Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
Ordering a steak rare, medium-rare, medium or well-done in France
All the French you need to
order a perfectly cooked steak.
popular steak frites,
and French fries, in the UK steak and chips.
courtesy of Eszter
Outside of restaurants with Michelin
stars, and other top-of-the-line restaurants, ordering a steak requires little
French. It does not matter whether you order a steak in English, or in perfect
or poorly accented French. Every French waiter understands an order for a
steak. Problems only appear when the waiter asks: Quelle
cuisson, votre steak? How would you like your steak
cooked? Not all North American and UK steakhouse terms such as
medium-rare, medium or well-done translate, conceptually, into traditional
From steak frites to a Chateaubriand, use the
lexicon below to have your steak or slices from a roast cooked the way you like
them. The same words cover all cuts of beef.
out the lexicon below from Bleu to Très Bien Cuit
and take it
For a more in
depth explanation, read the second part of this post.
A lexicon for
ordering your steak in France
Bleu -A extraordinarily rare steak.
Saignant -A rare steak.
À Point - Perfectly cooked; á point is used in the French
kitchen for any food perfectly cooked, and for a steak it does not mean
medium-rare! When an Italian chef wants perfect pasta he or she will say al
dente. In France for the same perfect pasta, the chef would say à
A perfectly cooked steak in France
is considered rare-to-medium-rare, with the accent on the rare.
steak served with a mushroom sauce.
This steak is
cooked á point
courtesy of Renée S. Suen
Entre à Point et Bien Cuit - Medium rare; a little closer to medium. This works well
when I wish to order a medium-rare steak in France.
Bien Cuit - A medium to well-done steak.
Très Bien Cuit – An exceptionally well-done steak; however très bien cuit
is not in any French chef’s dictionary, though it will be understood.
However, do not order France's popular steak frites very well-done, that
will bring you fried or grilled leather. Read the paragraph lower down with
more on steaks très bien cuit.
below, explain in more detail, the French used to order a steak cooked as
lexicon shown above is all you will need when traveling in France.
Bleu – French for the color blue, and also the name used to order
a seriously rare steak. When you feel the need for an almost raw steak,
then a steak bleu will fill that need. A steak bleu indicates that the chef
will have allowed the steak to take a quick peek at the grill or frying pan, in
passing, on its way to your plate. A steak bleu, is just sealed on the outside;
when cut that steak will leak copiously onto your plate; it will have been
cooked, maybe, for one to two minutes on each side.
for a rare steak. The direct translation into English of the word
saignant would be bloody, or bleeding; despite that, a steak saignant will have
been cooked a little more than a steak bleu. A steak saignant will also leak,
when you cut into it, though a little less copiously, than a steak
bleu. In North America and the UK, a steak saignant will still be
considered an extremely rare steak.
A steak with
courtesy of Magnus Hultberg.
À point - Perfectly cooked, just ready or just
right. À point is the term used, in France, for all perfectly cooked
foods, and not for steaks alone. Unfortunately, many guidebooks give the term à
point as the way to order a medium-rare steak. A perfectly cooked steak, for
most French men and women, is not medium-rare rather it is a
rare-to-medium-rare steak, closer to rare than medium.
I prefer my steaks cooked à point,
but that is my choice. French servers with experience with English-speaking
tourists, will agree, generally with a smile, to take your à point steak back
into the kitchen for a few more minutes on the grill, or in the frying pan,
when you consider à point too rare for your tastes.
A sliced steak
cooked to à point
courtesy of rondostar
When English speaking diners, in
France, wish to order their steaks medium-rare, I suggest they order
steaks cooked entre à point et bien cuit; that translates as “between well
cooked and à point” the result will be a US or UK medium-rare steak,
closer to medium than rare. For a medium-rare steak just ask for your
steak entre à point et bien cuit.
Entre à Point et Bien Cuit – Ordering medium rare steaks, in
France, entre à point et bien cuit has worked well for me and all French
servers will understand it. A French diner sitting near you, and
observing you order a steak cooked entre à point et bien cuit may consider your
steak as overcooked; however, you are paying the piper.
Moyen – Average or the middle; in the French kitchen the
word moyen has nothing to do with steaks. I have seen the word
moyen in some guidebooks given as the French for a medium cooked steak; it is
not. It may be French-Canadian, but it is not French French. In the
kitchen, a chef may require a feu moyen, a medium flame, but I have never heard
moyen used by any French chef for any type of steak. Despite that caveat,
French waiters, in areas frequented by tourists, will generally understand when
an English speaker requests a steak moyen; you will not have been the
first. Moyen is the French for average and middle and so in certain
cases it can mean medium; moyen is also used in expressions like the
Moyen Âge, the middle ages, and Moyen-Orient, the Middle East. In France that
US or UK medium cooked steak is closer to a French steak ordered bien
Bien Cuit –Bien cuit translates into English as well
done; however, an order for a steak bien cuit, in France, generally produces a
medium-to-well-done steak. A steak bien cuit will not run at all;
however, its center will still be slightly rosé, pink.
Très Bien Cuit – Very well cooked; an extremely well-done steak.
Unfortunately, très bien cuit is not used for steaks in French kitchens;
I made it up. Despite that all servers with some experience with overseas
visitors will understand the request. For the French très bien cuit means an
overcooked steak, and the server may ask you to repeat that instruction. If you
have ordered steak frites, an experienced server may advise you re-consider, or
order something else. The cuts used for France’s relatively inexpensive
steak frites are usually flank steaks, and a well-done flank steak will be
tough and tasteless, practically inedible. For an enjoyable meal with a
well-done steak, I suggest that you look through the menu again. Consider
ordering a more expensive entrecôte, or change your request for your
steak très bien cuit to just bien cuit.
The French view
of a steak cooked très bien cuit
courtesy of freefotouk.
An entrecôte is a US rib-eye
steak; in the UK, the same cut can come from the rib-eye or the UK
sirloin. N.B. The US sirloin is a completely different cut. An entrecote
is quite an upgrade from a hanger steak, so check the price. If you do like
your steaks very well-done, then an entrecote may lose some of its taste, but
will still be edible when well-done.
your steak remember the French also make great French fries.