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What is 'Emergency Steak'? We tried the 1950 recipe — made with Wheaties

When you're urgently craving steak but there's none in sight, Emergency Steak is here to help.
Out of steak? If you have ground beef, Wheaties and milk, you're in luck.Terri Peters / u/catpowers4life
/ Source: TODAY

Need a steak dinner in a hurry?

Look no further than "Emergency Steak," a recipe Redditor u/catpowers4life found in a 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook. u/catpowers4life, who posts to Reddit anonymously, shared a photo of the recipe in our trust Old_Recipes subreddit and their fellow vintage-recipe lovers went wild for the unique dish.

The recipe is described as a "'T-Bone,' family style" and calls for ground beef and Wheaties (yes, the cereal!) combined with milk, minced onion, salt and pepper. The meaty mixture then gets hand-shaped into the form of a T-bone steak.

But that's not all: "Strips of carrot may be inserted to resemble the bone."

Redditors took to the comments on u/catpowers4life's post, dissecting the recipe and speculating about its origins.

"As this is probably from the 50s or 60s," wrote one user, "I'm guessing the emergency is her man is home from work and she forgot to thaw the steaks."

"I imagine this is under the category of 'housewife's food allowance won't stretch and John does love his steaks,'" wrote another. "A lot of old women's magazines pushed that kind of please-your-hubby cooking and advertising."

Another Redditor traced the recipe back to a 1943 cookbook produced by General Mills, the maker of Wheaties cereal.

"A lot of faux recipes were published during tough times," the Redditor added. "Like mock apple pie made with Ritz crackers from the Great Depression."

The recipe, which calls for Wheaties as a filler, was traced back to 1943 by a Reddit user.
The recipe, which calls for Wheaties as a filler, was traced back to 1943 by a Reddit user.Terri Peters

Since this was among the strangest old recipes I'd seen on Reddit — and I've made plenty of them — I had to try making Emergency Steak in my own kitchen.

After shaping my meat mixture into a "T-bone" and making a faux bone with carrots, I broiled it in my oven as directed. Broiling on my oven's high setting, the "steak" cooked through in about 15 minutes.

My hand-shaped "T-bone," ready to be broiled in my oven.
My hand-shaped "T-bone," ready to be broiled in my oven.Terri Peters

Served alongside roasted green beans, carrots and potatoes, the dish was one colorful plating. I felt strangely proud of my creation, as I can confidently say I'd never made anything like it before.

What surprised me most about it was the flavor: The "steak" was similar in texture to a meatloaf, but was moist and and tender, perhaps because the Wheaties soaked up the fat from the ground beef.

Also shocking was the way the dish pleased everyone at my dinner table. My kids, who love a good burger, enjoyed the ground beef creation quite a bit. And my husband joked that being a 1950s husband wouldn't have been bad if delicious meals like this were served every night.

My entire family loved "Emergency Steak" and was entertained by the story behind it.
My entire family loved "Emergency Steak" and was entertained by the story behind it.Terri Peters

Overall, it was a fun and interesting meal to make, and my family got a kick out of it.

So did u/catpowers4life, who told TODAY Food they shared the vintage recipe after seeing it in their copy of the cookbook.

"I just shared it because I thought it was silly," they explained. "The idea of a carrot in a fake steak made me giggle."