Do you order a 20-ounce cup of coffee or a Venti? Do you reward service with a tip or a perquisite? Cloaking simple meaning in pompous diction can be both confusing and exasperating. One such intrusion into restaurant argot is the incipient use of the word temperature to express a degree of cooking.
Merriam-Webster has yet to include doneness in its full definition of temperature. Nevertheless, the familiar question, "How would you like that cooked?" is being smoked out in favor of "What temperature would you like that?" Regarding a steak, the expected rejoinder would probably be a named point somewhere within the continuum of raw to shoe leather (with medium-rare typically serving as the default). But what if the reply were given as a temperature in the literal sense of the word?
When I'm at the grill, I rightly concern myself with cooking temperatures and times; when I'm at a restaurant, however, someone else is supposed to do that on my behalf. I don't pack a meat thermometer when I dine out, but perhaps I should. In this way, I could specify an actual temperature—in either Fahrenheit or Celsius—and then measure my order's accuracy at the time of presentation. (My preferred steak temperature, incidentally, is 115.7°F or 46.5°C.) If the thermometer reading were beyond, say, a three-degree margin of error, I could justifiably send my order back. Would such mockery help to banish this pretentious use of the word temperature? I'm already champing at the bit for some server to ask, "How many minutes per side?"
To what temperature would you like your steak cooked? The table below lists degrees of cooking and corresponding internal temperatures for fresh beef.