2 – Preheat your pan

    • Heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat until hot, but not smoking. (If the pan is too hot, the outside will burn before the inside is done, too cold, and your steaks will be tough).

    • Brush the steaks with oil (to avoid using too much), or pour a little oil into the pan, and season if desired. (Canola or groundnut oil is best, but olive oil is fine too.)

    • When you place the steaks in the pan, a “sizzle” will tell you if it’s hot enough.

  • Step 3 – Cook to your liking

    • Rare = 1-2 minutes per side – rest for 6-8 minutes 
      Medium rare = 2-2.5 minutes per side – rest for 5 minutes
      Medium = 3 minutes per side – rest for 4 minutes
      Well done = 4.5 minutes per side – rest for 1 minute

    • For a medium steak = Cook on one side without touching for 3-4 minutes, then reduce to a medium heat and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

    • Gently turn the steak over with a pair of tongs (don’t pierce it, or the juices will escape), and cook for a further 6 minutes. (You can vary the times here if you prefer a rare or well-done steak.)

    • To test for doneness, press the steak gently with the tip of your finger. Rare should be soft and supple, well done firm, and medium in between.

  • Step 4 – Rest your steaks

    • Resting is just as important as cooking, as it allows the meat to become warm, moist and tender all the way through.

    • Remove from the pan, place on a rack and cover with foil and leave in a warm place for up to 10 minutes. Remember it is always better to over-rest your steaks than to under-rest them. Resting helps the meat to achieve the full flavour and tenderness. (The times given here are a guide only and refer to a steak that is approximately 2.5cm or 1″ thick)


Steak Regional Specialties

  • In the United States a typical steak dinner consists of a steak, with a starchy side dish, usually baked potatoes, but occasionally another potato dish, rice, pasta, or beans. A small serving of cooked vegetables often accompanies the meat and side, with corn on the cob, green beans, creamed spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, and onion rings being popular. A wellknown accompaniment to steak is shrimp or a cooked lobster tail, a combination often called “surf and turf” or “reef and beef” and “pier and steer”. Rounding out an American steak dinner is some sort of bread, usually a dinner roll.

  • In the United Kingdom, steak is typically served with chips (known as fries in the US), fried mushrooms and a fried tomato. Other vegetables such as peas, carrots or a green salad can also be served. English mustard and ketchup are condiments regularly used.

  • In France, steak is usually served with French fried potatoes or ‘frites’ as they are referred to in French. The combination is known as ‘steak-frites.’ Vegetables are not normally served with steak in this manner, but a green salad may follow or (more commonly) be served at the same time. This is also the case in Argentina.

  • In Italy, steak was not widely eaten until after WWII because the relatively rugged countryside does not readily accommodate the space and resource demands of large herds of cattle. Some areas of Piedmont and Tuscany, however, were renowned for the quality of their beef. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a well-known specialty of Florence; it is typically served with just a salad or Tuscan beans. From the 1960s onward, economic gains allowed more Italians to afford a red meat diet.

  • In the Balkan region, steak is often rubbed with mustard and pepper, and marinated in vinegar and vegetable oil for up to a week. It is then fried in butter, and a slice of toast is then used to soak up the pan drippings. The steak is served on the toast and topped with optional fried egg and a sprig of parsley.

Alright, now let's fire up that grill and get ready to feast!

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Extra Cheese & Bacon, Please

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The History of Burgers

First we need to start with the “hamburger”.  In the 11th Century, the Mongols first started to carry flat patties of meat with them on long horseback trips.  From there, the concept spread to Moscow where the Mongols would often visit, and people saw the value in having fresh and small portions of beef ready to easily transport and cook. 

Eventually, over the years, the idea came to the German city of Hamburg.  Most historians agree that is was here where it took the name of a Hamburg Steak or Hamburger for short.  As populations grew in Europe and this “hamburger” idea evolved, the name forever stuck even when it came to the USA and New York. 

Interestingly, various people in America claimed they had invented the hamburger around 1885 to 1900.  These claims included a man in Wisconsin, who flattened meatball sandwiches so they were easier to eat and carry at the county fair, to brothers in New York, who claimed to invent the sandwich at the Erie county fair in 1885.  The reality is that there are claims from people in every state in the USA that they invented it.  So in sum, most people believe that the Mongols truly are the origin way back in the 11th century and Hamburg gets the credit for the name.

Overall in the USA, since the late nineteenth century, via the settling of the vast grasslands of the Great Plains and the immersion of the cattle ranching industry was what made it possible for every American to enjoy beef almost daily. Thus hamburger was one of the cheapest and easiest ways for even a poor American to eat beef and why hamburgers became so popular all over the USA and to this day.

Now for the cheeseburger… according to various accounts, the first cheeseburger was created between 1924 and 1926 by a chef named Lionel Sternberger when working as a fry cook at his fathers restaurant “The Rite-Spot” in Pasadena, California, USA.  The suggestion came from a customer who suggested adding a slice of cheese to his sizzling hamburger order.

However, other places have claimed the invention of the cheeseburger as part of their local legend.

  • An early example of the cheeseburger appearing on a menu is a 1928 menu for the Los Angeles restaurant O'Dell's which listed a cheeseburger smothered with chili for 25 cents

  • Louisville, Kentucky-based Kaelin’s Restaurant has claimed to invent the cheeseburger in 1934.

  • In 1935, the trademark for the name “cheeseburger” was actually awarded to Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado.

  • According to Steak 'n Shake archives, the restaurant's founder, Gus Belt, applied for a trademark on the word in the 1930s

So although no one is sure of the exact origin of hamburgers, it is 100% true that the “cheeseburger” is an all American creation!

There are specific dates known for specific kinds of burgers:

  • Chili burger – 1920’s by Thoma M. DeForest

  • Butter burger – 1936 at Solly’s Grill in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Green Chile burger – 1945 at Owl Bar and Grill in San Antonio, New Mexico

  • Bacon cheeseburger – 1963 by an A&W in Lansing Michigan

  • Hamdog – a meat patty with a hot dog running through the middle was invented by Australian Mark Murray and patented in 2009.  The only burger to this day that has a patent.

  • Slider – miniature burgers.  White Castle trademarked the name “Slyder” in 1985.

  • Jucy Lucy – burger with cheese inside the patty, instead of on top, is claimed to be invented by two competing bars on the same street in South Minneapolis – Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club

Burger Ingredients

Cheeseburger is a hamburger with cheese (with other toppings and ingredients) placed on a hot beef patty and its heat melting the cheese.

  • Other ingredients that are often included are lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup. People add bacon, avocado, mushrooms, onions, and (like we mentioned before) chili.

  • There are versions of cheeseburgers with egg, feta cheese, salsa, chili peppers, different types of meat like ham, gyros meat, bologna, anchovies, and different sauces.

  • Cheeseburgers can also be made with more than one patty (usually up to for which are called double, triple, and quadruple) and more than one slice of cheese.

Cheeseburgers are generally not kosher because it is made of mixtures of milk and meat (cheese and meat patty.) This makes it unacceptable by people that practice Judaism because their law (Halakha) doesn’t allow eating of food that mix those two things together.

Alright, so who's hungry and ready for a "heart-attack" on a plate? I know I am...extra cheese and bacon please!

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The History of Pizza – The Origins

The history of pizza begins in antiquity, when various ancient cultures produced flatbreads with toppings. The precursor of pizza was probably the focaccia, a flat bread known to the Romans as panis focacius, to which toppings were then added. In fact, the word pizza was first documented in AD 997 in Gaeta and successively in different parts of Central and Southern Italy.

Foods similar to pizza have been made since the Neolithic age. Records of people adding other ingredients to bread to make it more flavorful can be found throughout ancient history.

  • In Sardinia, French and Italian archaeologists have found bread baked over 7,000 years ago. According to Professor Philippe Marinval, the local islanders leavened this bread.

  • The Ancient Greeks had a flat bread called plakous (πλακοῦς, gen. πλακοῦντος—plakountos), which was flavored with toppings like herbs, onion, and garlic.

  • In the 6th century BC, the soldiers in Persian King Darius I armies baked flatbreads with cheese and dates on top of their battle shields.

Some commentators have suggested that the origins of modern pizza can be traced to pizzarelle, which were kosher for Passover cookies eaten by Roman Jews after returning from the synagogue on that holiday, though some also trace its origins to other Italian paschal breads. Abba Eban has suggested that modern pizza "was first made more than 2000 years ago when Roman soldiers added cheese and olive oil to matzah".

Other examples of flatbreads that survive to this day from the ancient Mediterranean and other parts of the world are:

  • Focaccia (which may date back as far as the ancient Etruscans);

  • Mankoucheh in Lebanon,

  • Coca (which has sweet and savory varieties) from Catalonia; Valencia and the Balearic Islands;

  • the Greek Pita;

  • Lepinja in the Balkans; 

  • Piadina in the Romagna part of Emilia-Romagna in Italy

  • Chinese bing (a wheat flour-based Chinese food with a flattened or disk-like shape);

  • the Indian paratha (in which fat is incorporated); the Central and South Asian naan (leavened) and roti (unleavened);

  • the Sardinian carasau, spianata, guttiau, pistoccu;

  • and Finnish rieska.

  • Also worth noting is that throughout Europe there are many similar pies based on the idea of covering flat pastry with cheese, meat, vegetables and seasoning such as the

    • Alsatian flammkuchen,

    • German zwiebelkuchen,

    • French quiche.

The History of Pizza – Modern Day

In 16th-century Naples, a galette flatbread was referred to as a pizza. Known as the dish for poor people, it was sold in the street and was not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time.

An often recounted story holds that in June 1889, to honor the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Esposito created the "Pizza Margherita", a pizza garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, to represent the national colors of Italy as on the Italian flag.

Modern pizza developed in Naples, when tomato was added to the focaccia in the late 18th century. This Neapolitan pizza recipe stayed mainly inside of Italy, but this changed after World War II, when Allied troops stationed in Italy came to enjoy pizza along with other Italian foods.

However, until the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, the dish was mainly sweet, not savory, and earlier versions, which were savory more, resembled the flat breads now known as schiacciata. Pellegrino Artusi's classic early-twentieth-century cookbook, "La Scienza in cucina e l'Arte di mangiar bene" gives three recipes for pizza, all of which are sweet.

However, by 1927, Ada Boni's collection of regional cooking includes a recipe using tomatoes and mozzarella. And today the world over, pizza is now mainly known as a savory type of bread and tomato dish, often served with cheese as the main foundation before other ingredients are added.

The History of Pizza - USA and Beyond

In the late 1800's and early 1900's immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their pizzas in New York and other eastern and midwestern cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The immigrants were coming for factory jobs, but quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Italian Americans. The first documented United States pizzeria was Lombardi's on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.)

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an “ethnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon.

Internationally, postwar American pizza finally reached back into Italy and across the world. Now, reflecting local tastes, toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Curaçao to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. Yet international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut also thrive in about 60 different countries. No matter what, the world of pizza has certainly expanded way beyond its basic origins.

Pizza - Modern Day Recipes

The innovation that led to flat bread pizza was the use of tomato as a topping. Originally, when the tomato was brought from the Americas in the 16th century, it was believed by many Europeans to be poisonous. However, by the late 18th century, it was common for the poor of the area around Naples to add tomato to their yeast-based flat bread, and so the version of pizza with tomato sauce began. The dish gained popularity, and soon pizza became a tourist attraction as visitors to Naples ventured into the poorer areas of the city to try the local specialty. Since 1830, pizza has been sold from open-air stands and out of pizza bakeries, and pizzerias keep this old tradition alive today. In fact, Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba in Naples is widely regarded as the city's first commercial pizzeria.

Purists, like the famous pizzeria "Da Michele" in Via C. Sersale (founded 1870) consider there to be only two true pizzas—the marinara and the margherita—and that is all they serve. These two "pure" pizzas are the ones preferred by many Italians today.

  • The marinara is the older of the two and has a topping of tomato, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. It is named “marinara” because it was traditionally the food prepared by "la marinara", the seaman's wife, for her seafaring husband when he returned from fishing trips in the Bay of Naples.

  • The margherita is topped with modest amounts of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. It is widely attributed to baker Raffaele Esposito, who worked at "Pizzeria di Pietro", established in 1880.

    • Note - the tale holds that, in 1889, he baked three different pizzas for the visit of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The Queen's favorite was a pizza evoking the colors of the Italian flag—green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes). According to the tale, this combination was named Pizza Margherita in her honor.

The Official "Neopolitan Pizza Rules"

"Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana" ("True Neapolitan Pizza Association"), which was founded in 1984, has set the very specific rules that must be followed for an authentic Neapolitan pizza. These include that the pizza:

  • baked - must be baked in a wood-fired, domed oven;

  • dough - must be hand-kneaded and must not be rolled with a pin or prepared by any mechanical means (i pizzaioli—the pizza makers—make the pizza by rolling it with their fingers)

  • size - must not exceed 35 centimetres in diameter

  • thickness - must not be more than one-third of a centimeter thick at the center.

The association also selects pizzerias all around the world to produce and spread the verace pizza napoletana philosophy and method. There are many famous pizzerias in Naples where these traditional pizzas can be found such as:

  • Da Michele, Port'Alba, Brandi, Di Matteo, Sorbillo, Trianon, and Umberto. Most of them are in the ancient historical centre of Naples.

  • These pizzerias will go even further than the specified rules by, for example, using only San Marzano tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and drizzling the olive oil and adding tomato topping in only a clockwise direction.

Alright, so who is ready for a wood-fired pizza with all kinds of meat-toppings? I mean I love me a good margherita pizza, but who can ever turn down a "meat-lovers" slathered with extra cheese?!

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The Other White Meat

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