Anthony Bourdain’s mockery aside, most chefs capitulate to a customer’s demands, even if it makes them squirm. After all, it comes down to personal preference and they realize that overcooked steak is often part of a generational divide. In Britain, for example, well-done beef was the norm in the 1950s, with The Independent noting that some people believed beef carried bacteria like E. coli until the late 20th century. To make matters worse, bovine spongiform encephalopathy – colloquially known as mad cow disease – continued to ravage the country’s cattle herd in the early years.
On this side of the pond, America’s appetite has not always been scarce. In 1982, New York Times food writer Florence Fabricator reported that with the popularity of French-trained chefs like Julia Child, Americans were beginning to eschew the well-done to almost moo.
Rare may be the preferred cooking temperature for those who want a tender, juicy steak. But well-done meat lover Susan Burton, who wrote about her attempt to go rare at Slate, found she simply preferred drier foods, including steak. For those like Burton, that means a longer wait for your meal. The Takeout explains that a medium-rare steak takes no more than five minutes to cook. Ordering it well done doubles the cooking time, slowing down your entire table order.