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Five controversial conversation starters about steak

By Jeffrey Carl

  1. You like Outback. You can also substitute “Outback” for “Western Sizzlin’,” “Long Horn” or others. Especially for those who aren’t steak connoisseurs (or get their steaks well done), there really isn’t a worthwhile difference between a $8 steak at Sizzler’s and a $38 Delmonico’s steak. Personally, I love Outback – it’s a great chain with great appetizers and comfortably huge portions – but I never get the steaks there. You shouldn’t expect much agreement from steak aficionados, who will be prepared to explain to you in detail how dry-aged beef is infinitely superior to Outback’s fresh cuts. And they will probably be right.

  2. Steakhouses are bastions of sexism and gross conspicuous consumption. In a word, “yes.” Steakhouses are practically built for old-boy network gatherings of wealthy booze- and meat-hounds eager to overindulge and tell offensive jokes about assorted ethnicities or genders protected by various federal statues. You can absolutely make a case among your NPR-listening friends that steakhouses are a red-state anachronism predicated on overpriced Medicare-draining overindulgence and best left to obese troglodytes and slavering, flesh-consumed mutants. Of course, doing so marks you as pretty clearly “no fun” and someone who doesn’t get the whole point of what makes steakhouses enjoyable. You’ll be absolutely right in this assertion, but be prepared for when somebody retorts with, “So what? Do you have any idea how tasty it is?”

  3. Prime rib is the best steak. In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to hold this heretical view. Prime rib is fattier than any other cut of beef, and is prepared differently (see above). Bad prime rib is so fatty that you need to cut half of it away; good prime rib has fat so marbled with the meat that you can’t even taste your arteries clogging. So it’s an open question, based on where you get it.

  4. I could make steak better than this at home. If you’re comparing against low-end steakhouses, you’re probably right. Maybe you have some crazily appealing steak preparation story (such as your grandmother taught you to bathe steaks in Holy Water and tenderize them with pieces of the True Cross) to win you obscurity points. However, the argument doesn’t extend to high-end steak restaurants. High-end steak producers in the Midwest reserve their best steaks for high-end restaurants – they simply aren’t available to you or me, even in high-end grocery stores. So no matter how good your preparation is, it probably can’t match the quality of meat that high-end steakhouses have access to.

  5. Buffalo/bison makes better steak than cows. Depending on the crowd, this may get you some points right away for championing a more obscure delicacy. Buffalo (also known more appropriately as bison) are the largest land mammal to survive in North America since the Ice Age, and once roamed the Midwestern plains in numbers approaching 60 million. Once mainstays of the Native American lifestyle, they were hunted nearly to extinction: by the 1860s they were being killed for their tongues and furs at the rate of 200,000 a year, and by 1893 their numbers on the plains had decreased to merely 300. Fortunately, President Theodore Roosevelt convinced Congress to establish preserves for the animals, and their numbers returned to about 150,000 today. Bison are now a popular food source, although their numbers (compare the 150,000 total bison versus the 124,000 beef cattle that are slaughtered every day in America) are tiny. However, bison are no longer endangered and are a more-or-less guilt-free food source (or at least no more guilt-ridden than any other mammal). Bison is tasty, nutrient-rich and leaner than beef cattle; it makes for excellent hamburgers and lean meats. However, since fattiness is what counts in high-end steaks, it can’t compare to top steak restaurant dishes. Nonetheless, if you want to prove that your cowboy hat is three gallons bigger than the next guy, buffalo/bison is an OK dish to order.

Read more in our guide to steak here!

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