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Ptipois

French Beef

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Hosts note: I have moved this post from another thread that had spun off to discuss beef cooking temperatures in France

I suspect there was a bit of a language/culture issue when they asked how I wanted it cooked. I asked for rare and they brought it medium rare, I think maybe assuming that as an American I didn’t really want it bloody rare.

I think, but am not sure, that in France when you want a rare steak, you're supposed to order it "bleu".  I could be wrong, though, as it was not a French person who told me that.

Moderators feel free to cut-and-paste this into any appropriate thread, but I think it's time to establish a chart of steak measurements in France:

You want it: rare

You ask for: bleu

You want it: medium rare

You ask for: saignant

You want it: just done

You ask for: à point

You want it: well-done

You ask for: bien cuit, or semelle (literally "shoe sole").

Now bear in mind that "rare" in French is understood as raw, sometimes still tepid at heart. The degrees of doneness are a bit lower than in the US (because the meat is much less marbled and does not need the extra time for the fat to melt into the flesh). "Rare" in France is rarer than you'd get in the US, "medium rare" ("saignant") is considered the ideal point and the one that's asked the most frequently, "just done" ("à point") is somewhat considered for sissies (Americans don't count since everybody knows they like their meat well-done), and "bien cuit" is hardly ever heard.

I like the temperature options offered by Bistro Paul Bert and a few others; "we serve our steak rare, medium rare or poorly cooked." As Sophie pointed out French beef is less fatty, ordering anything over medium rare is like eating a shoe.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

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A bit more information on marbled/unmarbled beef in France.

Some breeds are naturally more prone to marbling but the degree of fat infiltration depends mostly on the breeding and feeding conditions. In France the best marbled meat generally comes from regional breeds like Norman cattle, as well as Limousin, Bazadais, or Salers.

Salers is nicely marbled but before it became fashionable and was bred in every region, it had better taste than it now has.

Charolais is typically unmarbled "French style", with solid red meat without any infiltrated fat. It is meat that can actually be cooked very rare and is good for eating raw (it is good for steak tartare and carpaccio). However it cannot be aged the way marbled beef can.

There seems to be a recent trend towards producing marbled charolais; I just bought a thick, beautiful, very marbled chunk of entrecôte at the Président-Wilson market, and I asked what the breed was. The butcher told me it was charolais. So, the meat situation in France is not a fixed one.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

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FWIW - Charolais is the most common continental breed of cattle found in Florida (we're a big beef state). It is frequently cross-bred with other breeds to get results you wouldn't get with pure breds. I also see a lot of Limousins being sold at local fairs for breeding purposes. Is there a lot of cross-breeding in France? Robyn

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You want it: rare

You ask for: bleu

You want it: medium rare

You ask for: saignant

You want it: just done

You ask for: à point

You want it: well-done

You ask for: bien cuit, or semelle (literally "shoe sole").

As usual Pti you've done us a great service.

I have only one amendment, if you like it almost raw ask for - "vers cru."

I am one of those rare and crude (puns intended) folk who want my meat "meaty" tasting, especially lamb, liver, beef and veal (flying things and gamey things and kidneys should be cooked through though) and I try to imply (as I did successfully today) that one should cook whatever it is so that it has some almost burnt tidbits outside and almost quivering insides.

PS. The liver today was at the newly revived M Comme Martine BTW.

More, later, etc.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I have only one amendment, if you like it almost raw ask for - "vers cru."

"Vers cru" is not French, they probably understand because there is the word "cru" and they know what it means.

To ask for something very rare you say "très bleu" or "presque cru". I forgot to add that but I didn't believe I needed to do that here :wink:

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