Well-Done Steak Eaters Get The Restaurant's Worst Cuts, According To Anthony Bourdain

Well known for his love of every venue, think dive bars to three-Michelin star restaurants, Anthony Bourdain has never been sparing with his opinions of the people, businesses, and institutions within the culinary industry — from his undying love of a proper martini to his full-throated denunciation of Mario Batali when his unsavory behavior has come to light.

Ordering a steak at a fancy restaurant can be tricky, especially when you take etiquette into account, from how to address your server when ordering a well-done steak to cutting the steak you ordered. Bourdain always maintained that your preferred doneness has an important impact on what you will end up getting. And if you prefer your steak well done, Bourdain thought you were probably going to get the worst cut available that evening. He spoke about this to Oprah on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," but he also wrote about it in his book, "Kitchen Confidential." Since overcooking the meat essentially lowers the quality of the beef as a whole, those who order it well done will be less likely to notice the poorer quality meat.

Why well done steaks get no respect

There is good reason to believe that ordering your steak well done at a restaurant will result in an inferior cut. First, cooking a steak well done dries it out by rendering most of the fats and juices out of the meat. If all the things that keep the meat tender and juicy are going to end up leaving the steak, a chef can save on food costs by using a less marbled and inferior piece, thinking the diner will never notice anyway. 

On her show, Oprah asked, "When you say you want it well done, you're really saying what?" To which, Bourdain replied, "Please give me your lesser cut" (per TikTok). That isn't the only faux-pas with ordering well done, however.

The second reason to avoid ordering a well-done steak is that it takes longer to cook. If your dining partners order their meat medium, your well-done steak will take almost double the time to cook, delaying the entire table. Finally, there are so many other options that will give you well-done meat without the hassle or questionable quality. Just ask your server what's best when ordered well. For example, many steakhouses serve items like braised short ribs, which are braised for a long time in a sauce. Completely well done by the time the short ribs land on your plate, the low and slow cooking method leaves you with tender, fall-off-the-bone meat that is thoroughly cooked, juicy, and delicious.

Other tips from Anthony Bourdain

Throughout his illustrious career, Anthony Bourdain made plenty of recommendations regarding what to order in restaurants and the food scene in general. For example, he is well known for suggesting that people should avoid ordering fish dishes on Mondays since fresh fish deliveries would happen before the weekend, and thus the restaurant's stock of fish might not be as fresh by the time Monday rolls around. However, more than a decade later, he walked back the comments, making fish okay to order on Mondays once more.

He was also a huge advocate of finding restaurants where locals eat when visiting a new city or country. Instead of visiting places that cater to tourists, such as those near major attractions with English menus, he recommended seeking out restaurants that locals visit in order to experience the most authentic cuisine of the area, such as those that offer a single local specialty. If there is a line of local people waiting in front of a restaurant, there might be something tasty worth trying. And if the menu is concise, not trying to be everything at once, it's more likely to excel. After all, if they offer pierogi, spaghetti, and phở, as Bourdain said to Oprah, "How good can they be at all of those things?" (via TikTok).