What Really Makes Ruth's Chris Steak House Steaks So Delicious

Ruth's Chris Steak House has been serving its signature sizzling steaks alongside its other popular menu items for over 50 years. When single mother and all-around inspiring human Ruth Fertel bought a restaurant called Chris Steak House in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1965, she aimed to deliver consistently good food, stellar service, and a comfortable atmosphere (via New York Times). Not long after opening at her first location, Fertel beat the odds when both a fire and hurricane threatened to upend the business. Afterward, she still continued to attract lofty clientele, gaining a new address, a name change, and some lucrative franchising (the first franchisee of Ruth's Chris Steak House opened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1977). The extremely successful restaurant chain now operates locations in more than 20 different countries across the world.

All of this means that, to many diners, the meals at Ruth's Chris Steak House are top-notch. But why exactly are the steaks at Ruth's Chris so exceptionally delicious, and how have they maintained that consistency for so many years? Read on to learn the how and why behind the success of the simple but stunning meals this ubiquitous steakhouse is famous for across the globe.

Ruth's Chris Steak House has its own unique broiling process

There are times when we can easily recreate the meals we enjoy at our favorite restaurants. But when it comes to Ruth's Chris steaks, it's hard to replicate the magic without a kitchen that can withstand a serious amount of heat, not to mention a kitchen gadget that successfully delivers said heat in the right manner. To that end, it's worth knowing that, as Dine magazine reports, Ruth's Chris founder Ruth Fertel happened to also be a physics and chemistry buff, having earned degrees in those subjects. She put this knowledge to good use in the steak business by designing a unique type of broiler to cook steaks at an ultra-high temperature of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Per Fox News, every steak that's now enjoyed at Ruth's Chris goes through a special infrared broiling process. The steak might also briefly hit the oven afterward if the customer requests one that's cooked beyond the "medium" range. A former chef for Ruth's Chris Steak House confirmed via Quora that "Each steak is broiled in special broilers made for Ruth's. This enriches those flavors by cooking at a very high temp."

This may sound very technical to those who are unfamiliar with advances in kitchenware, but it's kind of a big deal. According to Fine Cooking, infrared broilers are unique because they get very hot, very quickly, and tend to heat more evenly than traditional gas or electric grills and stoves.

The cooked steaks don't leave without a topping of butter

Is there anything butter doesn't improve? This dairy section all-star doesn't miss a beat when it's time to make a steak really sizzle and shine. Ruth's Chris Steak House does not shy away from the ol' butter tray either. Per the New York Times, Ruth Fertel sealed the deal with her steaks by insisting her kitchen staff top every single piece of steak with a generous portion of butter prior to serving it. Apparently, this always ensures the most flavor possible out of the experience (which, of course, it would, given that butter's involved).

This isn't just some unconfirmed bit of folklore about Ruth's famous matriarch either. As a Quora member who worked at Ruth's Chris explained in a thread, "Their little trick is they put clarified butter on the steak as it is leaving the kitchen." They go on to say that this tactic also adds to that sizzle factor the restaurant is known for. "The plate is scorching hot because they keep them in the oven and the room temperature butter hits the plate and sizzles for effect," they wrote. This means that the butter helps to really sell the steak with both taste and presentation.

Ruth's Chris has perfected the aging technique for its steaks

How a restaurant ages its beef can definitely affect the outcome in terms of taste, flavor, and texture. Ruth's Chris restaurants take on a wet-aging process for steaks in which the meat is refrigerated for up to 28 days (sometimes less, depending on the particular cut of the beef) at a temperature designated by the Ruth's Chris Steak House culinary team (via Ruth's Chris Steak House). The steaks are then immediately sealed to keep in all of the meat's juices and sent to the restaurant in that state. It's never frozen at any point in the process. Aging allows enzymes to break down so that the ultimate result is a more tender piece of steak.

Colin Shive, the current general manager and former executive chef at a Ruth's Chris Steak House location in Chesterfield, Missouri told St. Louis' Fox 2 News that "Once the beef is processed, we age it 28 days to develop the flavor and the tenderness." So it seems this deliberate aging technique is the standard protocol for every Ruth's Chris location.

Even the plates are heated at Ruth's Chris Steak House

When the Ruth's Chris Steak House server sets your ribeye down with a special oven mitt holding the plate and he or she warns you not to touch it, they're not just putting on a show (although it usually is a very impressive presentation). Those are some really hot plates! Not only does this ensure that every bite of steak is warm, but it also makes for that sound that we know all equates to a delicious steak — the Ruth's Chris "signature sizzle." 

But why bother heating those plates up in the first place? A Ruth's Chris employee breaks it down like this on Reddit: "We do the 500 degree plate thing, mainly so your first bite is as hot as your last. It's also that hot to make it so all of your senses are stimulated down to the sound of the sizzling butter on the plate." Also, if that butter from the top of the steak hits the plate, you know it's gonna sizzle there, too, adding its own bit of wow factor to the dining experience. As you can clearly see, the hot plate technique is key at Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Ruth's Chris steak is sourced from USDA Prime cattle

The term "USDA Prime" might sound like some sort of fancy marketing gimmick to make Ruth's Chris steak sound ultra-special, but it's actually legit. The chain only serves USDA Prime cuts, which are the best possible quality of beef that's available in the country's cattle supply. The USDA inspects all the beef we consume, and only two percent of that beef is considered "prime." Prime meat is usually more tender because it comes from younger cows, and it's usually a high-end restaurant offering, not what's on tap at the local grocery store.

As far as the corn-fed part, while there are some arguments that grass-fed beef is more sustainable and more nutrient-dense than the cattle who eat both grass and corn (via Taste of Home), the corn eaters tend to yield a steak that's got more flavor, at least according to proponents of the meat. Ruth's Chris sources its beef from cattle that start as grass-fed then transition to eating corn, a common practice of many cattle ranchers, according to PennState Extension.

Ruth's Chris Steak House doesn't deviate from its original formula

Ruth's Chris Steak House founder Ruth Fertel is still put on a pedestal by the restaurant more than a decade after her death, and rightfully so. Her original restaurant in New Orleans created a system that clearly works, at least in the eyes of the restaurant's many diners and its executives. When Craig S. Miller took the reins as CEO in 2004 (he's no longer in the position), he told the New York Times that "the first thing I did was get a little plaque to put on my desk that said, 'What Would Ruth Do?' "

According to a Redditor who worked at the steakhouse, the restaurant strives to continually maintain her standards, saying, "Honestly, the company rarely deviates from anything Ruth implemented herself. I think we will always have the family style sides, sizzling plates, and butter in almost every food item."

Ruth Fertel once told the Orlando Sentinel that the secret to running a successful steakhouse is "Being very, very consistent with your food — that and giving good service." We'd say most would agree that her legacy of top-notch service and consistently delicious food has definitely lived on.

Ruth's Chris chefs always stick to the basics with seasoning

When you're talking about steak, if the meat is high quality, then it stands that there shouldn't be a need for a ton of seasoning. In fact, the basic, most simple pantry staples can oftentimes deliver some of the best results. Ruth's Chris definitely proves this with its successful run of steak slinging that isn't bothered with fanciful add-ons or rare ingredients. Why add anything complicated when simplicity and quality always deliver the goods?

What does the chain use to season a ribeye cut, for example? A Ruth's Chris Steak House executive chef at a location in Waikiki, Hawaii, Leighton Miyakawa, told Jobeth Devera of Hawaii News Now that it's all pretty easy. "Sea salt and pepper, that's it ...very, very simple." Beyond that, sometimes Ruth's chefs might also utilize garlic in cooking steaks, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

All the higher-ups at Ruth's Chris Steak House maintain that all any cut really needs is a simple mixture of kosher salt and some black pepper. They reason that these two seasonings bring out the innate flavor of the meat, help the steak retain moisture, and creates a nice crust on the meat, to boot.

The steaks at Ruth's Chris Steak House are cut in-house

Perhaps one of the secrets to Ruth's Chris Steak House founder Ruth Fertel's initial success was her determination to become an expert in every single aspect of dealing with beef. Per the Phoenix Business Journal, she basically taught herself how to be a butcher and made it her mission to only serve large cuts of steak (typically, 12 to 22 ounces each) in her restaurant. A keen eye toward cutting the meat to perfection is a standard the steakhouse chain has continued long after its first steaks were served back in 1965.

The cut of the steak still matters at Ruth's Chris today, and the technique for cutting is likewise executed with precision. An executive chef for Ruth's Chris Steak House in Clayton, Missouri, David Marren told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "You've got to know how to cut on the bias. That's the most important part of it," when referring to delivering the best results for flank steak or skirt steak. Ruth's Chris Steak House also prioritizes thick cuts, insisting that the thicker cuts are less likely to dry out during the aging and cooking process.

The meat at Ruth's Chris Steak House is never frozen

While it may be true that fresh meat isn't necessarily superior to meat that's been frozen (via SC Times), there are inherent advantages to using the fresher stuff. These include a reduced risk of the meat texture changing during thawing and some possibly enhanced nutritional benefits, though that last point may still be up for debate. It can all really depend on whether the meat is frozen properly, however. All told, it's still considered a real gamble to serve meat that's been frozen. That's a risk that Ruth's Chris Steak House just isn't willing to take with its USDA Prime, corn-fed beef. Ruth's Chris prides itself on serving steaks that have never been frozen so considering how tasty the steaks are, there might be something to the argument that fresh is better than frozen when we're talking about beef.

The bottom line is, if you are someone who's skeptical of freezing practices and their effectiveness for keeping meat as fresh and as tender as possible, you can rest assured. The steak you're eating at a Ruth's Chris location has never seen a freezer prior to hitting your (very hot) plate, and that's likely part of the reason why it's so good.

Ruth's Chris steaks are always made to order

As the saying goes, you usually get what you pay for when it comes to quality and service at a restaurant (and, well, with any product really). The same goes for Ruth's Chris Steak House, which is truly a culinary experience and not merely a place to chow down on some meat. As such, you can anticipate spending a lot of money knowing that your meal, and in particular your steak, will be made to order, according to Cleveland.com.

This is yet another reason why Ruth's Chris steaks are so delicious. The chefs there never ascribe to a one-size-fits-all mentality when preparing a given meal. Perhaps the only caveat here is having to definitely know what you like when it comes to the doneness of your meat. You'll also have to trust the process, like sometimes ordering a steak that's slightly undercooked because, in the case of Ruth's Chris, the meat will continue to heat up by the time it gets to the table because it's resting on that piping hot plate. This part of the magic though, and definitely makes for an enhanced steak-eating experience.