Don’t you just love a big, juicy steak?
I know I do!
Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest item on the menu to order as you often have to choose between a variety of different cuts (that you may or may not be familiar with) and then actually tell the chef how you’d like it cooked!
I honestly can’t think of many other dishes for which its customary to tell the chef how to do his / her thing …
Anyway, if ordering steak can sometimes be a little confusing in English, just imagine what it’s like in Spanish!
In this article I’m going to clear up all your steak-related queries, from the words for the different types of steak to how to actually order the darn thing.
WARNING: your mouth is sure to start watering if you read to the end of this article. Have your favored food delivery app at the ready!
‘Steak’ in Spanish
‘A steak’, or a thick, flat cut of beef (normally of reasonably high quality), literally translates to ‘un filete (de res)’ in Spanish.
Also, a ‘bistec’ in Mexico and a ‘bistec’ in Spain are very different concepts …
If you order a ‘bistec’ in any garden variety Mexican restaurant, you’ll be served a THIN slice of meat. The meat is supposedly from the ‘aguayón’, a Mexican cut which corresponds to the ‘sirloin’ (top part) and ‘rump’, although in practice you’ll almost certainly be eating ‘rump’ (or any other cheap cut) in less fancy establishments.
If you ask for a ‘bistec’ in Spain, however, you’ll be greeted with something much more similar to what we imagine a ‘steak’ to be in English (i.e., a thicker slab of beef).
Erika’s top tip – ‘milanesa de res’ is another thin slice of meat; it’s quite brutally flattened (it’s literally crushed with a kind of mortar or put through a press) and is often dipped into egg and breadcrumbed.
Both ‘milanesa de res’ and ‘milanesa de pollo’ are extremely common all over Mexico, particularly in ‘torterías’ (sandwich shops) and ‘fondas’ (family-owned lunch places).
As in English there are countless different types of steak and each one has a different name (they even vary between Spanish speaking countries!). Moreover, the way beef is cut differs from country to country, so it’s sometimes a little difficult to assign a specific word in one language to a specific cut in another.
Let’s run through the most common and “universal” options –
Rib eye / Entrecot – Rib-eye steak
Fan of tender rib-eye steaks and heading to Mexico?
Well, you’re in luck as you won’t even have to learn a new word before ordering your favorite steak!
Rib-eye steak in Mexico is often called ‘un rib eye’ … being neighbors, there’s obviously quite a lot of American influence in Mexico (and vice versa!).
Well, you can get your mitts on a rib-eye by asking for ‘un entrecot’ or ‘un filete de costilla’.
In Argentina you’d need to say ‘un bife de chorizo’ (not related in any way, shape, or form to the long red sausage that you’re probably already familiar with).
Chuleta de costilla / Chuletón – Bone-in rib steak
What’s a ‘bone-in rib steak’?
Well, it’s basically a steak cut from the same area of the cow as a rib-eye (i.e., the rib section) but, as the name suggests, it’s served WITH the bone (as opposed to the boneless rib-eye).
If you’re after one of these, you can either ask for ‘una chuleta de costilla (de res)’ or ‘un chuletón’. The only difference being that the ‘chuletón’ is larger!
Tomahawk – Tomahawk steak
A tomahawk steak is basically a bone-in rib steak cut in a very specific way (at least 5 inches of the rib bone must remain attached).
If you hadn’t already guessed, its name derives from its tomahawk-like appearance.
Being of American origin, the Spanish-speaking world generally uses the same term, so you shouldn’t have any problems when ordering this one!
Filete de t-bone / T-bone – T-bone steak
Here’s another one taken from the English. When in either Mexico or Spain, t-bone steak lovers can ask for ‘un filete de t-bone’ or just ‘un t-bone’.
This one has both ‘lomo’ (‘top sirloin’ or ‘New York Strip’) and ‘solomillo’ / ‘filete’ (‘tenderloin’), so you can’t really go wrong!
When in Argentina be sure to ask for ‘un bife t-bone’.
Chuleta de dos lomas / Porterhouse – Porterhouse steak
Sink your teeth into a juicy porterhouse steak (it’s basically a t-bone, but bigger) by asking for either ‘una chuleta de dos lomas’ or ‘un porterhouse’.
‘Chuleta de dos lomas’ literally translates to ‘steak of two loins’, so it does what it says on the proverbial tin.
Chuleta de aguayón / Filete de sirloin / Lomo – Sirloin steak
If it’s a sirloin you’re after, you have two options when in Mexico. You can ask for either ‘un sirloin’ or ‘una chuleta de aguayón’.
It has to be said that the first option is probably a little easier on the old tongue!
In Argentina and Spain, you’ll be after ‘bife angosto’ and ‘lomo’, respectively.
Filete / Solomillo – Tenderloin
After the most tender cut of all?
Well, you’re going to need to commit to memory the above two words! In Mexico you can ask for ‘un filete’ and in Spain ‘un solomillo’. You might also hear ‘solomillo’ in Mexico, but it’s not as common here as it is in Spain.
If you’re specifically after a filet mignon, an eye-wateringly delicious cut taken from the tenderloin, you can ask for ‘un filete miñón’.
Picanha / Picaña – Picanha steak
This one’s a Brazilian favorite and it goes by the same name in both Spanish and English (breathe sigh of relief!). Though on occasion I’ve seen it spelt as ‘picaña’!
It’s a surprisingly tasty cut taken from the top of the rump.
Arrachera / Entraña – Skirt steak / Hanger steak
‘Arrachera’ is a delicious cut of meat from a cow’s lower belly and it’s extremely popular in both Mexico and Argentina.
You’re sure to happen upon someone selling ‘tacos de arrachera’ when walking the streets of Mexico City and trust me when I say that you’ll be licking your lips in glee if you give them a whirl!
This one’s known as ‘entraña’ in Argentina and ‘entrecula’ (or ‘entraña’) in Spain.
Suadero – steak found in tacos in Mexico City
If you’ve ever been to Mexico City, you’re sure to have come across ‘tacos de suadero´. Amidst all the lip licking, you probably also asked yourself what the heck ‘suadero’ actually is …
Well, it’s the meat found on the thigh of a cow (the part between its belly and hind leg).
This cut is used almost exclusively to make ‘tacos de suadero’ and doesn’t even feature on most beef cut charts.
Carne asada / Carne a la parrilla – grilled steak
This one’s another Mexican favorite, especially in the meat-loving north of the country.
‘Carne asada’ is basically any cut of beef grilled over charcoal (‘al carbon’). Think of it as grilling meat on a lid-up barbeque and you’ll be gold.
How to order steak in Spanish
So, you now know the word for your favorite steak and your salivary glands are currently in overload at the prospect … but hold on a sec, how do you actually order the darn thing?
Well, fret not! I’m going to guide you through the whole conversation (yay!), so rest assured that what you’re served will be EXACTLY what you (or your rumbling stomach) envisioned!
Step 1 –
The first question that a waiter is likely to ask (besides the obvious platitudes) is what you’d like to order.
In Spanish he may say one of the following phrases –
¿Qué va / van a querer? = What would you like?
¿Ya está / están listos/as para ordenar? = Are you ready to order?
¿Le / Les puedo tomar su orden? = May I take your order?
Erika’s note – in the first two sentences the verb changes depending on whether you’re dining alone or with others. ‘Va’ and ‘está’ are used when addressing a single person in the formal “usted” form and ‘van’ and ‘están’ when addressing multiple people (again in the “usted” form).
Also note that ‘listos’ is used if there is a male in the group and ‘listas’ if the group is entirely composed of females.
Step 2 –
If you’re asked ‘¿Qué va / van a querer?’, you can proceed directly with your order (i.e., telling the waiter exactly what you want).
In this instance you can use one of the following phrases –
Para mi (va a ser) …, por favor. (used when dining with others)
Va a ser …, por favor.
Voy a querer …, por favor.
If you’re asked ‘Ya está / están listos/as para ordenar?’, you can respond with a simple ‘Sí’ (‘Yes’), ‘Sí, ya’ (‘Yes, I’m / we’re ready’) or ‘Sí, estoy / estamos listos/as’ (‘Yes, I’m / we’re ready’), followed by one of the above phrases.
Step 3 –
All good so far?
The waiter’s then going to ask you how you’d like your steak done! He’ll almost always say –
¿Qué termino? = How would you like your steak done?
¡Híjole! (uh-oh!) … well that threw a spanner in the works, didn´t it! But worry not, here’s EXACTLY what you need to say –
‘Blue rare steak’ in Spanish
If it’s a reallyyy good steak and you fancy taking the plunge, then here’s what to say –
azul / crudo (México)
azul / crudo (España)
‘Rare steak’ in Spanish
If you like your steak rare (lightly seared and red in the middle), you can use one of the following words / phrases –
casí crudo / rojo inglés (México)
muy poco hecho / sellado / rojo inglés (España)
muy jugoso / rojo inglés (Argentina)
‘Medium rare’ in Spanish
A medium rare steak is seared for just that little bit longer than a rare steak, but it’s still red and juicy on the inside.
If that’s your jam, you can tell your waiter one of the following –
medio rojo / poco cocido (México)
poco hecho / medio crudo (España)
‘Medium steak’ in Spanish
If you’re leaning towards this ever-popular option (who doesn’t love a good ol’ medium steak), you can say one of the following –
apunto / término medio (México)
al punto / término medio / vuelta y vuelta (España)
término medio (Argentina)
‘Medium well’ in Spanish
This one’s for those that want the center of their steak to be ever-so-slightly pink –
tres cuartos / cocido (México)
tres cuartos / hecho (España)
tres cuartos (Argentina)
‘Well done steak’ in Spanish
If you want your slab of meat to be really well cooked, take your pick from the following phrases –
bien cocido / muy cocido (México)
muy hecho / bien cocido / cuatro cuartos (España)
bien cocido (Argentina)
Rupert’s note – I’ve written all the above terms to agree with ‘el filete’ or ‘el bistec’. If you’re referring to ‘la carne’, all the adjectives have to agree with the feminine noun (sellada’ / ‘muy poco hecha’ / ‘bien cocida’ / etc.).
Step 4 –
Phew! I think we’re about done!
Here are a few common ‘guarniciones’ (‘side dishes’ or ‘accompaniments’) and ‘salsas’ (‘sauces’) on the off chance that your waiter gives you the choice –
papas a la francesa (México) = french fries
patatas fritas (España) = french fries
puré de camote (México) = sweet potato puree
verduras a la plancha = grilled vegetables
verduras a la mantequilla = vegetables fried in butter
champiñones al ajillo = garlic mushrooms
pan de ajo = garlic bread
kétchup (España) = ketchup
catsup (México) = ketchup
mayonesa = mayonnaise
chimichurri (Argentina / Uruguay) = chimichurri
salsa de champiñones = mushroom sauce
salsa de vino tinto = red wine sauce
And that’s all we’ve got time for!
Just kidding, I reckon we’ve arrived at a pretty natural conclusion; hopefully I’ve covered everything you need to know and more!
Oh, and if you wanna learn more food-related vocab, definitely check out our article on all the different ways to say ‘sandwich‘ in Spanish!
Now wipe that drool off your sleeve and get ordering (preferably in Spanish!).