I recently ate at a restaurant that had you cook your own food. They had a heating plate in the middle of the table and they would set a small pot onto it and add in spices/vegetables to the water, after which you would receive a platter of raw meats (chicken, steak, shrimp, etc) to cook yourself.

The waiter mentioned that when you cook the meat you should leave it in for 1.5 - 2 minutes depending on what it was (shrimp for less time than the chicken/steak). If you leave the meat in for an extended period (say 15 to 25 minutes) would the meat over-cook in the boiling water? The small cuts of steak would cook to a 'medium' or 'medium-well' consistency for 2 minutes depending on the size of the cut.

This was the first time I have ever seen small cuts of meat (especially in that variety) cooked in a boiling water pot.


  • We ate at the Melting Pot last week. Delicious, expensive, and I always leave in pain from eating too much. Apr 18, 2012 at 15:06
  • @Sobachatina I believe that was the name of the place. I had to describe it because I did not remember the name of the restaurant. It was pretty good; the first time I've been to a place that had you pay that much to cook your own food, haha!
    – SirCobalt
    Apr 19, 2012 at 3:38

3 Answers 3



Water boils at about 212F (100C) and meat is cooked from 140F to 160F. If you left the meat in there for a very long time it would eventually approach 212F and start to get tough.

The time that they give you is going to be the time it takes to ensure that the meat is safe to eat. Generally I like it to be closer to the rare side as it is more tender that way.

  • 1
    Pasteurization temperatures of beef starts at 130°F, so you can cook it that low and it'll be perfectly safe (if you hold it at 130°F long enough, approx. 2 hours). Of course, steaks are often cooked to an even lower internal temperature.
    – derobert
    Apr 18, 2012 at 15:43
  • @derobert- Good point but that would be very difficult to pull off in a pot of boiling water. I wonder what they would say if you brought your own thermometer to the restaurant and tuned their burner to exactly 130F? Apr 18, 2012 at 15:45
  • Well, just getting to 130°F isn't much harder than 140°F. Holding at either is of course impossible in boiling water. But if you used 130°F water, your vegetables wouldn't cook. I suspect the wait staff would look at you funny.
    – derobert
    Apr 18, 2012 at 15:54
  • Thank you for the information! The waiter we had said that if we dumped all the meat in at once it would be fine, but I was not convinced that (the steak mainly...) wouldn't get chewy/tough. I don't know if I will ever cook meats this way at home, but it is good to know none-the-less!
    – SirCobalt
    Apr 19, 2012 at 3:36

Most places that do Hot pot cooking (meaning boiling in a pot at the table) the meat (Be it pork, beef, Chicken, or Seafood) is sliced thinly, less than 1/4 inch thick. So they reach "safe" temperature really quick. About 1 to 2 minutes in the pot. Hard vegetables take a bit longer to cook so they usually go in the pot first, for about 2 to 3 minutes, then add your meat of choice.

You can "flavor" the pot by adding a portion of the meat before every thing else, but most consider that an advanced "technique".

But any thing left in the boil more than five minutes becomes part of the "Soup".

As a comparison Vietnamese Pho the raw meats are laid across the dry noodles then covered with a boiling, or near boiling, "Stock" broth, and allowed to "Cook" in the bowl as it's delivered to the table.


For tenderness you can either cook it quick or cook it longer. There is no in between unless it is grounded up. Even then, cooking ground up meat longer can make it tenderer. But by longer I mean 45 mins to an hour and sometimes more.

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