There’s really nothing quite like a well-cooked steak. It pairs perfectly with just about anything, it’s extremely versatile, and it’s great for any occasion and in any setting.
While the cooking method and surface you use are certainly important, a great steak actually starts with a great cut of meat. You can have the best seasoning, the best grill, and the best cooking tricks up your sleeve, but if you’re starting out with a mediocre cut of steak, the steak will be, well, mediocre.
You’ve probably noticed there are a lot of different types of steaks, whether you’re browsing the meat department at the grocery store or checking out a restaurant menu. How do you know which ones are any good? Do you have to shell out big bucks to get a decent steak? Hint: not necessarily. To make steaks slightly less mysterious, we’ve put together this guide to the top five cuts.
Serious carnivores usually have a special fondness for t-bone steaks. That’s because they’re extremely unique in that they have a buttery tenderloin on one side of the bone and a bold, beefy New York strip on the other. You are essentially getting two different steaks in one cut. As the name suggests, t-bone steaks are always bone-in, and they come from a cross-section of the cow’s short loin, closer to the stomach than the rear. T-bones are absolutely delicious, but they can be a bit tricky to cook since you’re working with two completely different types of meat. The tenderloin side cooks quite a bit faster, so it can help to cook with indirect heat or to position the steak so that the strip side is closer to the heat.
If you’ve ever seen a porterhouse steak next to a T-bone, you may have thought they were the same. The two are, in fact, nearly identical, because they’re cut from the exact same section of a cow. Porterhouse steaks are simply larger cuts. In fact, to classify as a porterhouse, the USDA requires that the steaks be cut to a thickness of at least 1.25 inches, and you will often find them cut to 3 inches or more. These steaks have fantastic flavor and don’t generally need much seasoning, but just like T-bones, they can be difficult to cook perfectly. Many porterhouse devotees swear by a simple method of cooking in a cast-iron pan to get a great sear, then moving it off of the direct heat to finish.
For the ultimate juicy, beefy flavor, a ribeye is a great choice. These ultra-flavorful steaks are essentially individually cut prime rib roasts, and they come from the cow’s upper rib area. Ribeyes are super fatty, which allows them to retain their juiciness even when cooked over very high heat. When shopping for a ribeye, look for a thicker cut and one that has evenly-dispersed marbling. You’ll find both bone-in and boneless cuts, but it just comes down to personal preference; the two have identical flavor profiles and can be cooked in the same way.
Sometimes referred to as a tenderloin or just as a filet, filet mignon is always boneless and is cut from underneath a cow’s ribs. Filet mignon is incredibly tender and has a mild flavor and fine grain, and it is also generally the most expensive cut of steak. This steak is cut in small circular portions that are typically two to three inches thick. Filets cook very well on the grill or in a cast-iron pan on the stove, and you can use seasonings or bacon to add depth to their flavor profile.
New York strip steaks, also called top sirloin or top loin, come from the short loin, the area just behind the ribs toward the rear end. They aren’t quite as tender as ribeyes or tenderloins, but they do offer a fantastic, bold beef flavor and an ideal blend of lean meat and fat. When you’re shopping for New York strips, look for pieces that have even marbling throughout and larger chunks of fat around the edges. Because top sirloin is cut from a very muscular area, it can quickly become tough if overcooked even slightly. For best results, aim for a medium-rare cook on the grill.
It can be overwhelming to choose a steak, but as with most things, practice makes perfect. In this case, “practice” means trying a variety of steaks to help you learn their unique qualities and differences (lucky you!). Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City has every one of the steaks mentioned on its dinner menu, plus a number of other entrees, kids’ items, and a well-edited selection of wine and beer. Call us at (405) 236-0416, contact us online, or just come in! We’ll see you soon!