"Pittsburgh rare” (also called a “Pittsburgh steak” or cooked “Pittsburgh-style") is a steak that’s charred on the outside, but raw on the inside. In October 1977, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette columnist Joe Browne wrote that the term was new to him and probably wasn’t from Pittsburgh. “Pittsburgh style” has been cited since at least 1976.
“Black and blue” is another name for “Pittsburgh rare.” The name “Pittsburgh” was probably chosen because of the old steelworker image of the city, but there’s no reason to believe that the term originated with Pittsburgh’s steelworkers and welding torches.
Wikipedia: Pittsburgh rare
A Pittsburgh rare steak is one that has been heated to a very high temperature very quickly, so it is charred on the outside but still rare or raw on the inside. The degree of rareness and the amount of charring on the outside may vary according to taste. The term ‘Pittsburgh rare’ is used in some parts of the American midwest and eastern seaboard, but similar methods of sear cooking are known by different terms elsewhere, including Chicago-style rare and, in Pittsburgh itself, black and blue.
A Pittsburgh rare steak may be prepared using a very hot grill, griddle, frying pan, or oven. The high temperature allows the steak to char in a short enough time that the inside remains uncooked.
Origin of the term
One story relates that the method originated as an explanation for an accidental charring of a steak at a Pittsburgh restaurant, with the cook explaining that this was “Pittsburgh style.”
It has been said that the ‘original’ method of preparation was by searing the meat with a welding torch. Whether this is true is unknown, in any case, it is difficult to attain high enough temperature with a common blowtorch. Another method, related by a staff member at a Pittsburgh branch of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, originates from the region’s steel mills, and the practice of workers cooking a steak on a cooling piece of steel.
2 March 1976, The Progress (Clearfield, PA), pg, 2, col. 1 ad:
N. Y. Sirloin Strip Steak, 14 oz. ... $9.95
Charbroiled Pittsburgh Style
(Sheraton Motor Inn—ed.)
12 June 1977, Bucks County Courier Times (Levittown, PA), “Washington would have eaten here” by Frank H. Jelinek, pg. 60(?), col. 5:
One, a Sirloin Strip Steak, about 12 ounces, done Pittsburgh-style—charred on the outside and bright red inside.
(George Washington Motor Lodge—ed.)
Google News Archive
24 October 1977, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Our Towne” by Joe Browne, pg. 35, col. 5:
MAYBE EVERYBODY KNOWS something I just learned— there’s something extra special about a steak that’s done Pittsburgh style.
Pittsburgh Rare. Did you know that’s a certain way some people like their steaks? I never heard of the expression till I was in a restaurant in State College, Pa., recently.
Then, Jan and Jack Franz informed me that they saw the term on a restaurant menu in Toronto, Ontario. Pittsburgh Rare. In both restaurants, the term meant the same thing—a steak charred on the outside and rare and cool in the middle.
I haven’t the slightest idea how the term originated. And, as I mentioned, I never heard it in my life and then it pops up twice—and in two different countries.
Google News Archive
20 April 1982, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Is a Pittsburgh steak really so rare?” by Joe Browne, pg. 2, cols. 1-3:
What’s a “Pittsburgh steak” or “Pittsburgh rare?” Well, it’s a steak that’s dropped onto a sizzling skillet only till the outer part is practically blackened, leaving the inside almost raw. I have no idea where the name originated or who coined it.
Strangely enough, I’ve rarely heard it being ordered in Pittsburgh or seen it listed on a menu. It’s not unusual, though, to encounter it out of town.
24 April 1994, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Steaking out a new claim,” pg. G8:
We even have our own way of grilling steak—Pittsburgh rare (charred very black on the outside, cold inside).
Does anyone know what Pittsburg rare is when related to cooking of steak? How is the steak prepared?
By 1 wiener hound on Oct 15, 2004 03:35 PM
It’s a steak that’s charred black on the outside and bloody, almost totally raw on the inside. It’s supposed to be how the steaks turned out when the Pittsburgh steelworkers would cook meat on the furnace or on pieces of hot metal. I may be wrong, but I think the way people make it these days is to grill a steak to almost rare, then bring it really close to the coals for a few minutes to burn the outside.
By ninrn on Feb 7, 2007 08:30 AM
The best steak houses on earth
Prime cuts, done right, around the world
By Neal Ungerleider
updated 1/11/2008 1:51:00 PM ET
In Europe, steak restaurants were a sign of the times. Railroads, increased farming productivity and more wealth meant that a good steak was easier to find then ever. Parisian bistros of the 19th century tried their hand at serving steak, properly done in the French bleu style — so rare they were almost raw. It’s a continental take on the American term “Pittsburgh rare.”
Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette
The Morning File: Pittsburgh, show some pride! We need a Monopoly space
Monday, January 28, 2008
By Gary Rotstein, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A food writer for The Baltimore Sun noted in a recent column that she’d never heard of anything being “Pittsburghed,” but a waiter in an Annapolis steakhouse understood a customer’s request instantly. Elizabeth Large wrote that it means “cooked over such high heat that the outside chars but the inside is very rare.”
There’s another term for that, “Pittsburgh rare,” which doubles as the name of a restaurant in the Sheraton at Station Square. It’s a phrase well known enough that new Post-Gazette restaurant critic China Millman used it in a column this month even though she’d only been living in Pittsburgh for about seven minutes by that time. The same preparation of steak is also sometimes called “black and blue.”
The Back Burner
A Glossary of Restaurant Lingo, Slang & Terms
May 6, 2011 by: Heather Turner
Pittsburgh Rare – Burnt outside, rare inside.