Prime rib with baked potato and green bean almondine on the cruise ship Nina’s Dandy.
Scott Suchman / The Washington Post
Are risk-averse people more likely to order their steak well done?
I have no idea; I tried to find out and got absolutely nowhere. But —
reinforcing our commitment to full disclosure (and my personal quest to
never miss an opportunity to discuss the superiority of rare steaks) —
here’s the story.
DataLab has been playing around
with SurveyMonkey Audience polls. It’s always nice to have fresh data
to work with, and there’s a sense of satisfaction in running actual
experiments, particularly when it comes to settling frivolous arguments I
have about the definition of the Midwest or the moral superiority of the Girl Scouts of America.
I prefer steak cooked so that it could very well recover from its
wounds with proper bed rest. And I look back at the time in my life when
I ordered steaks medium-rare, in my mid-teens, and realize I lacked a
sense of commitment. So, why do people order their steaks incinerated?
It stands to reason, from this side of medium, that one reason people
prefer tougher, less juicy steaks is the threat of food-borne illness.
Everyone has a different threshold for risk, whether they jump out of
airplanes or exceed the speed limit. So, on May 7 and 8, we ran a survey
testing how 550 people interpret and evaluate risk — do they speed in
traffic, smoke, go skydiving, prefer a riskier lottery? — and then asked
them how they prefer their steak, if at all.
After getting the data back, I was excited to see the results. I checked the crosstabs,
which are usually a simple place to start. There was nothing. I ran
regressions to try to tease out any relationship between risk-taking
behavior and steak rareness. Nada. Then I checked to see whether gender,
age or income had any effect. The relationships were so statistically
insignificant, it’s laughable. At least in this small survey, there does
not appear to be any relationship between people’s risk thresholds and
how they like their steak cooked.
Here’s one example. We asked respondents, “Consider the following
hypothetical situations: In Lottery A, you have a 50 percent chance of
success, with a payout of $100. In Lottery B, you have a
90 percent chance of success, with a payout of $20. Assuming you have
$10 to bet, would you play Lottery A or Lottery B?”
I thought that maybe people who picked “Lottery A,” the riskier
lottery, would be more likely to prefer their steak rare. Not so much.
Still, if there’s anything to be gained from this futility, it’s this
chart indicating how respondents preferred their steak. The vast
majority — 69 percent — like it somewhere in the ballpark of medium,
with about twice as many people preferring medium-rare to medium-well.
Anyone have a solid hypothesis for why some people like their steaks
scorched and desiccated (besides, you know, taste)? I’m out of ideas.
Let me know in the comments.
Edited by Random Thoughts - May 20 2014 at 1:09pm