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Wednesday, July 17, 2019
The Culinary Cook Meats A Guide to the Best Steak Cuts

A Guide to the Best Steak Cuts

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When deciding on the best steak cut, there can be a lot of variety and subtlety when it comes to things like texture, thickness, appeal, and cooking times. The best types of steak cuts can be deceiving. Deciding between a prime rib vs a ribeye or a new york strip vs a ribeye can be challenging and to be honest, sometimes it’s not always simple. Join us as we compare the best cuts of steak and the various ways to cook them.

sliced steakIf you are like me, there have been instances when you’ve picked up two cuts of steak at your supermarket and were not quite sure which type to get. On one hand, you hold a flank steak, and the other a porterhouse. One is a reasonable price, and the other is a bit on the pricey side. Which steak is best?

Determining this is not as simple as one may think, and several factors have to be taken into consideration when deciding on the best cut.

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Related: How to Cook a Steak
Related: Beef Cuts & Primals

Snake River Farms

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Snake River Farms

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Traditional Cut Ribeye – Prime-14 oz. – $66.00

from: Snake River Farms


American Wagyu Gold Grade Cap of Ribeye – Petite – $149.00

from: Snake River Farms


The Best Steak Cuts Ranking System Explained

1. Practicality

A steaks practicality score is based on how versatile the steak cut is as well as how easy it is to work with. Plating and serving, as well as ease of cooking, plays into this rating. The best cuts with high practicality have many ways and scenarios where it can be utilized both commercially and domestically. A low score indicates its difficulty in its ability to conform to the demands of the modern dinner plate.

tomahawk-steak
A tomahawk steak

2. Marbling

Good marbling in a steak is crucial as it provides moisture and prevents the steak cut from drying out. A lot of flavoring is derived from fat and therefore marbling has a high correlation to the flavor rating. The best cuts have good marbling and is also much more forgiving to high-temperature and longer cook times which is great for the novice home BBQer.

A low marble cut is not the end of the world, but it usually means it requires more attention or larding for it to maintain its flavor, moisture, and tenderness.

3. Tenderness

For the purposes of steaks and the fact that most steak is not marinated and are grilled or pan-fried (dry-heat cooking), tenderness refers to its final tender form if cooked without any external modifiers such as marinade, pounding or chemicals such as MSG added.

4. Flavor

Beef has a different flavor depending on many factors, including the type of beef cut, how it is cooked, and the marbling. A good flavored cut of steak means it will work well on its own without the use of additional flavorings such as BBQ sauce, spice, or other additions.

5. Potential

A steak cuts potential is based on its ability to improve beyond its basic form. A good example is a flank steak, where on its own it is not a very good cut but combined with proper prep and cooking methods, it can be one of the best steak cuts.


Porterhouse Steak 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

porterhouse steak
A Porterhouse steak

Practicality:2 out of 5 stars (2.0 / 5)
Marbling:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Tenderness:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
Flavor:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Potential:3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

A bit of a dated cut, the Porterhouse steak was popular in the 70s and 80s partly due to its trendiness with the wealthier class and their desire to indulge in extravagance. The Porterhouse is one of the best steak cuts from the Loin primal and actually consists of two beef cuts in one: The tenderloin and the strip loin or new york steak (Strip loin is the top half and the tenderloin the bottom half in the image above). It is a popular steak cut to share with a significant other on a date, where each can decide which cut they prefer and share.

Typically around 1″ or more thickness, the Porterhouse steak is best grilled or pan-fried with compound butter. The steak is incredibly large, which is why it has dipped in popularity in restaurants over the years. Because of its size, the Porterhouse steak is considered a very masculine steak cut.

How to Best Cook:

Recommended Method: Grilled or Pan-Fried
Recommended Temperature: Rare to Medium-Rare

Best Setting to Use This Cut: 

  • Outdoor BBQ
  • Shared with Another
  • Statement Dinners
  • Hosting your father-in-law for dinner
  • Reminiscing about the 80s.

SRF American Wagyu Porterhouse Steak – $99.00
from: Snake River Farms


The Ribeye 4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)

rib eye steak boneless rib eye steak bone in

Practicality:3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Marbling:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Tenderness:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Flavor:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Potential:2 out of 5 stars (2.0 / 5)

The Ribeye steak is a superstar in the steak cuts team and is another one of the best cuts. The beautiful marbling and thick cut make it a favorite of those who enjoy an incredibly moist and tender steak. The bone-in ribeye steak is cut further along the loin, leaving a bit more fat than the boneless, but the bone is a preference most enjoy.

The Ribeye has been a popular cut for a long time, but is mostly seen in BBQ cookouts and rarely in restaurants and that is typical because of how high the fat content is in this cut. Because its appeal varies widely from loves it to hates it, it is tough to bring those groups together with this cut.

How Best to Cook: 

Recommended Method: Grilled or Pan-Fried
Recommended Temperature: Medium-Rare to Medium-Well

Best Setting to Use This Cut:

  • BBQs
  • Flexing on sirloins
  • When your wife is out of town
  • You’re on a keto diet and need to hit your fat macro

American Wagyu Gold Grade Traditional Ribeye 1.5″ Thick – $89.00
from: Snake River Farms


New York Steak or Strip Loin 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

strip steak boneless strip steak bone in

Practicality:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Marbling:3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Tenderness:3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Flavor:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
Potential:3 out of 5 stars (3.0 / 5)

The New York Steak, also known as the Strip Loin in the grocery stores, is a world-beater in utility. This type of steak cut was designed for the dinner plate. It has average marbling and is not as tender as some of the best steak cuts, but it does an admirable job nonetheless. It is widely popular due to its economical nature; there is a lot of strip steak cuts you can get from a loin. Restaurants use this to their advantage as well as specials in grocery stores.

When choosing your New York steak, be sure that it is missing that little circular line of cartilage opposite of the fat cap, as this is typically an indication it is from the end of the loin and is a tougher cut. If you take a look at the Porterhouse image, you will see this predominant feature to watch out for.

How Best to Cook: 

Recommended Method: Grilled or Pan-Fried
Recommended Temperature: Rare to Medium-Well

Best Setting to Use This Cut:

  • Date night
  • Financial reasons
  • Production cooking
  • You’re not quite a tenderloin cut but you’re no flank steak either.

American Wagyu Gold Grade Strip Loin – $539.00
from: Snake River Farms


Flank Steak 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

flank-steak

Practicality:4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Marbling:1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)
Tenderness:1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)
Flavor:4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Potential:5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

What is a flank steak? It is a very muscular steak cut from the Flank Loin. A flank definition is one that is a tough cut of beef. I have no hate for a properly cooked Flank Steak, but what gets me is the price of this cut of steak these days. Beef as a whole is higher across the board, but flank steak is a cut that has gained popularity due to its once-low cost and the incredible end result from proper marination and cooking methods.

How Best to Cook: 

Recommended Method: Grilled or Pan-Fried
Recommended Temperature: Rare to Medium-Rare

Best Setting to Use This Cut:

  • You have 24 hours to spare
  • You find some on sale for a good price
  • Slow cooking and finished on the grill

Tenderloin or Filet Mignon 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

tenderloin-filet-mignon

Practicality:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Marbling:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Tenderness:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Flavor:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Potential:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)

The Filet Mignon or Tenderloin steak cut is the best steak cut you can get. Some may have opinions on what is the best cut, but when it comes down to just the facts the Filet is the best for a reason. The flavor is fantastic, the marbling perfect and it is the most tender cut you can get. Because the Tenderloin is a smaller cut within the loin, the scarcity adds to its appeal making it a choice for those who want the best.

What does the pan-to-oven mean? Depending on the thickness of the Filet Mignon, you might not want to keep it on the high heat of a grill or pan in order to get to the proper temperature because it may burn. Finishing in the oven retains its caramelized surface while ensuring it gets even cooking throughout.

How Best to Cook: 

Recommended Method: Grilled, Pan-Fried, or Pan-to-Oven
Recommended Temperature: Rare to Medium-Well

Best Setting to Use This Cut:

  • You want to impress somebody
  • Preference of quality over quantity
  • Celebrations

Tenderloin Medallions – Prime – $45.00
from: Snake River Farms


T-Bone Steak 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

t-bone steak

Practicality:2 out of 5 stars (2.0 / 5)
Marbling:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
Tenderness:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
Flavor:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
Potential:3 out of 5 stars (3.0 / 5)

The T-Bone Steak cut is a classic on par with the Porterhouse steak. In fact, there are very similar for a reason. A T-Bone differs from a Porterhouse in two ways. The first is the tenderloin portion is a lot smaller, making the T-Bone a cheaper cut than the Porterhouse. The second is the Strip Loin cut is now a prime cut, with very little cartilage and good marbling. T-Bone steaks are much more popular because, just like the New York Strip, it is a more economical steak cut.

How Best to Cook: 

Recommended Method: Grilled, or Pan-Fried
Recommended Temperature: Rare to Medium-Well

Best Setting to Use This Cut:

  • Celebratory
  • You enjoy a bone in your steak
  • Strip loin with a bit of tenderloin is your fav

 


Sirloin Steak 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

top sirloin steak

Practicality:4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Marbling:2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)
Tenderness:2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)
Flavor:3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
Potential:4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Sirloin Steak is a cut that is pretty cheap and there is a good reason for that. It does not have much marbling, and coming from the Sirloin, most of its sister-cuts are designed around roasting. Those who enjoy the Sirloin steak cuts tend to not mind the toughness, or mitigate it with steak marinades, tenderizing or using it for quick-fry meals such as stirfry, slow-cooked meals, or other creative methods.

It cannot compete with the superstars, but a sirloin steak holds its ground with affordability and good versatility. Sirloin steaks can be a good choice if you’re on a budget, or if you enjoy a bit of work to get it down.

How Best to Cook: 

Recommended Method: Grilled, Stir-fry, or Pan-Fried
Recommended Temperature: Rare to Medium

Best Setting to Use This Cut:

  • Payday is another week away and you’re craving some steak.
  • You are going to a potluck and they gave you a beef requirement
  • You’re thinking of making some stirfry for the next couple of nights
  • Kids who don’t know the difference between this or a New York strip steak
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The Culinary Cook

Professional Chef & Blogger

With 15 years of experience working in restaurants, resorts, and a fully Red Seal Certified chef, The Culinary Cook shares tips, tricks, and recipes for everyone to enjoy.

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