A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 20, 2012
“Cooked to perfection” ("seasoned to perfection,” “grilled to perfection")

The blog Serious Eats had a March 2012 discussion on “Overused food descriptions.” The description “to perfection” was noted, as in “cooked to perfection,” “seasoned to perfection,” “smoked to perfection,” or “grilled to perfection.”

“To perfection” is not a modern menu coinage. The saying “cooked to perfection” has been used since at least 1825, “seasoned to perfection” since at least 1844, “smoked to perfection” since at least 1890 and “grilled to perfection” since at least 1897.


The Free Dictionary
cook something to perfection
to cook something perfectly

Google Books
Winter Evening Pastimes; or, the Merry-Maker’s Companion:
Containing a complete collection of evening sports, including twelfth-night ceremonies, with copious directions for crying forfeits, and promoting harmless mirth and innocent amusement. The whole selected, altered, and composed, by Rachel Revel, spinster.

By Rachel Revel
London: Printed for A. Mesnard, 40, Strand: Sold also by Sherwood, Jones, & Co. Paternoster Row, and by all other Booksellers
1825
Pg. 171:
72. Alderman Guzzle.
I am Alderman Guzzle, my mouth never muzzle,
When dinners are cooked to perfection:
And when brought to a fountain of red port or mountain,
To drink deep never start an objection.

Google Books
Arthur O’Leary, his wanderings and ponderings in many lands
Edited by his friend Harry Lorrequer [pseud., i.e. Charles Lever], and illustrated by G. Cruikshank

By Arthur O’Leary
London: Henry Colburn
1844
Pg. 281:
The supper was admirable—the “potage printaniere” seasoned to perfection—...

10 July 1851, Semi-Weekly Eagle (Brattleboro, VT), pg. 2, col. 2:
The dinner was excellent, there being a large variety of fish. flesh, and fowl, cooked to perfection, and with trimmings to match.

Papers Past (New Zealand)
13 February 1864, Daily Southern Cross, pg. 1:
OPENING OF THE CHARIOT OF FAME DINING ROOMS,
(A few doors above the Exchange Hotel, Shortland-street.)
E. G. STEERS begs to intimate that he will open the above premises, on Monday next, the 15th of February, as a FIRST-CLASS DINING and SUPPER ROOMS, where he hopes to merit a share of public support. Those visiting the above establishment will find everything of the best quality, and cooked to perfection.

5 January 1869, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 2, col. 4:
Domestic Table Talk.
Wife—“There, that’s cooked to perfection!”
Husband—(thoughtfully). “Can things be cooked to perfection?”
Wife—(triumphantly). “Yes, in our house.”
Husband—(grimly smiling). “Then, my dear, I shall have you put into the oven some day!”

Google News Archive
11 November 1879, St, Joseph (MO) Daily Gazette, pg. 2, col. 8 ad:
FRENCH
Coffee House
(...)
The very best ham cooked to perfection, also a fine Havana Cigar for an after dinner smoke, and a full assortment of Confectioners, Candy, etc.

4 March 1881, Philadelphia (PA) , “How to Live,” pg. 2, col. 4:
With these were served as an entree some ambrosial veal croquettes, done to a turn and seasoned to perfection.

9 April 1890, Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette, “Told of the Titles,” pg. 8, col. 2:
THE Queen of Sweden delights in forced meat balls, fried in sweet olive oil and served with poached eggs, and always the national dish of raw salmon preserved in the ground and smoked to perfection as the great feature.

Papers Past (New Zealand)
29 March 1897, The Star, pg. 3, col. 3 ad:
SIXPENCE for substantial Rump Steak grilled to perfection, with Bread, Tea. West End Restaurant.

3 June 1900, Boston (MA) Herald, “A Golf Breakfast,” pg. 32, col. 8:
There was an entree of shad with attractive fixings and lamb chops grilled to perfection.

Google News Archive
17 October 1914, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, pg. 10, col. 5 ad:
For this bacon — tender — delicious — of the highest quality, cured and smoked to perfection, ls the outcome of fifty years experience in curing ham and bacon.
(Armour—ed.)

Google News Archive
5 September 1940, Palm Beach (FL) Post, pg. 6, col. 8 ad:
All in all, Wilson’s Certified Brisket of Beef is the most satisfactory and economical buy—it is the finest quality obtainable, seasoned to perfection, no shrinkage and ready to eat.

OCLC WorldCat record
Seasoned to perfection
Author: Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Deborah-Zahava Chapter (Homewood, Ill.)
Publisher: Kearney, NE : Cookbooks by Morris Press, ©1993.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Cooked to perfection : an illustrated guide to achieving success with every dish you cook
Author: Anne Willan; Peter Williams
Publisher: London : Quadrille, 1997.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Cooked to perfection : how to respond when life turns up the heat
Author: Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse
Publisher: Grand Rapids, Mich. : Zondervan Pub. House, ©1997.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Grilled to perfection : recipes from the television series Licence to grill
Author: Chris Knight; Tyler J Smith
Publisher: Toronto : McArthur, 2006.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

Serious Eats
Overused food descriptions.
Posted by Mr. Nick, March 12, 2012 at 10:23 PM
(...)
On a menu: “cooked to perfection.”
What does that even mean? Without that statement on the menu they’d serve the french fries raw, instead of fried at too low of a temperature?
heddylamar at 9:28AM on 03/13/12
(...)
@heddylamar: “I’ll take an order of french fries, but can I get them cooked to just mediocracy instead of perfection, please?”
Mr. Nick at 3:40PM on 03/13/12
(...)
I don’t see “cooked to perfection” as often as I see “seasoned to perfection,” which is usually code for “more than one teaspoon of salt per serving.” And “hand-cut fries” usually means “we put the potatoes in the potato cutter and pressed down on it.”
mdeatherage at 11:31PM on 03/13/12
(...)
@Mr. Nick—it’s the mediocracy that kills that statement every time. Last time I saw it on a menu, next to the salmon my husband ordered (I cringed), the fish was overcooked to just shy of shoe leather.
So, yup, “cooked to perfection” is codeword for “we have no clue what we’re doing” IMO.
heddylamar at 10:21AM on 03/14/12
(...)
“To perfection.” “Cooked to perfection”, “grilled to perfection”, “smoked to perfection...” Usually means ordinary, including the ingredients,.
Willly at 5:15PM on 03/14/12

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Tuesday, March 20, 2012 • Permalink