Steak Cuts Explained
A lot of people have trouble with meat. They like the idea of a great steak, and they have a general notion that the more expensive the steak, the better it is. But more than that, who knows?!
I didn’t know either, at least, not until fairly recently when I decided to really get to know the different cuts of meat. I learned where they came from on the cow and what they each had to offer.
Where Do the Different Cuts Come From?
If you imagine a cow, the front section from about just behind the shoulders up to the neck and all the way down, is home to some very tasty and very ornery cuts of meat. From the shoulder area comes your beef chuck, and down south a bit, your brisket. Cuts of meat full of connective tissue that melts into flavorful heaven when braised, but makes for an awfully chewy steak.
Most steaks come a bit further back on the cow, and the best-known steaks start at the upper mid-section and proceed back to the hind quarters.
Just back from the shoulder is the rib section, and this is the home of the prime rib roast, and not surprisingly, the rib steak and the rib eye. Very well marbled and flavorful, the rib section is about the tastiest of all the steaks and is tender and succulent enough for a quick treatment on the grill.
Some common cuts of the rib are:
- Rib steak, which is just a slice with the bone of a prime rib
- Rib eye steak, which is just the boneless interior of the rib steak
Directly behind the rib section is the loin, and the loin meat is the tenderest section of beef. Although not as well flavored or marbled as the rib, the loin accounts for the most expensive and tender of all the cuts of steak. Some common cuts of the loin are:
- The tenderloin, the tenderest cut, the most expensive, and some say less flavorful
- T-Bone, A bit of everything, the T bone has a T shaped bone which sub divides a small section of tenderloin, with a larger section of strip steak
- Porterhouse, similar to the T-bone, but with a larger section of tenderloin
- Strip loin (NY steak), a rectangular strip of very flavorful steak, like a T-bone without the bone or tenderloin!
Directly behind the loin is the sirloin. Less tender and cheaper than the loin, sirloin steaks are very tasty. Try to pick sirloin steaks cut as close to the loin as possible (if the bone is flat that means close to the loin, and round means farther back).
The round section is the hind leg of the cow, and although some of these can be very flavorful, all are less tender than even the sirloin.
Some common cuts from the round are:
- Top round, an acceptable steak for the grill, inexpensive and flavorful
- Bottom round, OK for the grill, but you should probably marinate well as it can be a bit chewy
- Eye of round, too tough for quick cooking methods
Buy the Right Steak
If money is no object, go for the rib eye, the tenderloin, the Porterhouse/T-bone, or the strip; but if you're looking for value for money, try a flat-boned sirloin for a great beefy flavor, or even cheaper, a top round steak.
Cook it well (hot and fast) and enjoy!
- GourmetSleuth—Guide To Beef Cuts
Guide to beef cuts. An illustrated guide to roast and steak names including the portion of the steer the meat was cut from.