possible new job NEED advice!

Joined Aug 13, 2010
So after working at catering companies for several years serving/bartending and doing various prep work I decided I wanted to get into back of house kitchen work.  I have completed one year of culinary school at my local community college.  I have been trying to get a back of the house job in a restaurant but it seems that no place will even consider talking to you unless you have 3+ years of experience.  I was about to give up when a friend of a friend referred me to a place that is kind of like an upscale diner in my area.  Sort of 1950s but classy diner decor with excellent and kind of upscale food.  I met with the chef and he told me that even though I didn't have experience in a traditional restaurant style kitchen that he would give me a chance on the grill line for a few hours during the lunch shift to see if I can handle incoming tickets and cook burgers and steaks to the right temperature.  I have to say I am pretty nervous.  This is the closest I have come to a real kitchen job and I REALLY do not want to screw this up.  I need some tips on how I can maybe create a system for handling the incoming order tickets and quickly cooking the meats to the correct temperature without probing the meat too much or using a thermometer (I think the chef will think this is cheating).  He basically told me he wants me to "just feel" when it is done so I can move on to the next order.  Any help or tips at all would be greatly appreciated as I really do want to break into this business and I feel that this is an opportunity that I should not take for granted.

Joined Feb 13, 2008
Divide the grill into sections. I used quads -- three sections to cook, and one to recover temp.  Your grill size and ticket load might demand something else

The purpose of dividing the grill into sections is so that you can keep track of how far along each protein is.  Each section has meat that went on at about the same time, gets rotated or flipped over at the same time -- but comes off according to doneness (determined by touch).  

Basically the timing is: Lay the meat on the grill.  Rotate it 45* when it's half way to midrare.   Flip when the first side is mid rare, rotate it 45* when it's halfway to the desired state of doneness.  You may want to use toothpicks or some other system to mark which meat going medium, mid-well.  For meat going to medium-well, just cook to medium and allow it another couple of minutes of rest. 

Every grill is different.  It will take you some time to learn the right amount of time to cook the first side to mid rare.  Feeling mid-rare by touch when the first side is still on the grill, is very difficult.  Timing works better.  Another reason to work sections and to know the grill.

Meat is finished at mid rare when you pushes it and it just pushes back.  If it feels soft, it's raw.  Starting to firm but still soft, rare.  Just pushes back, midrare.  Pushes back firmly, medium.  Starting to get hard, mid-well.  Hard, well.

These push measurements assume that you'll rest the meat a couple of minutes.  No rest, dial everything back one stage rarer.

A lot of people preach learning by pressing the muscle on the back of your hand which hardens as you squeeze your thumb against your index finger.  I find that "push back" is somewhate easier to master.

Buy yourself a few pounds of steak, an instant read thermometer and practice the touch method.  If you're more comfortable with a thermometer than the touch method, and chef let's you do it -- do it at least until touching becomes second nature.  Always carry at least one thermometer at work -- even if you never use it.

Turn and burn is a crazy station.  Don't let it make you nuts.  You'll learn, no panic.  Always touch, no matter what. 

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Joined Aug 6, 2010
another way you could divide your grill is by temp. All the rare on the left, then as you go right, have the proteins in rows according to doneness. This will help you know how done each should be without having to remember or read the slip a bunch of times. As far as the slips go, pick a direction and stick to it. Either sell right to left, or left to right, and always put your tickets up that way. If you have a ticket come in that you can send out faster, do it. There's nothing that says you have to sell the well done steak before the rare one just because it came in first. When your plates are ready, sell them and make sure you keep the rest of the line informed. If you quick sell a ticket, than announce it so the rest of the stations can let you know if you need to hold it, or if they will be ready to sell it as well. 

Good Luck
Joined May 20, 2009
With meat doneness its all about experience so this is a big ask and I sure Chef knows that. Sounds like the 'deep end'. Don't use a grill myself so I'd be poking the regular guys steaks to guage the different 'feel'...a bit harder I suspect...it would be fair to let you do this.

To expand a little on the finger method which probably doesn't translate directly but is a handy ('scuse the pun) reference for 5 even degrees of 'feel' to get you started.

R...    Poke your thumb muscle palm side.

M/r...  Touch the tip of thumb to the tip of your index finger...relax, poke again.

M...    To the tip of your middle...

M/w... Ring...

W/d... Pinky...

Might help...
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