Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
WiscoNole

ordering fish undercooked?

Recommended Posts

I'm slightly embarrassed to ask this question, but what is the general procedure when someone orders fish, such as salmon, undercooked? Are terms like rare and medium used? Do most restaurants follow these requests or do they generally cook the fish all the way through? I rarely eat fish at restaurants, so I really have no idea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

in my experience, restaurants are quite happy to discuss terms like rare and medium rare when discussing salmon and tuna. i havent much tried it with other fish since im happy to take the chefs recommendation. When, on occasion, the server mentions that their fish is cooked 'a little underdone' and asks if i mind it that way im always sure to take the underdone option.

Having said that, i think the bigger problem is that unlike with beef where we have a fairly defined convention on what constitutes each level of doneness, its much more of a guessing game with fish. i typically order tuna 'quite rare' and ive gotten everything from raw to overdone.


Edited by maher (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I think about it, I ask for meatier fishes such as tuna, swordfish and salmon rare or med-rare if the restaurant is accommodating. After one dismal experience this past week at the beach I will ALWAYS be requesting tuna done this way, 1 grilled tuna-smelling leather strip was enough for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
in my experience, restaurants are quite happy to discuss terms like rare and medium rare when discussing salmon and tuna. i havent much tried it with other fish since im happy to take the chefs recommendation. When, on occasion, the server mentions that their fish is cooked 'a little underdone' and asks if i mind it that way im always sure to take the underdone option.

Having said that, i think the bigger problem is that unlike with beef where we have a fairly defined convention on what constitutes each level of doneness, its much more of a guessing game with fish. i typically order tuna 'quite rare' and ive gotten everything from raw to overdone.

i don't think it is a guessing game at all of fish temps it is very easy to cook a fish to a certain temperature. I like to serve salmon medium, tuna rare, and pretty much everything else medium well except skate which i serve well, however due to the quality of fish we buy for service i have no problem serving any piece of fish at any temp. And to the guy who started this post if you are unsure about the temp that your fish will be best enjoyed just ask your server or have the chef pick the temp, trust me chefs appericate this its nice being able to serve a piece of fish the proper way as apposed to having a correctly cooked fish sent back b/c the diner wants the hell cooked out of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure - Under cook and do it right - Tuna is supposed to be rare, most people like it the consistency ot that canned stuff and I am happy to refire it after doing a Gordon Ramsay on the eating habits of crazy people.

BUT - that being said - people don't tend to know what they want. Medium - Rare - they all have some sort of idea on what they think - so it is a little tricky.

Had a Steak tonight ordered "Meduim+" - WTF is that! I cooked it Med Well and it did not come back so I guess Med+ to that guys simple brain is MW.

Good Luck CIA - do you ever work for Main COurse Catering over in New Paltz! Great shows - I was a site chef for them about 2 weekends a month and made 15/hr - but I did run sites after a few good ones under my belt....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Haha. This weekend went to a restaurant, ordered salmon MR, came out drier than canned fish. Server offered to do another, came back raw. At that point I was waiting more than 40minutes so I just picked another item. Got their "house special" aka fish n chips, not too bad though still tad under.

No real apology or anything done to accommodate while I waited, so I just sat there dwindling my fingers with my friends. Oh well.

P.s. You just enrolled in CIA? (hyde park, ny=cia? or just live there?)

Jim

Edit: Oh yes..this topic reminds me of cooking duck breast as well. Many are not use to having it cooked to different temps. Once a patron was actually shocked that I asked her how she wanted her duck to be cooked.


Edited by stealw (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With either fish I'm not as familiar with, or when I'm at a really good restaurant, I tend to leave it up to the chef. I'm over the whole 'I'm a hardcore foodie and want everything RaW!!11' thing.

Not everything tastes its best served rare.

I also like milk chocolate and, occasionally, sugar in my coffee. Shh, don't tell anyone!


"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tuna has always been 'rare' on our menus. Salmon medium, most others med-med well.

The tuna thing, I've learned, can be touchy for some chef's. I've worked with ones that will only serve it Rare OR well done...nothing in between. And, boy, as a server you'd have to go thru this whole elaborate process at the table/in the kithen (a myriad of eye rolls from all the chefs) if someone asked for it any other way.

Here is a real conversation/incident I had with a customer in said chef's restaurant:

customer: I'd like the Tuna, but I'd like it medium.

me: I'm sorry, the chef only prepares the Tuna rare as he feels this is the best preparation for tuna.

customer: Oh really, well, you tell the chef to take the pride out from between his legs and cook the Tuna the way I want it!

me: hmm. oh-kay...let me get my manager.

to manager: I have this customer that just said 'yadda, yadda'.

manager: Oh, really??

We all go into kitchen.

manager to chef: so we have this guy at table 42 that just said 'yadda, yadda' about the Tuna.

Chef: Oh, really?

back at the table:

manager: I'm sorry sir, but the chef will only prepare the Tuna rare.

customer: Oh, really? well what do you suppose I do then????

manager: Order a different fish. Oh, and....don't ever talk the the waitress like that again.

heh.

Personally, tho, I'd rather work with a chef that is willing to do what the customer asks. While I have a high respect for the culinary arts and appreciate the talent that goes into designing a dish, I also respect the fact that some people just like what they like...and are still willing to patron your restaurant and shell out 28 bucks for for a medium filet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few years ago I had a customer ask for his salmon cooked medium rare. I complied. It was just as I would have liked it, just starting to flake in the center.

It was returned, overcooked.

I cooked one rare.

Returned, overcooked.

I pulled out a cast iron skillet and heated it over some serious btu's until it was hotter than the hinges of Hades. I oiled the thickest piece of fish I had and seared it HARD, maybe 45 seconds on each side, slid it on a hot plate, garnished it properly and sent it out post haste.

Customer loved it. Maybe I was a little pissed but at least he left happy. I wish he could have said black and blue or something.

What I hate is when I eat at a restaurant and they want me to cut into my steak to see if it's cooked right. No, if it's not cooked right, why is it in front of me, and it probably needs to rest for a moment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tuna is not correctly cooked rare. It should be thinly sliced and cooked through, as the Italians do. Think veal escalope.

Fish should either be cooked or raw IMO.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tuna is not  correctly cooked rare. It should be thinly sliced and cooked through, as the Italians do. Think veal escalope.

Fish should either be cooked or raw IMO.

I don't see how there is a "correct" about it.

I can see that it is "incorrect" to cook chicken rare, because you don't want to poison your customers. Beyond that, I just don't see a correct or incorrect to any of this: it's a matter of taste. As it happens, I tend to agree that fish is better either fully cooked or raw, because I don't really care for the slimy ooziness of warmed raw salmon, for instance (and with tuna I'd rather have it raw or canned: I think even semi-cooked tuna is dull). But it's all personal taste, not "correct" or "incorrect", really.

If I'm in a restaurant, if there is a recommended cooking temp, I will almost always (actually, I think, always) go with that temp, because part of the reason I go to a restaurant is to let someone else do the thinking about what and how should be cooked, and I assume that some thought has gone into it.

And I would certainly never ask them to vary a particular preparation if that's what they specify. If I don't like, say, a medium-cooked salmon (and I don't) I'd rather order another dish; just as if a dish contains something that I don't care for much I'll order another dish, not say "O, please cook me your pie but leave out the kidneys" or whatever. Dining a la carte means choosing from among the things the kitchen produces, how it produces them, not engaging the services of a personal cook. If I don't like what the kitchen produces, I don't order that dish.

And when it comes to steering people in the right direction, a lot depends on how it's done. In France, I ordered a steak. How would I like it cooked? "A point" (medium, or thereabouts). The waiter's face fell. Well, he said, on this occasion if Sir wanted it medium he would ask the kitchen to cook it medium. But he did want Sir to know that this was a VERY nice piece of meat, and perhaps better cooked bloody. But if Sir wanted it medium, Sir would have it medium.

The whole thing delivered with the air of one who had just found Sir about to strangle a kitten or two. Well, if Sir wants to strangle the kitten, then very well. Go ahead, and wring the little kitty's neck. If you really want to. It was a brilliant performance.

Needless to say, I had it rare. And it was a very nice piece of meat. Now if the waiter had said "Sorry, we won't cook it medium, only rare", I'd have gone along with that, but I would have felt somehow thwarted and offended. The way it was done, I felt looked after.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If only I was given that choice when working for this chef. It would have been much easier to have the 'fall back' of ordering the tuna medium....ie....'I can ask the chef to cook it medium, but his preference is to serve it rare....'

No. I was strictly trained to explain the 'situation' with the Tuna to the customers (only rare or well done) and I better not be bothering the chef to cook it any other way.

That was just their 'rule'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How would I like it cooked? "A point" (medium, or thereabouts). The waiter's face fell. Well, he said, on this occasion if Sir wanted it medium he would ask the kitchen to cook it medium. But he did want Sir to know that this was a VERY nice piece of meat, and perhaps better cooked bloody. But if Sir wanted it medium, Sir would have it medium.

Did the waiter ask how you would like it? If so then why ask if he knows what is best?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Haha, wow, what difference a year and a few months make. When I made this thread I was about 1 month into the CIA. I'm graduating in January and have to laugh at myself for being so unaware just 15 months ago.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bet you can cook a mean fish now I bet.

(Kinda off topic, but realized there lotta fellow cia'ers on the forums. Just found out the other day someone in my class is on egullet too.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
With either fish I'm not as familiar with, or when I'm at a really good restaurant, I tend to leave it up to the chef.  I'm over the whole 'I'm a hardcore foodie and want everything RaW!!11' thing.

Not everything tastes its best served rare.

I also like milk chocolate and, occasionally, sugar in my coffee.  Shh, don't tell anyone!

Diane: I agree with you on every single thing you say, including milk choc. Cooking fish a point is really subjective and it has a whole lot to do with what kind of fish you're cooking. Tuna's one thing, catfish another, so is salmon, so is sole. There's no one right way to cook fish.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My question is aimed at waitpeople and chefs. A point has been raised that applies to ordering meat as well as fish.

Are waitstaff and kitchen comfortable with the diner ordering doneness by desired internal temperature of meat and fish? If so, this would be a godsend, illiminating a lot of misunderstanding.


eGullet member #80.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that this is a language (and thus a waitstaff training) issue:

A few years ago I had a customer ask for his salmon cooked medium rare.   I complied.  It was just as I would have liked it, just starting to flake in the center. 

I think that's the trick, but you gotta force the diner to be more specific. The terms "rare" etc. don't have universally consistent meaning, but you can talk about flaking, color, temperature, etc. So if someone asks for rare, you can say, "You'd like the fish to be completely uncooked save for a band where it touched the pan?" and then get them to be more specific if that's too rare.

Of course, that means that, when they send it back, you can say, "You said..." and show them that's what you delivered.

ETA: Internal temperature won't do it. That's something that chefs and food obsessives like present company might be able to use, but your average diner doesn't know 120F from 140F.


Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ETA: Internal temperature won't do it. That's something that chefs and food obsessives like present company might be able to use, but your average diner doesn't know 120F from 140F.

My concern is a personal one, so my question should have been phrased, "If I order my steak and tuna cooked to 125 degrees and my salmon to 140, is a kitchen willing and able to comply or am I just tossing sticks into their cogs?

eGullet member #80.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My question is aimed at waitpeople and chefs.  A point has been raised that applies to ordering meat as well as fish. 

Are waitstaff and kitchen comfortable with the diner ordering doneness by desired internal temperature of meat and fish?  If so, this would be a godsend, illiminating a lot of misunderstanding.

I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem if the chef was waiting on the tables... :cool:

but no, never in my 12 years of service at a 3 star restaurant has any customer asked/ordered by temp. and until this very moment, I've never even discussed it in those terms with other waiters/mgmt/kitchen....

In other words, this is obviously something chefs are taught in the culinary world, but not something taught in the service world. We are taught to ask for r, mr, m, mw or w.... also accustomed to b & b...and I'm sure any good chef can tell me what this translates to in degree's....but just not something 'taught' to wait staff....nor customers for that matter I'm sure!

but for a foodie like you....while I may find the request odd as a server (well, not so odd now that you've made me aware of it)....just cause no one does it....I'm sure I'd ask the chef and he'll know exactly what you want.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... but you gotta force the diner to be more specific. The terms "rare" etc. don't have universally consistent meaning, but you can talk about flaking, color, temperature, etc. So if someone asks for rare, you can say, "You'd like the fish to be completely uncooked save for a band where it touched the pan?" and then get them to be more specific if that's too rare.

Of course, that means that, when they send it back, you can say, "You said..." and show them that's what you delivered.

ETA: Internal temperature won't do it. That's something that chefs and food obsessives like present company might be able to use, but your average diner doesn't know 120F from 140F.

That's a great point. Instead of "medium rare," get a description out of the customer. "warm but bright pink in the middle, brown on the outside." No room for confusion.

On the larger issue, I think a lot of confusion would vanish if the resaurant decides exactly what business it's in. Is it primarily in service to the food and the culinary arts, and to the vision of the chef? Or is it in service to the customers? I don't mean this as a rhetorical question. Both anwers are equally valid (but if your answer is the first one, you'd better be f'ing good, or people will stop coming).

If everyone in the resaurant is clear on this question, then there won't be any awkwardness when the customer orders the tuna well done. The quick answer will either be Yes Sir or No Way!


Notes from the underbelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If everyone in the resaurant is clear on this question, then there won't be any awkwardness when the customer orders the tuna well done. The quick answer will either be Yes Sir or No Way!

And if "yes," the server will then say, "Just to be sure that we are meeting your request, we understand well done to mean that the tuna is cooked all the way through, and the outside is heavily seared. Is that your preference?" If the diner says, "You betcha!" then you're covered if the diner wants to send back the slab of gray cork.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, a description, methinks, would be easier than more subjective terminology for fish such as "med" or "med-rare." Plus, it's also less fussy-sounding than temperatures (will the customer whip out a thermometer? is that the temp when it comes out of the oven or after resting?).

I tend to order my salmon "as rare as possible, as close to sashimi as you can get" which tends to get decent results because it's so much on the extreme end of the cooking scale. I could imagine more issues if I tried to get it med or med-rare.

Sukie, geez, if I were a customer at that restaurant I'd be seriously P.O.ed! A celebrity chef, I suppose, with an "artiste" reputation, could get away with it, but at any other restaurant...


Edited by Hest88 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

oh, yes, Hest....he is one of *the* celebrity chefs in this here parts and absolutely does get away with it...especially with this particular manager at the helm who has/had no problem whatsoever putting a customer in their place when called for.

I should include that this particular area...or parts of, I should say...definatley have the most, um, 'verbal' people I have ever known and this can give you an idea of what people are 'brought up' to be like (pretentious and rich) and, sometimes, yes, it was good to have the kind of staff that did not back down to it...and I kinda admired them for it since -I- could never do it.

So, as you can see in the way the customer asked for it cooked ("tell him to take the pride out from between his legs"), the Chef and most especially this particular manager had no problem dishing it back.

And after the confrontation and the 'direct' way the manager handled it, he did wind up ordering a completely different fish and not another peep came out of him.

amazing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...