Steak refers specifically to beef cut across the muscle grain, with each different cut defined by the area from which the butcher took it. Each cut has its own unique shape, size, texture, and flavor. Use this beginner’s guide to the different cuts of steak to help you choose the right steak for your meal.
While T-bone steak is one of the most iconic pieces of steak, it’s also one of the most expensive pieces, just under filet mignon. This steak is essentially two steaks in one; the T-bone is a New York strip steak and filet mignon separated by a T-shaped bone, hence the name.
Additionally, although all porterhouse steaks are T-bones, not all T-bones are porterhouse steaks, even though they’re often confused. The main difference is the size of the filet—or the smaller piece of meat on the short side of the T-bone. Porterhouse steaks have more meat on this side of the bone, typically over two inches. A T-bone steak filet will have half an inch of meat or less in that region. Always ask your butcher which they have, as the price for a porterhouse is different than a standard T-bone.
Flank steak, which comes from the back part of the abdominal muscles, is typically the hardest cut to make tender as these fibers are long and extensively used by cattle. Due to how thin the cut is, you need to cook it quickly on very high heat to ensure that it cooks thoroughly without becoming too tough.
Although filet mignon is the most expensive cut, part of the reason why it’s so popular is that it’s so tender and delicate. This muscle sees little use as it goes from the ribs to the rear of the cow. This lack of use makes for its soft, buttery texture. In fact, filet mignon is one of the most popular cuts of beef for making restaurant-quality beef tartare. While cooking filet mignon on the grill is the most straightforward method, you may want to baste it or choose the sous vide method instead. Keep in mind that there is little to no fat that ensures juiciness.
Rib eye is another iconic piece of steak because of its marbling. The marbling between the fibers allows this piece of steak to stay juicy and tender. This characteristic also means that you can cook it any way you want, whether it’s the grill or the broiler. Its thickness also ensures you can give it a crisp, charred outside without overcooking the middle. Rib eye steak comes from the rib, specifically the middle portion of the rib cage, with the bone usually remaining attached.
While there are many other delicious options, this beginner’s guide to the different cuts of steak will have you on your way to sounding like a professional in the kitchen. Navigate the butcher’s inventory with ease and impress future dinner guests with your steak cut knowledge!