Cook My Meat: This Comedy Sketch Has Me Thinking Twice About Well-Done Steak

Maybe it's time we left folks alone and let them eat what they like.

Saturday Night Live actress Ego Nwodim disrupts dinner with her antics.
Lisa from Temecula proudly prefers her steak well done. Photo:

Getty Images

Saturday Night Live has its ups and downs, but last week’s episode featured a sketch about overcooked steak that I CANNOT stop laughing about. I’ve texted the link to multiple friends, cackled with co-workers, and even stopped a staff meeting to play it on my laptop. I’m usually not “that guy,” but trust me—you have to watch it.

In the sketch, a waiter brings out a lady’s dinner, saying, “Your steak should be cooked to your liking now—third time’s the charm—extra, EXTRA well done.” Hilarity ensues as the lady attempts to saw into her steak, causing the table to rock and buck like a wild horse, sending peas, wine, and silverware flying EVERYWHERE.

Besides the obvious brilliant physical comedy, the sketch keeps making me cackle because it really hits home. Through tears of laughter, I managed to send a link to our family group text, saying “This is Dad at every restaurant, LOL.” You see, my parents require all their meat to be well done. Maybe not extra, EXTRA well done, but definitely no red—ever, and rarely any pink. Growing up, our hamburgers were hockey pucks; steaks were grilled for 20 minutes. Covered. PER SIDE.

A father and son in front of an old car
My Dad and His Dad: John Wiley and John Wiley, Jr.

Josh Miller

I can’t blame my Dad for his Gray Steak Policy. His father worked in sales for a meat packing company; when they had steak at home, it was cooked just barely rare. And knowing his father, I’m fairly certain there was no discussion on the subject. You ate the bloody meat or you didn’t eat. So my Dad likes well-done steak. What traumatized child wouldn’t?

Consequently, as an adult with a family of his own, my Dad made the choice to be a kinder man. Instead of pulling a mother-cheetah move and dragging a fresh kill to the table for us cubs, he grilled filet mignon (marinated all day in crushed pineapple and soy sauce, a combo that I’m just now realizing I miss) until it was way past gray. We didn’t mind—we didn’t know any better.

Humor and fun-poking aside, my flavor memories of those steak dinners are nothing but fond. But as my sister and I left the nest, spoused up, and broadened our horizons, we discovered there was more to life than well-done steak. It happened gradually, but we came to appreciate rosy-centered pork chops and medium-cooked steaks. And though we’ve tried to lure our parents to the less-dark side, our efforts have been met with stiff resistance.

Three travelers outside the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris
Les Trois Stooges.

David Brothers

A few years ago, we traveled to France with my folks. It was a magical trip in a thousand ways, but dining at restaurants was always a little touch-and-go. Mom and I each took 4 years of French in college, but she’s shy and I’m dumb. We tried our best, but Paris is like New York City—they don’t have time for much Mississippi foolishness.

Before we left the States, I begged to my father, “Don’t order a steak in Paris. Just please don’t do it.” He almost made it through the week, but at our last dinner he couldn’t help himself. When he ordered, he told the waiter, “Cook it until it stops mooing.” My Dad basically said exactly what the lady in the Saturday Night Live sketch said: “Cook MY Meat.”

A waiter gives the camera a perturbed look.
French waiters do not find me and my family humorous.

The waiter tilted his head, much like a Labrador retriever does when he thinks he heard you say “outside” but isn’t really sure. Then the waiter just turned and walked away.

Circling back to my family group text about the comedy sketch: My Dad responded with “I’m not that bad,” … and nobody else said a word. It got me thinking—maybe I’ve been too hard on him all these years. Steak doneness is a matter of preference colored by history and experience; preparing it to your guests’ liking without shaming them for their choice is an act of hospitality and grace.

So I’m going to take the lady’s advice from the sketch and “Do Better.” I’m going to try to cook for my parents the way they like it, without making them feel bad or less-than. We should be just fine—unless he offers to cook MY meat…

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