Sunday Food: Beef Steak for Memorial Day

Steaks on a grill

Steaks on a grill

(Picture courtesy of Liz Lowley at

While a lot of the U.S. will have weather that isn’t ideal for outdoor cooking, one of the traditions of Memorial Day celebrations is a barbeque, often featuring steaks on the grill.  We all hear varying tastes for cooking and dining on steaks, but this is a review of ‘common’ knowledge as featured on wikimedia.

A steak is a cut of meat sliced perpendicular to the muscle fibers, potentially including a bone. When the word “steak” is used without qualification, it generally refers to a beef steak. In a larger sense, there are also fish steaks, ground meat steaks, pork steak and many more varieties.

As a “top-quality ingredient”, beef steaks “are perfect if properly grilled“,[1] but they can be pan-fried, orbroiled. Steak is often grilled in an attempt to replicate the flavor of steak cooked over the glowing coals of an open fire.[1] Steak can also be cooked in sauce, such as in steak and kidney pie, or minced and formed into patties, such as hamburgers.


The word steak originates from the mid-15th century Scandinavian word steik, or stickna’ in the Middle English dialect, along with the Old Norseword steikja.[5] 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.” Subsequent parts of the entry, however, refer to “steak fish”, which referred to “cod of a size suitable for cutting into steaks”, and also “steak-raid”, which was a custom among Scottish Highlanders of giving some cattle being driven through a gentleman’s land to the owner.[6] An early written usage of the word “stekys” comes from a 15th-century cookbook, and makes reference to both beef or venison steaks.[7]


Many types of beefsteak exist. The more tender cuts of beef, 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 tenderized (e.g. cube steak). Beef steak can be cooked to a level of very rare (bleu, a cold raw center), rare, medium rare, medium, medium well done, or well done. Pittsburgh rare is charred on the outside. Beef, unlike certain other meats, does not need to be cooked through. Food-borne human illnesses are not normally found within a beef steak, though surfaces can potentially be contaminated from handling, and thus, very rare steak (seared on the outside and raw within) is generally accepted as safe.

Beef steak is graded for quality, with higher prices for higher quality. Generally, the higher the quality, the more tender the beef, the less time is needed for cooking, or the better the flavor. For example, beef fillet is the most tender[41] and wagyu, such as Kobe beef from Japan, is known for its high quality and commands a high price.[42] Steak can be cooked relatively quickly compared to other cuts of meat, particularly when cooked at very high temperatures, such as by broiling or grilling.

The quality and safety of steak as a food product is regulated by law. In Australia, there are National Meat Accreditation standards;[43] in Canada, there is the Canadian Beef Grading Agency;[44] in the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency is responsible;[45] in the United States, beef isgraded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as select, choice or prime,[46] where “prime” refers to beef of the highest quality, typically that which has significant marbling.[46] In 1996 in the U.S., only 2.4% of cattle were graded as prime,[47] and most prime beef is sold in restaurants and hotels.[46]

Eating red meat gets a lot of disapproval in some quarters, but I was always one who respects variety.   I will have steaks, burgers, roasts, sometimes but think they’re best with a healthy green salad.

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.


  1. Chris Maukonen
    May 24, 2015 at 7:26 am

    I will have steaks, burgers, roasts, sometimes but think they’re best with a healthy green salad.

    And Coleslaw !

  2. Ruth
    May 24, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Yep, that coleslaw is a really good addition to the meal, and it can be prepared ahead of time too, a plus if you’re making a big meal.
    Looks fine for barbecue here today, going to almost 80F.

  3. Chris Maukonen
    May 24, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Same here. Highs around 81. But in the 50s and low 60s now. Think I’ll wait a bit to do up my laundry and hang it out.

  4. Ruth
    May 24, 2015 at 7:47 am

    Jumping around makes it hard to plan, yesterday there was a hard frost and some burning to one tomato plant, one zucchini. They’ll be okay, though, just need to trim off the leaves that got hit.

  5. Chris Maukonen
    May 24, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Thought of a small garden myself but too many varments. Deer and rabbit. Seen 4 of each on my side yard. Plus squirrels.

    Hard enough keeping the grackles from decimating my bird feeders.

  6. Ruth
    May 24, 2015 at 8:00 am

    We see turkey tracks in the garden, and maybe deer too – but there’s enough corn around that it doesn’t leave them hungry, I guess.

  7. Canyon2
    May 24, 2015 at 8:36 am

    good morning everyone.
    Thank you for the post Ruth.
    After two good days here in N. Illinois, we have rain today but it is supposed to get to 75 degrees so that will be good.
    The meal sounds mmgood today.

  8. Ruth
    May 24, 2015 at 8:41 am

    My pleasure, indeed, and steaks/burgers on the grill are something summer does make into close to a necessity once in awhile.

  9. Alice X
    May 24, 2015 at 9:21 am

    good morning everyone

    yesterday a friend and I went to a park along the river, a large part of which is undeveloped – we went hiking off the beaten path for some time

    then we came here – sat in the garden and looked through a volume of large print reproductions by E S Curtis

    Native Americans – very touching

    here is the digital collection

    as for a Memorial Day for war?

    war – what is it good for?

  10. Ruth
    May 24, 2015 at 9:29 am

    thanks, and Memorial Day is a bit of a strange event, seems to be mostly about the dead troops that we ought to resolve we won’t create any more of. Some folks do get there, but most go off creating circuses.

  11. Ruth
    May 24, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Off to the garden, and prepping for the grilling.

  12. Canyon2
    May 24, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Good morning Alice X,
    “War what is it good for…”?
    The only thing I can think of Alice is that it makes the 1% richer and richer at the expense of the younger generation. Over and over again.

  13. Alice X
    May 24, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Another Memorial Day

    A DVD of E S Curtis photogravures with contemporary rendering of Native Music

    If you were to buy it, don’t buy it from googlazon.

    A track from the same