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I've heard that some restaurants use a method of cooking steaks (or other meats) called "interval cooking", where rather than cooking the meat to just below the final temperature and letting it rest to the final temperature, you cook at say 2 minutes on, then rest for 2 minutes, then 2 minutes on again, then rest for 2 minutes and so on, until you reach the final temperature.

Apparently this promotes more even cooking, as the meat has a chance to reach internal equilibrium during the cooking process as opposed to just at the end. Has anybody tried this approach and will interval cooking actually promote a notable difference assuming the meat is rested for the same amount of time at the end using a regular cooking method?

  • I suspect that in addition to any quality benefits interval cooking will let a restaurant get food to the customer faster. If you have a steak that's 2 minutes away from being done as opposed to 6 you get it out that much faster. – GdD Apr 22 '14 at 10:51
  • Absolutely, I'm only interested in quality benefits though. – alex-e-leon Apr 22 '14 at 11:37
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This would be essentially the same as cooking at a lower temperature.

It would also require considerable labor and handling, which is the single scarcest resource in a restaurant kitchen.

Modern restaurants, except in areas where the regulatory environment is hostile, can use sous-vide cooking methods to achieve much the same goal: pre-cooking a steak to its final temperature, where it is held, and then only seared for service, with far less labor and fuss, and better, more consistent results.

In googling "interval cooking", this question itself was the number one hit, and nothing else was relevant. While I won't go so far as to say no restaurant would do this, it certainly does not have significant traction.

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    This on/off method sounds like what I'd do if I had no equipment but a super hot grill, and really wanted to make something come out right. I can't imagine any restaurant that cares so much about quality and could afford to pay someone to sit there micromanaging would do that instead of buying more equipment. – Cascabel Apr 22 '14 at 16:08
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    While sous-vide is definitely ideal, not every restaurant can afford/ has the space for/ is certified to cook sous-vide. – alex-e-leon Apr 22 '14 at 16:18
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    Also you haven't really answered the question : ( – alex-e-leon Apr 22 '14 at 16:18
  • I have answered the question quite precisely: it is essentially just cooking at a lower temperature. As far as sous-vide, I was just showing there are reasonable alternatives, and hinted that some regulatory jurisdictions are not as friendly. However, the labor is the real killer. The bottom line is that this is not a good idea, and no quality restaurant would do it, as Jefromi also hinted. If you have a hidden question behind this question, please do ask it (assuming it is on topic for the site). – SAJ14SAJ Apr 22 '14 at 16:29
  • Somehow I skipped the first sentence in your answer. That makes sense now that I think about it. – alex-e-leon Apr 22 '14 at 17:48
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I haven't tried that specific method, but in some ways, what you propose is similar to flipping meat often while cooking vs. only flipping it once. Serious Eats did a tet of flipping burgers, in which they found benefits to flipping thick burgers every 15 seconds:

  • reduced overcooked outer portion (by roughtly half)
  • reduced cooking time (by about 25%)

... but he found an even better process by cooking in the oven at low temperature (200-225°F / ~95-105°C), then finishing it in a skillet to give it the charred exterior.

** That article also links to a NY Times article titled "Harold McGee on Flipping Steaks, Resting Meat and Char From Electric Grills" which might have more useful info, but I've read too many articles from them this month.

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