The Steak Orders Of 17 US Presidents

They say you are what you eat, which is probably why people are interested in presidential food orders. Presidents are always kept beyond arm's reach. They put on facades for the public and keep state secrets. They are essentially unknowable. It's no wonder, then, that our constituents will grasp at whatever straw we can to try and determine who this person is, how we can relate to them, or gain a glimpse into their thought process.

One such straw is food. All of us commoners eat. Presidents eat. It's one of the few things we know we have in common with the most powerful office in the world. Sociologist Priya Fielding-Singh, author of "How the Other Half Eats," told The New York Times that how people eat "gives us this window into their character, their values, their willpower, self-discipline, virtuousness, laziness." So can a meal tell us whether a president embodies any of these values? Let's find out by looking at past and present presidents' favorite steak orders.

Joe Biden

President Biden is a lover of down-home local cooking — local to his native Wilmington, Delaware, and surrounding areas. One of those surrounding areas happens to be Philadelphia, so it's no surprise that Biden has been known to chow down on a Philly cheesesteak or two, and hold the onions, during his tenure as vice president and now as president.

Ordering cheesesteaks might also help Biden avoid future restaurant faux pas. Many people remember, with chagrin, the embarrassing incident of February 2023, when President Biden and his wife Jill ordered the same exact meal — rigatoni with sausage — while dining out at a restaurant in Washington D.C. Who does that? Does Biden have a problem with sharing or trying new things? It's concerning behavior for a leader of the Free World. But a double order would be completely sanctioned at a cheesesteak establishment if not even expected. Problem solved.

Donald Trump

One of Trump's many claims to fame is that he is a fan of very well-done steaks, particularly the New York Strip, and especially accompanied by ketchup. But foodies everywhere, and regular folks who know how to eat steak, know that to truly enjoy a good slab of beef, you have to eat it rare or medium-rare. In popular lore, one who does not do this is automatically a philistine, hostile to anything that is good in this world.

Someone who is willing to maim a perfectly good piece of food, thereby wasting it entirely, should be dismissed outright. But, as we will see, Trump is far from the only president who has taken his steak well done. Obama himself, the putative beacon of hope and a famously voracious reader and appreciator of the finer things in life takes his steaks medium-well, which is the second to worst thing. Perhaps in this case, the way Trump takes his steak is not indicative of anything else he does.

Barack Obama

It's time to face the facts: Barack Obama, perhaps one of our most cosmopolitan presidents ever, takes his steaks grilled medium-well. Frankly, he should know better. But as President Biden once pointed out to NBC Philadelphia, "President Obama doesn't know steaks at all," and speculated that this is because he is from Chicago, and not Philadelphia or thereabouts. At least Michelle orders her steaks medium-rare, so not all hope is lost for the presidential couple.

And perhaps Obama can be redeemed by his choice of sides. In the face of George H. W. Bush, who famously touted his dislike for broccoli, Obama has come out and said he actually likes the vegetable. You also won't see him gulping down his steak with 12 Diet Cokes per day, as Trump does. Obama prefers a tall glass of water. But what can we say about the steak itself? Nobody's perfect.

George W. Bush

Like a true southern country boy, George W.'s favorite steak order is chicken-fried steak with gravy, not to be confused with country-fried steak. This is likely an inherited trait. As the story goes, when his father, George H. W. Bush, first arrived in Texas in the 1940s he had no idea what a chicken-fried steak was. He ordered it off a menu at a local restaurant not knowing whether he'd be getting a chicken or a steak.

It was a steak, and the rest is history. The dish, slathered in gravy, became a staple in his household all the way to the White House, which means little George W. was probably raised on the stuff. And you won't find many vegetables accompanying this steak either. Just like his dad, George W. is a notorious vegetable-hater, while most of the fruit he ate while president, according to a White House chef, was covered in chocolate.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton's most famous culinary practices might have been his propensity for McDonald's, a habit that may have contributed to his heart condition, forcing him to go vegan later in life. But he could also put away a hefty porterhouse steak with Bernaise sauce and onion rings. Former White House Chef Walter Scheib told ABC that he could serve the president a 24-ounce cut "and his plate would always come back clean."

But too much of a good thing is not going to be much help when you've had quadruple bypass surgery. This caused Clinton to go completely vegan in 2010, after one of his veins gave out. He cut out all meat, fish, dairy, and other animal products and now his meals look a lot different than they did when he was in the White House. In 2011 he told Politico Magazine that "about once a year I have one bite of steak, and I don't want it anymore."

George H. W. Bush

This was the man who introduced the chicken-fried steak to the Bush family. When he set off to get into the oil business in 1948, before he even started his first job, he stopped at a restaurant that served local beers and fare. He ordered the mysterious chicken-fried steak and was so pleasantly surprised he continued to eat it for the rest of his life. But Bush Senior was more than happy to try other cuts and versions of steak as well.

He is known to have ordered a charred but rare T-bone steak at a restaurant in Oklahoma, while at an eatery in Washington D.C., he once ordered a porterhouse steak. No broccoli in sight, of course. But aside from that, former White House Chef John Moeller told AP News that Bush Senior might have been the most adventurous presidential eater he'd ever cooked for. Who would have thunk?

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter enjoyed good Southern chicken dishes while in the White House, true to his Georgian roots. But his favorite cut of steak was a 12 to 14-ounce, 2-inch thick sirloin strip steak broiled rare or medium-rare. Nice and juicy, just the way it should be. And if there was some form of dairy somewhere on the plate, even better. The man loves dairy so much that inexplicably, he's even eaten butter as a snack, cutting it with crackers and presumably then putting it on the crackers, or at least we hope.

He was also not the type to turn down cheese. Luckily, cheese and butter are ideal accompaniments to sirloin steak. But if all this sounds unusual or highfalutin, don't worry, Jimmy Carter really is a man of the people. In fact, he's not above dining at Cracker Barrel, where he was spotted back in 2018 in Christiansburg, Virginia.

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was known to have a bit of a tricky stomach, so we may never know for real what kind of steak he would have liked to eat. The fact of the matter is that he was only able to eat it bland, with little more than a few plain peas and carrots and mashed potatoes. One of his mistresses, Inga Arvad, who was also a Dutch journalist and a suspected Nazi spy, apparently took pity on the president and would prepare this dish for him on a regular basis.

But whatever he was eating, or with whomever, he would not eat much of it and he would often have to be reminded to eat at all, according to the JFK Presidential Library. Although he was known for his bon vivant lifestyle, food was not actually at the top of his list of priorities. This is probably why he never considered that when he famously said "Ich bin ein Berliner" during a state visit to West Germany in 1963, anyone might erroneously think he was saying, "I am a jelly-filled doughnut."

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Steak cooked rare is often associated with fine dining, but paradoxically, also with macho manliness. Eisenhower's manner of taking steak — rare and grilled outdoors directly on charcoal — is probably more in line with the latter. According to an account of an Eisenhower steak out in The Miami Daily News, as reported by the New York Times, Eisenhower rubbed the sirloin "with oil and garlic and then, as the horrified guests look on, casually flings the steak into the midst of the red and glowing coals."

These are the actions of a man who bucks no dissent, and if you don't believe in the theory that a president's steak order says something about their ruling style, Eisenhower might change your mind. As a general during WWII, he was Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, the landing in Normandy that turned the tide of the war and led to the defeat of the Nazi regime. Sounds like a guy who's not afraid to cook with fire.

Harry Truman

Another president who liked his steak well done was Harry Truman, often accompanied with light vegetables. He would have it no other way, perhaps because he didn't want to be mistaken for a predatory animal. As he once famously said, "Only coyotes and predatory animals eat raw beef." But at the end of the day, it seemed that Truman didn't really care how the steak was cooked, or about what accompanied it, or about any other aspect of the meal.

My Recipes reports that he once explained that he didn't pay much attention to what was on his plate and that he "learned in the army to eat what could be obtained and like it." Throughout Truman's political career, from senator in Missouri to Vice President to FDR, and finally to president, he was continually underestimated by his peers and the media. Yet he won at every turn.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The food at the White House during the tenure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was notoriously atrocious. It was well known that if one was invited for dinner, one must eat beforehand, or one would simply go hungry. A popular theory is that Eleanor Roosevelt resented the fact that as First Lady, she was expected to oversee the kitchen and other domestic matters when what she really wanted to do was fight for women's equality and combat poverty.

The terrible food was thus a form of vengeance. Another theory is that scant resources during the Great Depression led her to choose a more parsimonious menu focusing on nutrition rather than flavor. Meanwhile, it was well documented that FDR loved steak, along with a host of other fancy foods, but given the times, it may very well be that whatever steak he did get his hands on, it wasn't very good.

William Howard Taft

The eating habits of President Taft were remarkable. The man could house a 12-inch steak for breakfast nearly every day of the year, and that was just the beginning. After breakfast, he often had another steak for lunch and one for dinner for good measure. If there were more meals in the day, no doubt Taft would have filled them with steak. A recipe for Taft's steak even appeared in the Washington Post in 1935, as reported by My Recipes.

It called for a good T-bone, sirloin, or tenderloin, to be broiled and topped with butter. And Taft didn't hold back when it came to sides, either. He accompanied his morning steaks with oranges, buttered toast, and copious amounts of coffee with milk and sugar. During another meal that featured venison, he enjoyed the game with grilled partridge, hot rolls, more partridge, bacon, waffles with syrup, and more venison.

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt was known as a big game hunter, having traveled widely in Africa, where he killed wild animals and occasionally ate them, too. In fact, he was apparently against hunting for pure sport and endeavored to either eat the animals he killed, or he liked to reserve them for museums. But when he ordered steak, it was usually made of beef and accompanied by sides of gravy and homemade bread rolls.

And that was as complicated as it got since the Roosevelt family appreciated good food, cooked simply. But while fancy meals may not have been important to the president, quality was. When the army board of inquiry looked into reports of inedible beef rations for soldiers during the Spanish-American war, Roosevelt, the governor of New York at the time, gave testimony that the canned roast beef was in fact "putrid" and "a disgrace to our country."

Chester A. Arthur

There was a time in this country's history when a lot of people would eat sea turtles, especially as a soup. One such person was President Chester A. Arthur, who liked to partake of turtle in the form of steak and pair it with macaroni. But if you're looking to identify with a president based on their steak order, this is a tough one. First of all, who eats turtles? Second, due to sea turtles being an endangered species nowadays, it is no longer possible to consume them.

And third, Chester A. who? Having served just one term, and only because his predecessor, James Garfield, was assassinated, President Arthur remains one of America's most obscure presidents. But don't worry. If you want to feel a connection through food, know that President Arthur was also partial to land animals, and rare roast beef frequently occupied his dinner plate.

Ulysses S. Grant

Having served as a Union general in the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant was no stranger to blood. Yet he did not want it on his plate at mealtime at all. Or at any other time, probably. Not only was his steak well-done, but he wanted it downright charred because he couldn't stand the sight of blood. In fact, aside from his remarkable stint in the army, it would seem that President Grant was more of a pacifist than anything else.

He spent a good portion of his presidential terms trying to rekindle friendly relations between North and South, even making overtures to Native American tribes in the West. After leaving office, he did away with politics altogether and with the help of his friend Mark Twain, turned to writing, authoring short magazine pieces and even publishing his own memoir, a competent piece of writing that sold well.

Thomas Jefferson

In a Thomas Jefferson meal, the meat was never the main attraction. Rather, when he did eat steak, he had it in small portions and surrounded by vegetables, often those from his own garden at his Monticello estate in Virginia. He even went so far as to call meat a "condiment" to his vegetables. In fact, he had as many as 330 varieties of vegetables and herbs, so he would have had to fill his plate with them if he hoped to try each plant within a year's time.

He also had 170 varieties of fruit, some of which included European grapes with which he hoped to make wine, but never quite succeeded. But this didn't stop him from enjoying plenty of other wine, with or without his steaks and vegetables. All in all, given the amount of time this man spent on his ingredients, we can safely assume he was America's first foodie.

George Washington

Even a good, juicy steak cooked just the way it's supposed to be can sometimes be hard to bite into. This is probably why George Washington had to opt for steak and kidney pie, where the steak is typically cooked until thoroughly soft. This is because Washington had notoriously bad teeth, and relied on a curious blend of fake teeth that included hippo ivory.

In fact, he struggled with his teeth for many years, probably starting with his time in the French and Indian War, where he had teeth extracted and went on toothbrush-shopping sprees. The effort did not pay off, and Washington continued to struggle with tooth pain for the rest of his life, often having to settle for soft foods. That did not mean the man himself was soft though, by any means. Apparently one doesn't need a hefty steak to be able to lead victorious armies against British invaders.