Steak tartare is a meat dish made from finely chopped or minced raw beef or horsemeat. It is often served with onions, capers and seasonings (the latter typically incorporating fresh ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce), sometimes with a raw egg yolk, and often on rye bread.
The name tartare is sometimes generalized to other raw meat or fish dishes.
Although less common than the completely raw variety, there is a version served in France of steak tartare called tartare aller-retour. It is a mound of mostly raw steak tartare that is lightly seared on one side of the patty.
The name is a shortening of the original “à la tartare” or “served with tartar sauce,” a dish popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The modern version of steak tartare with raw egg was first served in French restaurants early in the 20th century. What is now generally known as “steak tartare” was then called steack à l’Americaine. Steak tartare was a variation on that dish; the 1921 edition of Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire defines it as steack à l’Americaine made without egg yolk, served with tartar sauce on the side.
Over time, the distinction between steack à l’Americaine and its variant disappeared. The 1938 edition of Larousse Gastronomique describes it as raw ground beef served with a raw egg yolk, without any mention of tartar sauce.
Although the word ‘tartare’ presumably refers to the Tatar people of Central Asia, and there are many stories connecting steak tartare with them, steak tartare is not related to Tatar cuisine.
“À la tartare” or simply “tartare” still means “served with tartar sauce” for some dishes, mostly fried fish.
The name ‘tartare’ is now sometimes applied to other meats or fish, such as tuna tartare, introduced in 1975 by the restaurant Le Duc in Paris
Variations of Steak Tartare
In the Czech republic, this food (tatarský biftek) is commonly found in most restaurants. The main lean raw beef component is made from sirloin and has a raw egg yolk in a dimple in the center of the ground meat. The meat can be premixed with herbs and spices, but usually the customer is given various spices and condiments on the dish to mix it to the preference of the customer. Steak tartare is typically served with toasted rye bread and raw garlic cloves to rub onto the toast.
A variant of this dish called tartarmad is also present in Danish smørrebrød, where it is served on rugbrød (rye bread) with assorted toppings. In Sweden, it is called Råbiff, and 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, for example, as the dish is getting quite popular nowadays in the Nordics, where meat hygiene is very high. The (European) Russian version can include also pickled and salted mushrooms and toasted white bread.