Earlier this month, CBS News reporter Michael George made culinary history when he cooked a perfect medium rare steak. In a dishwasher.
That was my initial reaction: “Eww!” Then, I laughed.
My friend Olga found my response scold-worthy.
“What are you laughing at?” she snarled. “Have YOU ever cooked a steak in a dishwasher?”
“No. But, a few years ago, I fried a cassette tape in a VCR.”
“How did it come out?”
“Actually,’ I said, “it didn’t come out. It’s still in the VCR. Stuck. It’s in the basement, if you wanna look at it.”
Mr. George posted footage of his dishwasher adventure on Twitter. And, in case you missed it, there were a few steps involved.
First, he placed the lightly salted steak into a sous vide bag, sucked all the air out of it and then dropped it in the dishwasher for 96 minutes.
Later, he removed the bag from the washer, released the gray-looking meat inside and tossed it into a hot frying pan with butter, garlic and fresh herbs.
The finished steak did look pretty appetizing. Although, if you took some Tupperware out of the dishwasher and fried it up with butter, garlic and fresh herbs, I could probably make a meal out of that, too.
Seriously, though, could you imagine cooking anything in a dishwasher? Steaks? Chops?
How about spaghetti?
Actually, I could see myself opening the washer while it was still running and watching the spaghetti fly across the room.
Anyway, enough about dishwashers. What I really want to talk about today is cooking meat. And, more specifically, doneness.
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According to Wikipedia: “Doneness is a gauge of how thoroughly cooked a cut of meat is based on its color, juiciness, and internal temperature.”
Which brings me to this past summer, when my neighbors Bill and Sergio invited me over to their place for a barbecue.
“We have some great ribeyes,” Bill informed me in a text. “Sergio is gonna cook ‘em up on the grill.”
“Wow, that sounds terrific,” I replied. “I’ll pick up a nice bottle of wine. Maybe two! What time should I come over?”
I don’t remember what time I went to their place. But I do remember what happened next.
Sergio threw these big, beautiful, really thick, totally mouth-watering steaks onto the grill and I immediately yelled out, “I like mine rare!”
“Don’t worry,” Sergio replied. “I make them nice and well done.”
What does that mean?
Sergio is from Colombia — the country, not the savings bank, the university or The District Of — so I’m occasionally unsure if we’re on the same page, linguistically.
Column continues below the video.
Does that mean he’s going to do a really good job of making my steak rare? Or, is he going to murder it?
This is one of the problems with beef doneness. Put three or four people at a dinner table and it’s possible that none of them will agree on how they like their beef cooked.
What’s worse: Everyone will believe that you should eat your beef the same way they do.
I grew up with RARE. As in “red.” As in “walk the cow past a hot oven.” As in “bloody” — although that red stuff isn’t blood, it’s a protein called myoglobin. (And it’s delicious.)
My Aunt Irene, on the other hand, has always been a member of Team Well Done. “How can you eat your meat uncooked like that?” she would yell at me. “You’re gonna get salmonella! Trichinosis! Mad cow disease! And those diseases are so contagious! When one cow gets sick, they all do!”
Unless they have herd immunity.
According to etiquette experts, it’s not bad manners to advise your host beforehand about your food sensitivities or preferences. At a certain point, though, you have to shut up.
I didn’t do that. I had four glasses of wine while my steak cooked and cooked and cooked. Every so often I yelled out my preference for rare, rare, rare. And, of course, the steak I got was well, well, well.
I didn’t cry, exactly, but it saddened me that a cow had given its life to become an old dry shoe.
Meanwhile, Sergio was in heaven. “Mmm! Perfect! Wasn’t I right?” He asked.
I wanted to hit him with the wine bottle, but Bill pried it from my hand.
As I later told Olga, in addition to regular “rare,” I like my steak prepared “Pittsburgh” style.
Olga shook her head. “Did you say Pittsburgh?”
“Yes. They call it Pittsburgh. Or, black and blue. People who worked in steel mills used to throw steaks onto the steel girders that had just come out of the blast furnace. The meat was charred outside, rare inside.”
Olga was impressed with my knowledge. “Do they still cook steel girders in blast furnaces?”
“Oh, yes,” I said. “And dishwashers.”