Ah, steak! That beautiful, juicy, flavorful cut of meat that brings so much joy!
It is worth noting though that a thick cut of meat sliced from the muscle of any animal is actually referred to as a steak. You’ve probably seen, heard of, or even eaten a salmon or tuna steak, a venison steak, or a reindeer steak, and there are even kangaroo steaks in that part of the world. Even vegetarian dishes have utilized the term, and there are portobello mushroom steaks.
What a lot of people associate steak with though is beef. Beef meaning from a cow.
While cows and other large livestock have been raised as a food source for millennia, the actual term “steak” seems to have originated from Scandinavia.
Scandinavia is a broader term for the Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland in Northern Europe. There is historical documentation from the mid-15th century that shows the words “steik,” “stickna,” and “steikja” to refer to a thick slice of meat. This thick slice of meat was cut from the hindquarter muscles of an animal and was grilled, fried, or roasted as preferred.
There has been a 15th-century cookbook that uses the word “stekys” to describe the same cut of meat, specifically from a cow and from a deer or elk.
Around the same time frame, the Italians were also enjoying steaks. Many historians have hypothesized that Italy is actually where the modern notion of cooking steaks originated. The origin story allegedly begins in Florence, which is arguably the location that birthed the Renaissance. During the mid-15th century, Florence was a place of culture, art, trade, celebration, and a lot of money. There were festivals and celebrations that involved the entire city throughout the year, and large bonfires were created to cook huge quantities of meat. Sounds a little like our modern-day neighborhood block party or tailgate, huh?
In Italian, this cut of meat is referred to as “bistecca,” and scholars think the English who participated in these celebrations during their travels to and through Florence shortened it to “steik” or, now, “steak.”
Fast forward about four hundred years. Cows had made their way to the new world of America, and thus steak made its way as well. The land that soon became the United States of America was full of vast and rolling plains, and cattle ranches popped up across the country. Steak became a popular dish for cowboys, homesteaders, and settlers across the American West.
The Industrial Revolution was also happening during this time, and throughout the early, mid, and late-1800s factories and other technologies emerged at an astounding speed. One of the results of this industrialization was the mass processing capabilities of food. Meat processing plants expanded in huge cities like Chicago and New York, where populations were also increasing. Increasing populations in urban areas meant new and creative methods needed to be put in place to process food quickly. Steak was soon able to be made readily available to the masses.
Restaurants also took hold during this time as industrialization not only brought the world together but also brought in money, culture, and luxuries like French wine. The Le Cordon Bleu French culinary arts school was founded in 1895 in Paris, and restaurants across the industrialized world began specializing in certain dishes and cuisines.
One of these restaurants was the steakhouse, and the first one in the United States opened in New York City in 1887. The Carl Luger’s Cafe paired its steak with wines, beers, and cocktails and set the stage for a new (and highly sought-after) dining experience.
The United States of America now has steakhouses in almost every major city across the country. The American beef industry is one of the largest and best in the world, with large areas of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and even California devoted to cattle farms and free-range ranches. Much of the steak that makes its way to a diner’s plate is from a cow born, raised, and prepared in the United States.
The United States is not the only country producing high-quality beef though. Brazil, China, Japan, Australia, Argentina, and many European countries are extremely competitive in the beef game.
It seems the Scandinavian origin story might have some validity to it though because the most recent World Steak Challenge winner was, in fact, Finland.
Be a part of steak history by eating one of the best steaks in the United States at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in the middle of Oklahoma City’s Historic Stockyards City!
Our steaks have been featured on television shows like Guy Fieri’s specials and Man v. Food and magazines like Bon Appetit and Southern Living.
We are open seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Give us a call or just stop on by and taste our steaks for yourself!