Where Does Steak Originate From?

If you wonder what country does steak come from (because it seems like such an American culinary dish), you may be surprised to learn that the word steak was first used mid-15th century Scandinavian and made popular in Florence, Italy.

While enjoying your next steak dinner topped with mushrooms and onions along a side of baked potato and salad, you may wonder exactly what country does steak come from. Of course, you many already know that America boasts a robust cattle industry. Most of the steak we eat today was born, raised, slaughtered, and prepared right here in the United States.

America boasts the largest grain-fed beef industry. Our beef comes from almost every state. But cattle country is predominantly considered to be Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, California and Oklahoma. But, this is not the question. What we want to answer here is “Where does steak originate from?” And, that is a different matter altogether.

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When was steak invented?

Many attribute the invention of the steak cut from Scandavia. More precisely, the word steak or steik is from mid-15th century Scandinavian origin. Other pronunciations include the Middle English dialect stickna’ and the Old Norse word ‘steikja’. But actually, different steak cuts likely became popular at different time in history,

For example, an American doctor, James Salisbury invented Salibury steak in 1897 during the American Civil War, and recommended people eat at least three of these meat portions every day. The British certainly had their own version which they called beefsteak cut from European domestic cattle. Olde Worlde recollections mention the wafting aroma of this meat roasting and filled the streets of England.

Since steak embodies so many varieties of meat, and so many butcher cuts, it is hard to say exactly when the first steak was sliced and cooked.

Where was steak invented?

Depending on which account of steak history you believe, you can look to Florence, Italy as the birthplace for the name steak. Legend has it that huge bonfires were lit to cook large meat portions, and the most tasty and tender slices also garnered requests for seconds. This term of “more beef steak” or “bif steik” was born. So some say that steak is a part of Italian cuisine.

So, it is said that the first time a cut of meat was referred to as a steak was in Italy. But, for sure this term referred to the cut, and not the type of meat. As a matter of fact, the Italians use the word steak to refer to any thick cut chop with a bone in it that is cut from the loin of veal (the meat of calves) In Old World measurements, a steak cut would have been a finger or a finger and a half thick.

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Exactly what is considered a steak?

Technically, a steak can be any thick slice of meat, including beef, ham, pork, or a cross-section of a large fish – like a tuna steak. But, for most people, when they hear the word steak, they think beef! In addition to cow, other grazing animals like camel, goat, bison, sheep, kangaroo, and horse offer up steak cuts for their culinary communities. Even a thick, grilled, portobello mushroom is called a vegetarian steak.

The most technical definition of a steak is a portion of meat that is cut across the muscle fibers and may include a bone. This is in opposition to meat that is sliced parallel to the muscle fibers like a beef roast. This is what gives any chef the ability to quickly cook a tender and juicy steak that is also easy to chew. Otherwise, this beef portion would be tough, chewy.

How meat is cut into steaks?

Beef steak can be cut from different parts of the cow’s belly, shoulder, rump, and ribs. But, let’s look at where the best steak is cut from. The best cuts of steak you can get from the supermarket or your local butcher are know as tenderloin or filet cuts. This is a classic cut taken from the strip of muscle tucked against the cow’s backbone. Steaks cut from the cow’s rib (ribeye steak) are also very tender because these muscles don’t perform strenuous work.

Porterhouse and New York Strip steak are extremely popular because they are tender and hefty cuts of sirloin beef, taken from the cow’s hindquarters. And finally, T-bone steak features both a strip of sirloin and an eye of filet around a T-shaped bone. Which makes the T-bone steak the perfect choice for anyone that has difficulty choosing the right steak at a restaurant.

Here’s a great butcher’s chart so you can see the many cuts of steak and exactly where your beef steaks are cut from.

Inventing the American Steakhouse

Steaks are popular in the United States because the way a steak dinner prepared and served today is now thought of as an American meal. Steak with potatoes and salad is an easy meal to create for any special occasion. It’s pretty hard to make a bad steak. Not unless you cook it for too long or burn it. Otherwise, the right cut with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a small amount of oil or butter in a pan is all it takes to make a delicious, mouth-watering steak.

Steak is so popular in America that many restaurants are dedicated to its perfection. The first American steakhouses were called beefsteak banquets and were built in New York City. These restaurants featured the best beef cuts from around the country and were frequented by the wealthy. Why? Because they were the only ones that had enough money to pay for a steakhouse dinner. Other steakhouses were for men only and featured the drinking of spirits, the smoking of cigars, and the eating of large steak portions.

Another version of the steakhouse is called a chophouse. The chophouse also came about in mid-19th century New York City. The only difference between a chophouse and a beefsteak banquet is that a chop house was slightly more civilized, more decorated, and more family-friendly. The original chop houses also featured a more diverse menu that included mutton chop and lamb kidneys.

Today, you can find a 5-star grill steakhouse or a budget-friendly, steak sizzle restaurant to fit any steak appetite and any American budget.

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