Food and Drink

¿Qué término? — Ordering Cooked Meats in Mexico

One for the carnivores: tips for ordering meat cooked to your liking when dining out at a restaurant in Mexico

Colonial Restaurant in Mexico

In English-speaking countries there are three ways that you can order your meat in restaurants: well-done, medium, and rare. In Mexico, the three “términos” are:

  • bien cocido,
  • tres cuartos, and
  • medio.

So, when the waiter asks you ¿qué término? as you order your meat, it refers to that.

There’s no need to repeat what you just asked for, glance around the table with that “help!” look, or stare uncomprehendingly at the waiter as if he hadn’t got your order.

The three términos are roughly equivalent, so that bien cocido means well-done; tres cuartos (three quarters) means medium; and medio would be rare—more or less.

In fancy restaurants, where you probably expect to be served higher quality meat, the tendency appears to be to err on the raw side of what the customer orders, so to avoid the embarrassment of sending the food back for additional cooking —with the added awkwardness of insisting that the others around you eat before theirs goes cold— it’s well to aim for one término above.

That way you can avoid the fate of  the Texan who ordered his meat medium —medio only to exclaim when the food was served:  “I’ve seen a steer wounded worse’n that, and live!”

Mexico in your inbox

Our free newsletter about Mexico brings you a monthly round-up of recently published stories and opportunities, as well as gems from our archives.