|Place of origin||Mongolia|
|Main ingredients||Raw beef|
Steak tartare is a meat dish made from raw ground (minced) beef or horsemeat. It is usually served with onions, capers, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings, often presented to the diner separately, to be added for taste. It is often served on rye bread with a raw egg yolk.
The name tartare is sometimes generalized to other raw meat or fish dishes.
A less-common version in France is tartare aller-retour, a mound of mostly raw ground meat that is lightly seared on both sides.
The idea of eating minced and/or raw meat was popularized in Slavic regions, associated with Mongol encroachment. They and their Turkic allies the Tatars were known collectively as being from Tartary, which was essentially Mongolia, though the name was a conflation of Tatar with the Greek stories of Tartarus. They had a tradition of finely mincing very tough meats like horse and camel, to make them edible, then binding the meat with milk or eggs. Europeans told stories of this being made by placing the meat under a saddle to ride upon it until tender. It is possible that this story was confusion originating in the use of thin slices of meat to protect saddle sores from further rubbing. Either way, minced and/or raw beef became associated with Tartary, and minced raw meat was introduced to Moscow by the Golden Horde.
Russian ships brought recipes for raw meat to the port of Hamburg during the 17th century, a time when there was such a great presence of Russian residents there that it was nicknamed "the Russian port." Trade within the Hanseatic League between the 13th and 17th centuries made this port one of the largest in Europe, its commercial importance being further heightened as it became vital to early transatlantic voyages during the age of steam. In the period of European colonization of the Americas, immigrants to this port were a "bridge" between old European recipes and the future development of raw minced beef in the United States.
During the first half of the 19th century, most of the northern European emigrants who traveled to the New World embarked on their transatlantic voyages from Hamburg. The German shipping company Hamburg America Line, also known as the Hamburg Amerikanische Packetfahrt Actien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG), was involved in Atlantic transport for almost a century. The company began operations in 1847 and employed many German immigrants, many of them fleeing the revolutions of 1848-9. The vast majority of settlers and emigrants from various parts of northern Europe also began voyages to the United States from Hamburg, introducing the culinary customs to state they come into. New York City was the most common destination for ships traveling from Hamburg, and various restaurants in the city began offering the Hamburg-style steak in order to attract German sailors. The steak frequently appeared on the menu as a Hamburg-style American fillet, or even beefsteak à Hambourgeoise. Early American preparations of minced beef were therefore made to fit the tastes of European immigrants, evoking memories of the port of Hamburg and the world they left behind.
In the late 19th century, the Hamburg steak became popular on the menus of many restaurants in the port of New York. This kind of fillet was beef minced by hand, lightly salted and often smoked, and usually served raw in a dish along with onions and bread crumbs. Hamburg steak was gaining popularity because of its ease of preparation and decreasing cost. This is evident from its detailed description in some of the most popular cookbooks of the day. Documents show that this preparation style was used by 1887 in some U.S. restaurants and was also used for feeding patients in hospitals; the Hamburg steak was served raw or lightly cooked and was accompanied by a raw egg.
It is not known when the first restaurant recipe for steak tartare appeared. While not providing a clear name, it's possible that the dish was popularized in Paris by restaurateurs who misunderstood Jules Verne's description of "Koulbat" ("...a patty of crushed meat and eggs...") in his 1875 novel Michael Strogoff.
In the early twentieth century, what is now generally known as "steak tartare", was in Europe called steack à l'Americaine. One variation on that dish included serving it with tartar sauce; the 1921 edition of Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire defines "Steack à la tartare" as steack à l'Americaine made without egg yolk, served with tartar sauce on the side. "Steack à la tartare" (literally meaning "served with tartar sauce") was later shorted to "steak tartare" Over time, the distinction between steack à l'Americaine and its tartar-sauce variant disappeared. The 1938 edition of Larousse Gastronomique describes steak tartare as raw ground beef served with a raw egg yolk, without any mention of tartar sauce.
It has also been called "Tartar steak" in English.
"À la tartare" or simply "tartare" can still mean "served with tartar sauce" for some dishes, mostly fried fish. At the same time, the name "tartare" is also sometimes applied to other dishes of raw meats or fish, such as tuna tartare, introduced in 1975 by the restaurant Le Duc in Paris.
Health concerns have reduced the popularity of this meat dish in some parts of the world because of the danger of contamination by bacteria and parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii and Taenia saginata.
When basic hygienic rules are followed and fresh meat is used, the risk of bacterial infection is low. Even when these provisions are met, it is nonetheless not recommended for people who have a weakened immune system or a chronic illness, as these individuals are at a greater risk of infection from E. coli and/or Salmonella.
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that may be found in raw or undercooked meat. A multicentre case-control study found inadequately cooked or cured meat as the main risk factor for toxoplasma infection in all centres. Due to the risk of congenital toxoplasmosis in the fetus, pregnant women are advised not to eat raw meat. Latent toxoplasmosis in adults has been associated with, but not proven to cause, psychological effects and lower IQ in some studies.
Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm) may also be acquired via ingestion of under-cooked beef. The tapeworm is transmitted to humans via infectious larval cysts that are found in cattle. People with taeniasis may not know they have a tapeworm infection, due to the fact that the symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent. But, it is still possible to develop cysticercosis.
Steak tartare is found in many European cuisines.
The Belgian version, filet américain (préparé), is generally made with mayonnaise and seasoned with capers and fresh herbs. It was formerly made of horse meat. It is usually served with french fries.
In Czechia and Slovakia steak tartare (tatarský biftek) is found in many restaurants. The meat is ground lean sirloin and has a raw egg yolk in a dimple in the middle. The meat can be premixed with herbs and spices, but usually the customer is given spices and condiments to add to taste. Steak tartare is typically served with toasted bread and raw garlic cloves for rubbing on the bread.
In Poland, steak tartare is known as "tatar" (The Tartar), "befsztyk tatarski" and is traditionally served as an appetizer with diced onions, pickled dills, pickled mushrooms, egg yolk and, optionally, yeast extract.
In Sweden, steak tartare, råbiff, is usually served with raw egg yolk, raw onions, diced pickled beetroot and capers. In Finland, tartarpihvi is served with raw egg yolk, raw onions, pickled and salted cucumbers and capers. Variations of the dish include dressing with buttermilk sauce and salmon roe. The (European) Russian version can include pickled and salted mushrooms and toasted white bread.
In Wisconsin, it is quite popular among the descendants of German immigrants, using raw ground sirloin, rye bread as in Germany, salt, pepper and chopped raw onions. It is popularly known as the "cannibal sandwich" among many Wisconsin residents.