We love a tender, juicy, well-cooked beef steak. It can elevate a meal to an entirely higher level. Steaks are, perhaps, most often grilled in an attempt to replicate the flavor of steak cooked over the glowing coals of a campfire. But, steak can also be pan-seared, roasted, broiled, cubed for stew, and even ground to make steak-burgers. When you prepare a good quality slab of steak, you want to have some insight in how to prepare, season, cook, and it. mess it up with complicated cooking techniques. Serving a perfectly prepared steak is very satisfying, and there is no reason it has to be overly difficult. The notes below can help you avoid common mistakes like an ugly gray exterior or over-cooked, dry, interior.
Premium Meats for Primo Meals
Steak isn’t just a cut of beef, it is the best of the best. Steaks come from the top of the steer, generally along the backbone, where there isn’t much muscle or connective tissue, which is why this meat is much more tender and faster cooking. Intense heat is all that’s needed to char and brown the outside, while the inside can be eaten as rare as you like. These much sought after premium cuts are only a small piece of the animal, which contributes to their premium prices. Since they are expensive, it’s worth knowing how to prepare each cut, and what to expect from the finished product.
1. Filet Mignon (aka Tenderloin, or Châteaubriand)
This is the tenderest of all the steaks. This is also the most expensive steak because there just isn’t much of it per animal. It comes from the short loin and sirloin, right under the ribs. A whole tenderloin starts out wide (the “head”) and then tapers down to the other end (the “tail”). Filet Mignon is from the tail end, and Châteaubriand comes from the head. When trimmed properly, the tenderloin is small, lean, fine-grained, and usually cut thicker than most steaks due to its smaller size. Lean tenderloin is buttery and mild in flavor. The best way to cook it is pan roasting.
2. New York Strip (aka Manhattan, Kansas City strip, top sirloin, top loin)
Usually boneless, this steak comes from the short loin behind the ribs. It has fat on one edge of the steak, with some fat marbling, but no large pockets of fat. New York strips are tender, with medium fat content, but not as tender as tenderloins or rib eyes. Their big beefy flavor is brought out by cooking over high heat; pan-seared, broiled, or grilled.
3. T-Bone (aka Porterhouse)
Sold bone in, the tenderloin portion must be 1.25″ wide to be classified as a porterhouse and only .5″ wide to be classified as a T-bone. You get the best of both worlds with this steak; super-tender, buttery tenderloin, and beefy, juicy sirloin (strip) steak on either side of the longer portion of the T-bone. Because there are basically two different kinds of steak, you have to be careful, because the tenderloin will cook more quickly than the sirloin side. Try to keep the tenderloin further away from the heat source, or use a two-level fire to grill.
4. Bone-In Rib Eye (aka Delmonico, Scotch fillet, Spencer, Market Steak)
Rib-eyes are basically a prime rib or standing rib roast cut down into individual steaks. Taken from the upper rib cage, it has webs of fat marbling throughout the meat, and pockets of fat interspersed throughout. There is finer grain at the center while the outer section is looser and fattier. It tastes super beefy, juicy, and flavorful. Cook over high heat. It will hold up very well to pan searing, broiling, roasting, or grilling, although with the high fat content, you need to be careful about drippings into the fire.
These are the most popular cuts of steak, though not a complete list of cuts available. For other tips on how to prepare and cook steak, visit our How to Cook Steak page. Your butcher can help you select additional cuts of meat to try, too. Their insights can introduce you to newer, less popular cuts of meat that boast huge flavor. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how to cook your new selection, because they like to share their knowledge.
Ready to make some magic happen? Try these great steak recipes:
Pan-Roasted Rib Eye Steak
Malted Pepper Steak
Browned Steak Strips with Pan Gravy
Jamaican Jerk Beef-Tenderloin Steaks
Grilled Rib-Eye Steak
Horseradish & Black Pepper Crusted Rib Eye