14 In Culinary Experiences

Ordering Steak Frites Like The French

It is night time in Paris just off the Champs-Elysée.
You’re sitting in a bistro which is still decorated with some
Christmas decorations even though it’s January.
Your waiter approaches and you order the steak frites.

Waiter: “Quelle cuisson votre viande? Bleu? Saignant? A point?”

You freeze.

Steak dinner at L'Etoile 1903 Paris, France
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris from Foodtravelist.com with me at L’Etoile 1903 in Paris, France.

Last year I had a delicious dinner with fellow travel bloggers Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris from Foodtravelist.com. We ate at L’Etoile 1903, a classic French bistro located a stone’s throw away from the Arc de Triomphe. I ordered the steak frites—-yes, steak with fries. I know enough French that fortunately I didn’t freeze when the waiter asked me this question. [ In this post I have two infographics which you can download as PDFs or save in Pinterest.]

Ordering Steak In France

Steak à point
Steak à point

Here’s an infographic on how to tell your waiter how you want your meat cooked. It might be helpful on your next trip.  [Note: The French tend to serve meat a little more rare than we would expect, so keep this in mind].

Your waiter will ask: “Quelle cuisson votre viande? Bleu? Saignant? A point?”

Translation: “How do you like your meat cooked? Blue? Rare? Medium Rare?”

What these terms really mean and to understand “tenderness”:


Hold your thumb to forefinger as if making the OK symbol


  • Touch the soft pad under the thumb with your other forefinger.
  • This is what “Bleu” (singed on the outside, raw inside; bloody, almost not cooked) would be like; grilled for 1 minutes on each side


  • Rare—-touch the thumb to the middle finger, the bump gets a bit taut
  • this is what rare meat feels like
  • bloody, very rare


  • an à point steak is perfectly cooked.
  • this is a medium rare steak in French—touch your thumb to the ring finger
  • this is medium but in France it is usually a little closer to rare
  • medium has the core temperature is 63- 65 C


  • while the term “à point” is used more often to refer to medium, if you really just want medium and not close to rare, ask for “cuit”


  • well cooked
  • touch your thumb to your pinky; firm
  • this is well done in French or “Americaine”

Choosing Your Steak Infographic (click to get a PDF)How Would You Like Your Meat Cooked Infographic

top 10 Paris Photo location stamp
Top 10 Photo Locations In Paris

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Sauces To Accompany Your Steak

Steak Frites at L'Etoile 1903 in Paris, France
Steak Frites at L’Etoile 1903 in Paris, France

The steak (entrecôte) I ordered was accompanied by two sauces (Graine de Moutarde and Béarnaise) and it reminded me of the three sauces I learned how to make at École des Trois Ponts, a language/cooking school west of Lyon. [My experience is detailed in the post, Ecole des Trois Ponts].

If you are travelling to France and want to have something special, be sure to get a steak WITH at least one of these sauces. Yes, they are rich, but delicious and perfect accompaniments to steak.

Sauce #1: Bernaise

Ingredients: vinegar, shallots, tarragon, white pepper, butter, egg yolks

Sauce #2: Bordelaise

Ingredients: red wine, shallots, butter, veal stock

Sauce #3: Graine de Moutarde  

Ingredients: white wine, mustard, cream

Steak Sauces: Recipe Infographic (click to get a PDF)3 French Sauces For Your Steak

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  • Reply
    michele h peterson
    January 16, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Super handy post, Jan! I don’t speak French so this post will help me avoid nodding to “Saignant” next time I’m ordering steak!

    • Reply
      January 16, 2017 at 8:56 am

      Hope it will help!

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    January 16, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Interesting. The thumb and finger combinations for ordering steak could be useful to know. All 3 sauces sound wonderful. I may try making them at home.

    • Reply
      January 16, 2017 at 9:22 am

      I translated the recipes as best I could. We learned mostly thru demonstration, so I hope they work for you!

  • Reply
    Rachel Heller
    January 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    In my experience as a person who doesn’t like steak that’s still moo-ing, even if you say “bien cuit” it’ll still be pink in the middle!

    • Reply
      January 16, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      Yes, possibly!

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    January 16, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    The photo of us dining together brings back such fond memories Jan. Can’t believe it’s been almost a year. I hope we get to share a steak frites in France again soon. Viva le France!

    • Reply
      January 16, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      That was a great dinner (and company, of course). We must do it again in France sooner than later!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I’ll just take that steak pictured at the beginning of your post, Jan. It looks perfect to me! We may actually make it to France this year so I’ve pinterested your post as a handy reference. And all the sauces look delish!

    • Reply
      January 17, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      The sauces were great! Maybe we can meet up in France if I’m there at the same time!

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    January 18, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    I’ll have my steak cuit with Graine de Moutarde. I’m waiting. It still hasn’t appeared on my table.

    • Reply
      January 18, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      Too funny!

  • Reply
    Peta Kaplan
    January 23, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I don’t eat very much meat but being a Francophile I do appreciate the fabulous breakdown you offer here in explaining the various ways to order it and the accompanying sauces. Bravo.

    • Reply
      January 24, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Thank you.

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