A Guide to Choosing and Cooking Different Types of Steak

Types of steak: raw and cooked steak of different cuts.

Steak dinners are a timeless favorite, but with so many different types of steak available, it can be overwhelming to navigate the options. Knowing how to choose the best steak cuts based on tenderness, flavor, and price is essential for a delicious meal. In this guide, we will explore the most common types of steak and provide tips on how to cook each cut to perfection.

What is a Steak?

A steak is a popular cut of meat that is sliced across the muscle fibers and may include a bone in some cases. Beef steaks are typically ½-inch to 2 inches thick and can be cooked in various ways, such as grilling, pan frying, oven baking, broiling, and sous vide. Popular steak cuts include ribeye, sirloin, filet mignon, and T-bone.

What Makes a Great Steak?

The best types of steak are tender, juicy, and well-marbled. Fat is the main flavor component in steak, and beef quality is graded for tenderness, juiciness, and flavor according to USDA Meat Grades. The best cuts of steak are usually found in the center of the cow, specifically the rib and loin sections.

There are three levels according to USDA’s beef grades:

  1. Prime grade: Comes from young, well-fed cows with abundant marbling and is often sold to restaurants and hotels.
  2. Choice grade: High quality with less marbling than prime and is often sold to supermarkets.
  3. Select grade: Very uniform in quality and usually leaner than the higher grades.

Best Cuts of Steak

The best and most expensive cuts of steak are from the center of the steer, which is the loin or rib section. The USDA divides a cow into 8 sections, known as the primal cuts. The best cuts of steak include:

  • Tenderloin: Known for its highest level of tenderness.
  • Porterhouse and T-bone Steak: Combining two prime cuts in one piece.
  • Ribeye: Well-marbled, juicy, and extremely flavorful meat.
  • New York Strip: One of the most flavorful cuts with a milder taste.
Further reading:  Roasted Bone-In Prime Rib

Beef Cuts Chart showing 8 sections of primal cuts.

Different Types of Steak

Beef steaks are mostly cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers from a large section of a cow, and may or may not include a bone. Each type of steak comes from different cuts of a cow and has a “tenderness” rating according to BeefResearch.org.

1. Porterhouse / T-bone Steak

Raw Porterhouse Steak
Cooked Porterhouse Steak

Porterhouse and T-bones are considered the highest quality steaks due to their tenderness and flavor. They have a T-shaped bone with a piece of tenderloin on one side and a strip of top loin steak on the other.

  • Where they’re from: Porterhouse and T-bone are crosscut from the front of the short loin.
  • Tenderness level: 8/10
  • Flavor: Very flavorful with two types of steak per cut and moderate fat marbling throughout to keep the meat moist and juicy.
  • Cost: Most expensive
  • Calories: 420 calories per 6 oz (170 grams)
  • Cooking method: Slightly more challenging to prepare since the tenderloin portion cooks faster than the strip section. Great for grilling, pan-frying, and broiling. Thick cuts can be cooked in a cast-iron skillet over high heat and finished in the oven for a mouthwatering steak.

2. Filet Mignon (Tenderloin Steak)

Raw Tenderloin Steak
Cooked Tenderloin Steak

Filet mignon, also known as beef tenderloin, is the most tender cut of beef. It refers to steak, while beef tenderloin is the name for the entire boneless roast.

  • Where it’s from: Located in the short loin, the tenderloin is cut from the muscle on the back of a cow with low exercise in that area, keeping the muscle tender.
  • Tenderness level: 9/10
  • Flavor: Lean cut without much marbling, with a mild flavor and buttery taste.
  • Cost: Most expensive
  • Calories: 454 calories per 6 oz (170 grams)
  • Cooking method: Suitable for grilling, pan-searing, and baking/broiling. The best way to cook filet mignon is by combining pan-searing at high temperature with an oven finish. The cast-iron skillet helps sear the outside of the filet, while the oven’s indirect heat produces a slightly charred crust.
Further reading:  Tender and Delicious Beef Ribs in Homemade BBQ Sauce

3. Ribeye

Raw Ribeye Steak
Cooked Ribeye Steak

Also known as Delmonico steak, beauty steak, or scotch fillet, ribeye is one of the most prized steaks. Ribeye steaks are juicy, tender, and very flavorful.

  • Where it’s from: Located in the rib section.
  • Tenderness level: 8/10
  • Flavor: Extremely flavorful with high fat content, usually well-marbled and very tender.
  • Cost: Expensive
  • Calories: 582 calories per 6 oz (170 grams)
  • Cooking method: Easy to cook and suitable for pan-frying, broiling, or grilling. It’s also the original cut for the iconic Philly Cheese Steak.

4. Tomahawk

Raw Tomahawk Steaks
Cooked Tomahawk Steak

Tomahawk steak is a cut of beef ribeye that has the whole rib bone attached, creating a visually striking presentation. It is often cut over 2 inches thick to accommodate the bone.

  • Where it’s from: Cut from the rib section.
  • Tenderness level: 8/10
  • Flavor: Extremely flavorful with extensive marbling and high fat content.
  • Cost: Expensive
  • Cooking method: Requires special cooking due to its size and thickness. The best approach is reverse-searing: baking or grilling first at low heat and then searing at high temperature to finish.

5. Chuck Eye Steak

Raw Chuck Eye Steak
Cooked Chuck Eye Steak

Chuck eye steak is also called the “poor man’s ribeye” because it shares many characteristics with a ribeye and is a more affordable alternative.

  • Where it’s from: Cut from the upper shoulder, chuck eye comes from the chuck primal section.
  • Tenderness level: 6.5/10
  • Flavor: Reasonably flavorful, although somewhat less so than a ribeye.
  • Cost: Low-cost alternative to ribeye steak.
  • Calories: 378 calories per 6 oz (170 grams)
  • Cooking method: Can be cooked the same way as ribeye, but it’s best limited to medium doneness. Marinating the steak before cooking is also recommended.

These are just a few examples of the many types of steak available. Each cut has its unique characteristics and cooking methods. Whether you prefer a tender filet mignon or a flavorful ribeye, there is a type of steak to suit every taste.

Cooking Different Types of Steak

The cooking method for each type of steak may vary depending on its tenderness and marbling.

  • Tender cuts: Excellent for cooking at high temperatures using dry heat, such as grilling, broiling, pan-frying, and baking. Examples include Porterhouse, T-bone, Ribeye, and New York Strip.
  • Cuts with a medium level of tenderness and marbling: These cuts should be marinated before cooking at high temperature and limited to medium doneness. Examples include Flank Steak and Skirt Steak.
  • Lean and tough cuts: Low-and-slow cooking methods are best for these cuts, such as Round Steak.
Further reading:  Old Fashioned Braised Steak and Caramelized Onions

Tips for Making Steak Tender and Juicy

For cooking center-cut steaks on the grill, stove, or oven, here are some tips to ensure tender steak every time:

  • Choose thicker steaks for maximum tenderness.
  • Use room temperature steaks for even cooking, especially for thicker cuts.
  • Pat dry the steak before cooking to help get a good sear.
  • Marinate tougher cuts before cooking to help tenderize the meat.
  • Cook thick cuts on indirect heat and finish on direct high heat.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to check internal temperatures and avoid overcooking.
  • Let the steak rest for 5-10 minutes covered with foil or a plate after grilling to allow juices to redistribute back into the steak.
  • Cut against the grain when serving to maximize tenderness.

Degrees of Steak Doneness

The most accurate way to check steak doneness is by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the middle of the steak. Follow the guidelines below:

  • Rare (cool red center): Remove from heat at 125°F (52°C) for medium-rare.
  • Medium-rare (warm red center): Remove from heat at 135°F (57°C).
  • Medium (warm pink center): Remove from heat at 145°F (63°C).
  • Medium-well (pale pink center): Remove from heat at 150°F (66°C).
  • Well done (little pink): Remove from heat at 160°F (71°C).

Note: A steak’s internal temperature typically rises 5°F (3°C) while resting.

Conclusion

With this guide, you can now confidently choose and cook different types of steak. Whether you prefer a tender filet mignon, a flavorful ribeye, or a festive tomahawk steak, there is a cut to suit every taste. Experiment with different cooking methods and seasonings to create your perfect steak dinner. Enjoy the rich flavors and juicy tenderness of a well-prepared steak!

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