So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Daily Archives: December 3, 2009

More about steak temperatures and food-borne illnesses

At the blog, “You’re My Shadow Today”, the subject of steak temperatures came up.

http://servernotslave.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/beaten-and-bloody-or-burnt-to-a-crisp/

This was something that the blog “In The Weeds” recently tackled

http://frothygirlz.com/2009/11/03/in-the-weeds-how-to-order-a-steak-and-not-act-like-a-total-tool/

and a topic that I also discussed a couple of months back.

https://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/steak-and-meat-temperatures/

One interesting comment was from someone with HIV who always gets steak cooked to well done out of a concern for health. Patients with HIV and AIDS are usually told to avoid “undercooked foods”, including steaks.

I was going to get on my high horse and say that you can safely eat a medium-rare or medium steak without fear of contamination because of the fact that e Coli and other pathogens that might be transmitted through an intact steak (as opposed to punctured or ground meat) are actually killed in the cooking process because they are “surface dwellers” that are aerobic (they need oxygen to survive and reproduce) and are killed when the steak is exposed to heat above 145º (giving an extra 5º as a hedge). This obviously happens when you cook a steak even to rare, although the USDA says that you should cook the internal temperature to at least 145º because they want to be super safe in these litigious times.

However, as it turns out, there’s a bigger reason why an internal temperature of 145º is the absolute safest way to go (which is what I consider the high side of medium). Turns out that it’s not so simple. Why, you might ask.

Turns out that some lower quality steaks are “blade tenderized” (or “needled” or “pinned”). This is akin to pounding a veal scallopini or pricking a flank steak with a fork or a roller to tenderize it. This damages the integrity of the surface and can drive pathogens into the interior of the steak while it indeed tenderizes what might be a tougher cut of meat.

Fortunately, if you go to the major steakhouses, you can be assured that this doesn’t happen. I’m not prepared to say what kind of restaurants that serve steaks might serve these sort of steaks, as you’re seeing lesser expensive steaks in all sorts of casual dining restaurants these days. It’s unlikely that you will find such “adulteration” of cuts like sirloin, t-bones, strips, tenderloins, etc. even in lower end places, but it’s certainly possible that you might find it in tougher cuts like flank steaks. Fortunately, those are the type of steaks that you want to cook longer anyway.

Here’s an article that lays out the issue, and everyone should read it:

http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/07/articles/food-policy-regulation/more-doubletalk-from-usda-on-e-coli-and-swift-meat-recall/

Now, lest you think that I’m going to be ordering my steaks medium well, you’ve got another think coming. But I don’t have HIV, lupus, or any other immune-compromised issue. Mine is a personal decision. I think I’ve got a better chance of getting sick from cross-contamination (which is independent of internal temperature) than I do from some odd steak having a natural fissure in it that allows pathogens to get beyond the flame or running into a blade-tenderized cut somewhere that just happens to be infected. However, those with health issues or personal health concerns should read the above article and decide for yourself.

And, for those of you who grill steaks at home, you should keep away from those long pointy forks that some use to turn steaks after stabbing them. Most cooks know that it’s bad to puncture a steak because it releases juices, but the more important reason is that it sacrifices the surface integrity of the muscle meat. Even if the fork is squeaky clean, it could drive pathogens into the center of the steak, where, if you don’t cook it to the high end of medium (145º), you could give someone e Coli. So don’t do it. I don’t even own a prong like that anymore.

And speaking of the term waiter and Hooters Girls

From the “Hair Balls” section of The Houston Press:

Man Wants To Lick Hooters (In The Courtroom)

By Paul Knight
Fri., Jan. 9 2009 @ 3:44PM
Nikolai Grushevski, a man from Corpus Christi, has filed a lawsuit because Hooters wouldn’t let him work as a waiter, which we guess would be called a Hooters Boy.

“Hooters tries to circumvent the law by referring to its waiters as ‘Hooters Girls.’ Hooters is wrong,” claims the lawsuit, filed yesterday in federal court in Corpus. “Just as Southwest Airlines attempted nearly three decades ago with stewardesses, the waiter’s position addressed herein is being limited to females by an employer ‘…who merely wishes to exploit female sexuality as a marketing tool to attract customers and insure profitability.'”

Read the rest of the article here:

Just a reminder about the use of the term “waiter”

For the new people who have arrived at the blog, I just want to say that I use the term waiter for both sexes.

Waitress can have certain connotations, negative and positive, but I think that waiter connotes more of an image of professionalism (unfairly or not). Yes, even that perception of an air of professionalism stems from sexism but if we make it a non-sexist word, which, in the English language it technically is as it can refer to either sex, we push that sexism to the back of the bus.

It does seem strange to talk about a waiter at a meat and three (where you rarely see a male waiting tables) and at Hooters (where you never see a male waiting tables and spinning hula hoops), but there ya go. Nothing in life is perfect. Perhaps, in the case of Hooters, we just stick with Hooters girl as they themselves do (proudly, I might add).

The more we roll everyone into one term, the more we create an air of professionalism for all. Of course, we run the risk of homogenization, but the distinction probably never should have been made in the first place. If you’re a female waiter and like being called “waitress”, more power to you. I’m not trying to demean the tradition. After all, the term can reflect a powerful image. That’s something that people can decide for themselves. If you are proud to be a waitress, more power to you.

Occasionally you might see me slip and use the term server. I actually use that in conversation a lot. And it’s far more prevalent in common usage. Nothing wrong with the term per se, especially if you’re trying to get away from sexism (far better than the calamitous “waitron” of years past), but I think it’s a little too close to servant for my taste. Still, it’s part of my lexicon and I might use it from time to time.

And yes, I have waitress tags. Just in case.