The Most Common Steak Cuts, From Worst to Best
It can be confusing to examine the shelves at your neighbourhood butcher shop or the meat counter at your local grocery store. There are many distinct cuts, levels of tenderness, flavours, needed cooking techniques, and pricing ranges for steak. Red meat should be consumed in moderation, which is good news for your dietary health and reduces emissions that are damaging to the environment. According to Forbes, supply and demand imbalances have caused red meat prices to rise significantly over the past few years. These days, you might have to pay more for your next cut of steak, so you should be aware of what to look for.
For instance, the market for Wagyu beef was worth USD 12,638 million. It is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 5.9% from now through 2030, reaching USD 21,310 million (2022–2030). The region with the greatest market share, Asia-Pacific, is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 7.5% during the projection period.
Steak can be a convenient choice or a special treat to enjoy sometimes. There are steaks appropriate for each of those situations as well as for one of them. The most crucial factor is that you ultimately receive a premium steak at the best price. You can use this ranking to decide which steak cut is ideal for you, your objectives, and your budget.
Round the earth, the steak goes
The cow's top rear is used to extract the round steak. The top round cut, bottom round cut, or eye of the round cuts of round steaks are all available for sale. The Spruce Eats claims that round steaks often have the least fat marbling, making them extremely tough and lacking in flavour compared to steaks from other sections of the animal.
Round steaks cannot be swiftly grilled at high heat like their fattier cousins since this cut is entirely made of muscle. Instead, they need to be cooked for a long time at a very low temperature. In addition, most round steak recipes require additional moisture to be added.
Round steaks also lack the robust, meaty flavour that most other cuts of steak can offer because any flavour they do have comes from outside sources like seasonings or braising liquids. While round steaks are significantly less expensive than more flavorful, simpler steak choices, the financial benefit does not outweigh the many drawbacks.
Watch your flank
Another meaty, economical cut is the flank steak, however its adaptability does assist to offset its harshness. According to Food Fire Friends, the cow's flank, which is located beneath the tenderloin and sirloin along the underbelly, is where flank steaks come from. Because of the exercise they receive as the steer moves or turns its body, flank steaks are harder due to their position on the abdomen.
On a piece of flank steak, the intense labour of the muscle is actually visible. Because of its frequent use, it has long, dense muscle fibres and little fat. The flank itself is still relatively slim even though this cut is located in a region of the steer that is surrounded by fat.
Depending on how it is prepared, the roughness of flank steak can be reduced, however slower braises will not sufficiently break down the muscle fibres, keeping the cut chewy. By holding onto more moisture, quick cooking on high heat will aid in improved fibre breakdown. This muscular fibres can also be broken down by slicing the flank steak thinly and against the grain, which will result in a more soft, juicy, and tasty finished product. Additionally, flank steak responds well to marinades. The steak tastes better the longer it is marinated.
But like round steaks, the flank steak needs many more ingredients to reach its full potential. Although flank steak might be a wonderful, more affordable option, the quality is not determined by the steak alone. It results from your own work.
Tri-Tip trip-tip, hurrah!
The tri-tip roast, which is taken from the lower, leaner part of the sirloin, is where the tri-tip is derived from. The optimal conditions for this triangular-shaped cut are strong heat and an interior temperature below medium. The tri-tip is made from the portion of the bottom sirloin that typically has marbling and flecks of fat, despite the fact that the bottom sirloin is typically tough and muscle-y. Despite the low fat level, seasoning and cooking technique are crucial.
Tri-tips can be broiled, oven-roasted, grilled, seared in a pan on the stovetop, or even oven-seared. Still, grilling is your best bet because the higher heat capacity and smokiness help give an additional layer of flavour that more than makes up for this cut's absence of fat.
The most overrated steak cut out there might be the t-bone. The tenderloin, or filet mignon, and the short loin, or NY Strip, are separately separated and held together by the same bone when a T-bone steak is sliced as a cross-section of the short loin.
Yet, there is a widespread misconception about the quantity and quality of a T-bone cut. Porterhouses would undoubtedly take objection to this commonly held misconception that T-bones and porterhouses can be substituted for one another.
One cow yields between six and seven T-bone slices, but only two or three porterhouses (via Omaha Steaks). Additionally, many T-bone steaks are cut at the point where the NY Strip and top sirloin meet, leaving an inedible piece of sinew behind. The T-bone does not exactly provide you two cuts in one, despite the fact that the NY Strip is a superb and low-maintenance cut of steak. You get less for more money if you choose a T-bone.
A good steak is like a woman’s skirt…
Although skirt steak and flank steak are quite comparable, skirt steak wins out for a number of reasons. The Kitchn claims that skirt steak also originates from the cow's abdomen but that it actually comes from the diaphragm, making it another hyperactive, harder cut. While skirt steak has a beefier flavour than flank steak, it also has more muscle fibre, making high heat, rapid cooking methods the best for achieving the best possible softness. Skirt steak should be sliced as thinly as possible against the grain and is also ideal for lengthy marinades.
The difference between skirt steak and flank is typically a larger fat level. The additional fat counteracts the stronger muscle fibres, and when rendered properly, it adds to the meatier flavour. You've probably tried skirt steak if you've ever had Mexican fajitas, so you already know how good it can be.
Do not wait to strike until the iron is hot…well, unless it’s steak
Another excellent cut of meat for marinades and for feeding bigger crowds is flat iron steak. Additionally, because of their increased fat content and equally distributed marbling, they produce steaks that are juicier, delicious, and can be cooked to a wider range of donenesses without sacrificing softness or flavour.
According to The Spruce Eats, a flat iron steak's flavour and suppleness are partly a result of the cut originating from the steer's shoulder, often known as the "chuck." The chuck is a more relaxed portion of the cow compared to the abdominal region where flank and skirt steaks are taken from, which results in a more soft bite. Flat iron steaks are also made from the top blade roast, which is a more fatty portion of the chuck. The top blade and flat iron are separated from one another by a tense, connective tissue that runs through the top blade roast. The flat iron is released from the toughness once it has been withdrawn.
Similar to flank steaks in shape, flat iron steaks come in rectangular cuts, but they are uniform in thickness (via Food Fire Friends). This results in a more even grilling that is ideal for a grill in the garden. Although flat iron steaks have greater texture, more flavour, and fat, their price reflects this. A flat iron steak will cost more than comparable cuts like the one before it on this list, even though it is far from the most expensive there is.
This and much more Denver steak
The newest steak on this list is the Denver steak. It's odd to assume that different portions of a cow can have different ages, but the Denver cut wasn't truly identified until a team of expert butchers from the Cattleman's Beef Board looked into it in 2009, according to Grill Master University.
The assignment was to locate a piece of chuck roll meat in the cow's shoulder. The study produced a chuck cut suitable for a high-heat grill that is nevertheless juicy, soft, and delicious even though it is usually cooked at low temperatures for extended periods of time, like in braises and stews.
The flat iron steak and the Denver steak are extremely comparable. They both come from the chuck of the steer, but the Denver steak is located entirely below the blade while the flat-iron is a component of the top blade roast. Because it receives even less exercise than the lower portion of the top blade, this region of the chuck has higher fat marbling while lacking a fat cap. For best results, cooking techniques must be matched to the Denver cut's rectangular shape and razor-thin cut.
Denver steaks are difficult to find; they are often only offered by a reputable butcher and not often at the grocery store. Despite the fact that Denver steaks are more expensive than those that are more widely available, the flavour and distinctiveness more than make up for the small price difference.
New York! New York Trip!
Ruth's Chris Steak House asserts that the New York Strip is made from the side of the cow's loin that is shorter. The NY Strip is marbled with some fat, fuller bodied, and richer in flavour since this part of the steer is more frequently calm and not very active. Additionally, NY Strips can be bought and prepared with the bone, which adds another aspect of potential taste and presentation. NY Strips are normally sold in 16-ounce slices, but your butcher may be able to cut them to bigger quantities to suit your preferences.
Because of their high fat content, NY Strips can be quickly and easily seared on the stovetop, in the reverse direction, or on the grill. The potential to combine these steaks with wine, especially a vast range, makes them the #1 on our list. Red wines with higher tannin levels, such Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux, soften as they combine with the fat in NY Strip steaks because they maintain a balance between tenderness and structure. Additionally, these red wines are more acidic, which aids in reducing fat.
The NY Strip is still a reasonably priced steak option and has many wonderful attributes. The NY Strip, however, does so in a very fundamental way. Other cuts of steak from more relaxed sections of the cattle that come in larger, not overly expensive amounts are magnified in terms of their fat marbling, cooking technique, potential wine accompaniments, etc.
The sirloin on top
The sirloin is divided into the top sirloin and bottom sirloin, two pieces that are located above and below the tenderloin. The region of the cow between the final rib and the hip bone is where sirloin steak is produced. Because it is so tough and heavily muscled, bottom sirloin is often solely utilised for ground beef.
Top sirloin is one of the most popular steak cuts on both restaurant menus and supermarket shelves because it is a more relaxed cut, is marbled with more fat, and is much more soft and juicy. Sirloin comes in a variety of cuts, such as the sirloin flap and sirloin tips, but the top sirloin is still the most popular.
Thus according lore King Henry VIII, who was so taken by the steak that he chose to knight it and pronounce it "Loin, we dub thee knight; henceforward be Sir Loin," gave it the name sirloin. Top sirloin is a leaner steak cut, but it can also be found with the fat cap on. The fat cap can make up for any lack of fat marbling seen in richer cuts if it is prepared appropriately.
Nevertheless, even without the cap, top sirloin is far more tender than cuts higher on our list, and when cooked to a temperature of medium-rare to rare, it will produce a soft, juicy result. Another fantastic, individually portioned cut that is ideal for quick, high-heat cooking techniques is sirloin steak.
Bavette, a flat cut with a strong beef flavour, is often referred to as flap steak. Due to the fact that butchers frequently save the bavette for themselves, it is also known as the butcher's cut. The word "bavette" is French for "bib," and it refers to the incision that is made from the cow's lower chest, just above the top of the abdomen. Along with being delicious, this lean but still fatty portion of the cow gives bavette its versatility. Bavette can be served in a variety of ways, from thinly sliced to simply seasoned and cooked whole. This is because it should have a large quantity of fat.
The flavour profile of bavettes is similar to that of flank or skirt steak, two other nearby flat cuts. Bavettes are rich in fibre and loaded with minerals. Moreover, bavette has a very flexible structure that allows for a wide range of cooking techniques and internal temperatures, preventing chewiness or harshness. The opened muscle fibres are able to absorb and hold any tasty accoutrements, and the loose structure makes it ideal for marinades and seasoning rubs.
Though flank steak and bavette are sometimes confused for one another, Steak Revolution emphasises that there are significant flavour, texture, and cost differences between the two. If they haven't already booked it for themselves, the only place to find bavette steak is probably a butcher store. If bavette is accessible, take advantage of the chance to try it.
Let’s hang that steak
Most grocery shelves don't have hanger steak, but that doesn't mean it's of inferior quality. In fact, hanger steak is frequently described as "the butcher's secret" due to its high quality and relative unpopularity. Another cut from the diaphragm of the stear, hanger steaks come from a more relaxed area and have higher fat marbling. While still being incredibly soft, hanger steak has a richness that can compete with the most expensive steaks available. The only issue is that it's elusive.
Hanger steak won't likely be packaged and kept on hand in the meat department at your neighbourhood grocery store or supermarket chain, but that's simply because it wouldn't be viable to do so. This is due to the fact that there is only one hanger steak per cow. Therefore, a grocery store would need to buy a dozen cows in order to stock its shelves with, say, a dozen hanger steaks. Because of this, hanger steak is a more expensive cut, but the extra money spent will be well worth it. Due to the hanger steak's generous amount of fat, cooking it only requires a small amount of seasoning and a brief period of time at high heat.
Also, the fact that few people are familiar with hanger steak is another reason why you could have only ever had it in a restaurant. Grocery stores only carry items they are confident customers will buy. Fortunately, your neighbourhood butcher will very certainly have a cut of hanger steak available for you, and they probably won't mind if you're interested.
Filet that mignon
Unquestionably, the most popular steak cut is the filet mignon. The tenderloin, which is taken from the short loin of the cow and fully surrounded by highly relaxed muscles that are rarely used, is portioned out to make filet mignon. Because of the result, this cut is renowned for being lean and delicate. The entire tenderloin is cut into two-inch-thick parts for filet mignon cuts, but the more tender, smaller tip is where the actual filet mignon is found.
Notwithstanding being a more popular cut of steak, filet mignon is nevertheless more expensive because there are only a few portions of it available per cow. The expense of growing the cow itself can also change, which does result in a noticeable difference in flavour and texture. Grass-fed beef produces a more expensive cut than its more conventional and popular grain-fed equivalents. A richer, more nutritious, and more compassionate cut of beef is produced as a result of the added expense, which can be between an additional \$5 and \$10 per pound. Grass-fed filet mignon is a win-win choice in a time when your carbon footprint can and should be reduced as much as possible.
The only preparation necessary to enjoy the richness of filet mignon cuts is to season with salt and cook them. The fat marbling is so uniformly distributed and unrestricted by regular exercise. I'm done now. The elegant simplicity of this steak cut is the reason why hearing the words "filet mignon" conjures up images of grandeur.
The house of the porter
The porterhouse combines the best qualities of all the many steak cuts available, which each have a variety of qualities. Porterhouses are cut from the juncture where the upper loin and the tenderloin meet (NY Strip). Porterhouses are bone-in incisions that resemble the letter "t," although they differ from T-bones in some important ways.
The tenderloin and top loin that the T-bone and porterhouse join are both cut from the same part of the cow, but their ratios are very different. Only a very small quantity of tenderloin remains on the bone since T-bones are cut in favour of the top loin. On the other hand, porterhouses are equally chopped and include the rich, buttery NY On opposite sides of the bone from the strip was a juicy, delicate filet mignon.
Porterhouses are expensive, but their quality and size more than offset their cost. Up to two pounds of porterhouse steak will readily satisfy two servings. Porterhouses, like the filet mignon on one side of the bone, benefit from basic spices and rapid high-heat cooking, which produces a combination of lean softness and rich, thick flavour. No wonder the porterhouse is referred to as "the king of the steakhouse"—it truly is the finest of both realms.
The eye of the rib
The ribeye is the cut that offers the best value for your money out of all the selections you have at the butcher counter or the grocery store. Although most other individually packed steaks are more expensive than cuts of ribeye, ribeyes are actually less expensive than the two steaks that came before them on this list. Plus, their simplicity and deliciousness make it well worth your time.
Ribeyes are taken straight off the cow's ribcage. A richness of taste unmatched by any other steak cut is provided by the substantial amounts of fat on the rib cage. The ribeye is not only surrounded by tasty fat, but it is also covered in it from end to end. The ribeye is able to absorb all of the flavour that your scorching hot stovetop pan has to offer since this fat melts down and loosens up the fibres of the meat. Both tomahawk-style and boneless ribeyes are offered. Decadence is abundant in either case.
Further, ribeye steaks respond particularly well to the dry-aging process, which enhances the flavour and softness of a cut of beef by keeping it in a temperature-controlled environment for a lengthy period of time. Even though it is acknowledged that dry-aged ribeye is only accessible at higher-end steakhouses and probably not at home , the choice to take advantage of the chance should most definitely be taken into consideration when it arises. You'll forget the additional money you spent because of the steak-eating experience.