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What is Steak Tartare?

By Grayson Millar
Updated May 16, 2024
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Steak tartare is a French culinary dish that traditionally consists of minced, or finely chopped, raw beef that is often served with raw egg, onions, capers, and other seasonings. A common variation involves thin slices of spiced or marinated quality steak, such as strip, that is served chilled. Internationally, the term steak tartare is sometimes used interchangeably with carpaccio — a raw, meat-based dish of Italian origin — and there are numerous renditions of the dish that change to suit regional tastes. Despite its status as a delicacy, the dangers associated with raw meat have prompted a great deal of health concerns about the dish worldwide and a decline in availability, but issues that do arise often result from improper preparation.

A common myth about steak tartare involves reference to the Tatar people of Central Asia. The legend claims that historic Tatars, a nomadic people, consumed raw meat on horseback to avoid stopping to cook meals and, as a result, the name Tatar became tartare. In spite of the legend, the dish was originally prepared in French restaurants near the beginning of the 20th century and was known as steak à l'Americaine, which translates as American steak. Steak à l'Americaine consists of finely chopped raw beef and seasonings, which may include onions, capers, and spices, as well as a raw egg yolk. In the 1920s, steak tartare was defined as steak à l'Americaine without egg yolk that is presented with tartar sauce.

The distinction between steak tartare and steak à l'Americaine, however, largely disappeared by the late 1930s when steak tartare was listed as containing egg yolk without mention of tartar sauce. Since then, despite the name, tartar sauce is not ordinarily served with steak tartare. The dish is popular throughout Western and Eastern Europe and is largely considered a delicacy. Some variations include preparation with horse meat in Switzerland, in Belgium it is paired with fries and prepared with or without onions, and in Denmark and Germany it is often served on various types of rye bread.

In several parts of the world, especially the United States, steak tartare is not an especially popular dish, except sometimes as a gourmet item. This lack of availability is largely due to concerns based on the possibility of bacteria and other health risks associated with raw meat, such as E. coli and salmonella. These concerns are largely unnecessary if fresh meat is used and proper hygienic procedures are maintained throughout preparation and storage.

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Discussion Comments

By anon969458 — On Sep 10, 2014

So why in the world would anyone want to eat raw meat? The human species is the only species in existence that cooks food! Now inferior intelligences will say,"but we're not animals"! O.K., so how does cooking food make us superior? Expose anything to fire and it's destroyed. What do you think happens to all the nutrients in meat when heated, or even worse, burned crisp like "JessC" enjoys? The black you see on top of "well done" meat is carcinogenic hydrocarbons. All that crap about food borne bacteria, salmonella, risk of vomiting, sickness, etc. is a bunch of lies and propaganda fed to a misinformed, small brained, public (society) by the vegetable and agricultural industries and FDA to get you to spend your money on their seed oils, vegetable oils and wheat products.

The so called "Health Food Pyramid" we so often see is upside down. Vegetables are toxic unless they are cooked, and even then they still have poor nutritional value! Do the the research and go underground, not to the happy, mainstream, stuff you read in magazines either, but underground nutrition!

By anon304207 — On Nov 19, 2012

@JessiC: The movie you are talking about is called Waxwork. They did remake it recently. The one you're talking about was made in the eighties.

By Acracadabra — On Jul 30, 2011

I'm nowhere near vegetarian but I struggle with the idea of eating raw meat. It may be a delicacy, but I'm not much into things like caviar or quail's eggs either.

My friend was raving over a restaurant in New York that had won an award for having the best steak tartare. Out of curiosity I read a review of their dish, but had to stop when I got to the part where it was described as being 'wonderfully slippery'! Ughhhh.

By mabeT — On Jul 30, 2011

Steak tartare, honestly, sounds absolutely disgusting to me. I guess I’m just a hamburger kind of gal.

Why in the world would anyone want to eat raw meat? I just don’t get that. Mad cow disease is something that I definitely do not want, and I hear that it comes from undercooked and often minced steak.

It seems like we’ll all be mooing if we go around eating completely raw beef.

I’ve heard people say that if the meat is prepared correctly it won’t make you sick. My question is, how in the world do you properly prepare meat if you don’t cook it?

Maybe for me it’s mostly mental, but I just don’t think this is for me.

By JessiC — On Jul 29, 2011

I cannot remember the exact movie nor exactly how old I was when I saw it, but this scene involving steak tartare certainly has stayed with me through my entire life since.

It is also one of the primary reasons that I prefer everything completely and thoroughly done.

No red for me, please; I will send that steak back ten times if I need to. Thanks!

Anyway, it was a movie where steak tartare was being served to people who looked to be from maybe the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. Lots of lace and frillies, even for the men.

Come to find out, these people were vampires serving dinner guests raw human flesh completely saturated in blood.

What turned me off totally and struck me the most is that it looked so absolutely delicious. Then you found out what it was.

Nausea, baby, nausea.

By lonelygod — On Jul 29, 2011

@letshearit - I can understand your sentiment about being worried about eating raw beef but it really is quite safe if you prepare it properly and keep your cooking surface clean and all of your tools away from other food.

A lot of people have gotten sick from poorly prepared steak tartare, but in my opinion that is no different from those folks who have gotten sick from eating something like chicken. Chicken can very easily be contaminated if it isn't prepared correctly, and can still make you sick even after it has been cooked.

I say find a good chef and try some high-quality steak tartare, you may get to enjoy it.

By letshearit — On Jul 28, 2011

I remember that my grandmother used to make steak tartare for dinner on occasion, but never once was the meat actually raw. She usually created her dish with leftover strips of beef that had been cooled in the refrigerator, so the meat was certainly cooked through at one point.

Dishes like steak tartare made in the traditional fashion have always worried me as I am not sure how safe it is to eat something like raw beef. I am even wary of consuming sushi because it just seems like a bad idea to go eating raw meat. I know that cooking kills all of the bad bacteria on our food, so without that process I don't really feel safe eating meat.

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