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?”
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
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)
Sauces To Accompany Your Steak
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
michele h petersonJanuary 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!
JanJanuary 16, 2017 at 8:56 am
Hope it will help!
Donna JankeJanuary 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.
JanJanuary 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!
Rachel HellerJanuary 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!
JanJanuary 16, 2017 at 5:29 pm
Sue ReddelJanuary 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!
JanJanuary 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!
AnitaJanuary 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!
JanJanuary 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!
Carole Terwilliger MeyersJanuary 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.
JanJanuary 18, 2017 at 8:20 pm
Peta KaplanJanuary 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.
JanJanuary 24, 2017 at 8:45 am