pork chop and beef steak

Discuss word origins and meanings.

pork chop and beef steak

Post by JANE DOErell » Mon Sep 15, 2008 7:46 pm

In much of the US a good piece of meat from the same part of the animal; but from the pig it is called a "pork chop" and from the cow it is called "beef steak". We occasionally see an exception in "pork steak" but it is rather rare, at least in the Mountain West.

Both "chop" and "steak" referring to cuts of meat seem to be rather old words. One source I examined said "chop" is really old, from Norwegian and that "steak" may have come from Old French.

ed-[I have found an unattributed source that says that the concatenation of "pork" and "chop" and of "beef" and "steak" happened in the 19th century -- then there is lamb chop which had slipped my mind in my searches.]

Now the question, when, where and why did chop come to mean pork and steak primarily beef in US usage?
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Re: Pork chop and beef steak

Post by trolley » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:01 pm

Jane, I don't have an answer, but I do have a bit to add. I think a steak cut be cut from any part of the animal but a chop is a specific cut. It is cut from the back and usually contains a piece of rib. Pork and game meat(moose, venison, elk) can be cut into chops and steaks with the chops being cut from the back and steaks from anywhere else. I'm not that familiar with lamb (tastes like it still has the wool on it) but I've never heard of a lamb steak. Surely there's other parts besides that "chop" that are eaten. If you cut that same "chop" portion from beef it would actually be a rib-steak. It's a mystery to me, too.
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by trolley » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:24 pm

I just checked the almighty Google and it seems there are, indeed, such things as lamb steaks. It appears that, like pork and game, the chop comes from the back and the steaks from everywhere else. If you cut a salmon steak in half, would you have two salmon chops?
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by russcable » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:29 pm

My guess: the difference is one of size. There are veal chops and veal cutlets.... do they atrophy away as the cow grows?
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:37 pm

Jane, I did give this a go when you posted it but came up with nothing. I just gave it a second go when I read your Addict’s Corner posting and did find something which seems to be in line with what John and Russ had to say:

AN A-Z OF FOOD & DRINK by John Ayto

CHOP: The chop as a concept emerged in the seventeenth century. Slices of meat the size of individual portions, they were in their way forerunners of hamburgers, served up to busy city dwellers in the London chophouses that proliferated from the 1690s onward. Right from the start chop seems usually to have been applied to cuts containing a bone and chopped from the loin, shoulder, or particularly ribs. It did, though, take a little time to bed down as a solo term: at first people spoke of ‘a chop of mutton,’ for instance, rather than simply ‘a chop’ (on 9 July 1663 Samuel Pepys recorded ‘Had a chop of veal’). In modern usage, chop is applied to cuts of lamb or pork, but not of beef (a corresponding section of which would be too big to form a single portion that could fit on to the average plate).
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John Ayto is an impeccable (usually) source and has authored many excellent books for Oxford University Press (Oxford Dictionary of Slang, Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase & Fable, 20th Century Words, . . .) and so I would give some weight to what he says as I would, of course, to John and Russ! (<;)
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Ken – September 18, 2008
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by trolley » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:50 pm

Now I'm getting hungry! To add to list of things that I've learned since I woke up this morning, I found several references to "beef chops" (as a specific cut of beef) on the internet.
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by Phil White » Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:09 am

My mother tells the story of when she first married and wanted to cook something special for my father. She went to the butcher and asked for a "beef chop" and was taken aside and given a lesson in the various cuts of meat. At least in the UK, "beef chops" do not exist. The same cut is called a "rib of beef". As far as I can judge, however, the "rib" only refers to the first few neck-end ribs. The rest are the various sirloin cuts.

Steaks on the other hand can be rump, fillet, chateaubriand, sirloin (minute and porterhouse) or entrecote. Porterhouse steak cooked on the bone is known as a T-bone in the States. Some correspond (roughly) to "chops" without the bone and some do not.

Look here for the various cuts of beef.

Chops, as Ken has already indicated, always refer to cuts served on the bone, and generally nowadays from the ribs, of pork and lamb in particular, but also veal. In the UK at least, chops and cutlets are different cuts. Chops are from the loin and cutlets from the neck end.

Cuts of pork are shown here.
Cuts of lamb here.

Purely as a guess, I would assume that "chop" derives from the method of cutting the meat, or more to the point, the bone, namely with a chopper. In that event, it would ultimately derive from Old French coper (modern French couper). Perhaps that association has been lost with beef, as the cuts are less frequently served on the bone.

Steak is indeed probably from Old Norse, and unless I'm mistaken cognate with the word "stake", both going back to the idea of a pointed stick (in our case, the "spit" used to roast the meat).
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by Shelley » Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:16 am

Samuel Pepys beat me to it, but I wanted to mention that veal comes in chops and is also beef. I just finished a novel written in the (UK) 1930's in which a character despairs that the hotel in which he is staying is unlikely to have a "chop" in it. Ken's resource really illuminates the usage.
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:07 am

[[Jane, I’m going to delete the Addict’s Corner posting in light of the eruption of discussion here.-- Ken]]

Englishman John Ayto always has interesting things to say and so I will add here what he had to say on the subject of steak.

AN A-Z OF FOOD & DRINK by John Ayto

STEAK: English borrowed the word steak in the fifteenth century from Old Norse steik, a relative of the verb steikja, ‘roast on a spit,’ and from earliest times it has been used for a fairly thick slice of relatively high-quality meat cooked by grilling or frying. It can be applied to meat from any animal (an early fifteenth-century cookery book mentions ‘stekys of venysoun or beef,’ and to this day there are pork steaks, lamb steaks, gammon steaks, and even kangaroo steaks), but gradually the simple term steak, without any further qualification, has come to denote a slice from the hindquarters of beef—the beefsteak (borrowed by French as biftec and by Russian as bifshteks), since at least the eighteenth century the traditional fare of hearty-eating Englishmen, and since the Second World War transformed from unobtainability to the everyday luxury of steak and chips. But the strong association of steak with ‘beef’ led, probably in the nineteenth century, to the word being used, with dubious honesty, for any fairly cheap cut of beef, usually from the neck or shoulder, used in casseroles, pies, etc. (nowadays usually designated by such terms as stewing steak and braising steak). This, of course, is the main ingredient of steak and kidney pie or pudding, a dish central to the canon of traditional English cuisine which as far as is known is actually no more than about 150 years old: the earliest reference to ‘steak and kidney pudding’ is a recipe in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861), which she apparently got from Sussex, and in which she specifies the best rump steak, not any old inferior cut of beef. Steak has also been used since the late nineteenth century for a fairly thick cutlet taken cross-sectionally from a large fish, such as salmon or cod (the Standard for 30 November 1833, for example, noted ‘fishmonger charged 10d per lb. for his best cod steaks’). And around the same time, kippers were often known facetiously as ‘two-eyed steaks.’
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Ken G – September 18, 2008
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Re: Pork chop and beef steak

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:17 am

trolley wrote:I'm not that familiar with lamb (tastes like it still has the wool on it).
Try cooking them in the oven with half a cup of white coffee poured over, and then use it to baste. A joint will need a full cup, and you pour it over halfway through the cooking, after you have poured some of the fat off. The liquid becomes the sauce without anything added. You can trust a Welshman when it comes to cooking sheep!
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:28 am

Lamb also exists as necks, shoulders and legs, not just chops or steaks. Female lambs are also endowed with racks.

Interesting idea that, using coffee as the sauce. It must stem from the same resourcefulness that led to the notion that seaweed is a good food for humans.
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:26 pm

.. damn .. just when a topic that I can get my teeth into comes up >>>>> I am away from home .. dispariging remarks about lamb obviously stem from not having access to Aussie lamb .. lamb now comes in all the beef cuts but is wonderfully lean .. Shelley when I get back I will email you some great recipes ..

WoZ the chef
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by JANE DOErell » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:54 pm

The old man on who's behalf I inquired was satisfied with Ken's quote "....Right from the start chop seems usually to have been applied to cuts containing a bone and chopped...." and Phil's notion that "...."stake", ... going back to the idea of a pointed stick (in our case, the "spit" used to roast the meat)...." (I rather arbitrarily grabbed these two quotes to take to breakfast this morning and they seemed to answer the question.)

I first perused this on behalf of a friend thinking it would just be a simple online search and apparently it turned into something interesting.

Thanks.
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by Tony Farg » Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:07 am

In response to Bob's earlier post, I've been fighting it off for days, but I have to give in:
They also say you can trust a Welshman when it comes to doing almost anything to sheep!
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Re: pork chop and beef steak

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Sep 23, 2008 9:28 am

Oh Tony, I really thought that you wouldn't give in, but you are thinking of New Zealanders anyway.

As for the coffee, it was a recipe I got from an English cook, the Welsh are a nation of tea-drinkers, so would not have had a cup of coffee standing alongside the cup of stock that had really been intended for the lamb!

Laverbread (seaweed) does make a good sauce for lamb actually, but it is something of an aquired taste. WoZ had bass (I think) with laverbread when he stayed in Wales earlier this year. I'd never heard of that.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
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