The Reason Steak Is Called Turf In Surf And Turf

An American steakhouse classic, the surf and turf. Why decide between seafood and meat when you could have both? This popular dish began hitting steakhouse menus in the 1960s to target young, pennywise customers but has evolved, in some places, to a higher-priced menu item (via Taste Atlas). Consisting of both seafood and meat, the surf and turf is most commonly found as a combination of steak, usually filet mignon, and lobster — the original classic (via Ruth Chris Steakhouse).

The term "surf and turf" was marketed by American restaurants and used many different spelling iterations – surf and turf, surf'n'turf, surf-n-turf, etc. (via The Food Timeline). If advertised correctly, these expressions or sayings commonly become part of everyday life and most people do not put too much thought into what they mean. Surf and turf, with its many variations, is catchy and appealing, but where exactly did the "turf" come from?

The reason steak is called 'turf' in surf and turf

Commonly used whenever discussing the ocean or sea, "surf" is a term most have in their vocabulary. According to Merriam-Webster, the proper definition of "surf" is the "swell of the sea that breaks upon the shore" or "the foam, splash, or sound of breaking waves." Given this obvious tie to the sea, the word "surf" always brings our minds to the ocean as it also alludes to the sport of surfing — and when put into the culinary world, leads us to think of seafood.

"Turf," on the other hand, might not always be as obvious, so where did this term come from? At first thought, turf is the fake grass on sports fields. Unlike surf, which always links to the sea, there are multiple definitions of the word turf. One that stands out is that turf "refers to the grass or land — where cows graze" (via Dictionary). Although technically the "turf" part of a surf and turf can be various types of meat, it is almost always beef, which holds true to this definition as it mentions cows alone. Interestingly though, "surf," which alludes to the sea, tends to be lobster, but it is still very common to find all different kinds of shellfish or seafood for this half of the dish — go figure.