We can all agree that steak is delicious, but we can’t all agree on our favourite cut. However, some of us don’t know what one steak cut is from the next. So here we are, presenting a comprehensive guide to steak cuts.
Where does steak come from?
It’ll come as no surprise to learn that man probably started cooking by roasting meat over an open fire. In fact, the word steak derives from an old Norse word, “steikja”, which meant “roasting on a stick.” While we still use forms of sticks commonly known as skewers to roast chunks over an open fire, we no longer cook our steaks on sticks. However, we still use fire, flame, and smoke to impart flavour.
Choosing the Perfect Steak Cut
Steaks come from all animals, but we tend to associate a traditional steak, one served with chips, with cuts of tender meat from a cow. As a general but not always accurate rule, the more expensive the cut, the more tender it will likely be. However, the more work a muscle does, the tougher it becomes. Hence, the lazy fillet muscle is highly prized for its soft texture.
One of the ways people discuss the best cuts of steak is through the amount of marbling running throughout them. Marbling refers to the small white fat globules apparent in the meat. The more of these fat spots seen in the steak, the juicier and tenderer the steak will likely be. This fat melts away during cooking, lubricating the meat while breaking apart the muscle fibres. Wagyu beef is prized because it contains so much marbling that the red meat almost looks encased in white netting.
Rump steaks are cut from the top part of the cow’s hind legs. As you can imagine, these muscles do a lot of work from walking and supporting the weight of the animal’s body. Fortunately, this makes the meat leaner for us, and all that extra work makes the steak much more flavourful than lazier cuts. It’s also one of the cheaper cuts of steaks on the market. As a result, rump steak is one of the most popular steak cuts as it’s flavourful, affordable, and still tender.
Recommended Cooking: Medium Rare
Ribeye steaks are my favourite steak cut. It’s packed with rich flavour and a lot of marbling, making it incredibly tender as this marbling melts away during cooking. Ribeyes are cut from the ribs, hence the rib part of the name. However, the large marbling, or fat lump, known as the eye, makes rib eyes one of the juiciest and flavourful steak cuts.
Recommended Cooking: Medium
Fillet steak is one of the most tenderest of steaks and one of the most prized parts of the cow. It’s cut from the tenderloin, a long muscle along the cow’s back. Tenderloin is a muscle that does very little work throughout the animal’s lifetime, resulting in tender, juicy meat as it has more fat marbling throughout the meat.
Recommended Cooking: Rare to Medium Rare
Sirloin Steaks also come from the back of the cow, but it’s cut before the Rump. Like the Rump, the Sirloin does a lot of work throughout the cow’s lifetime, so it isn’t as tender as lazier steak cuts. However, Sirloin has an intense beefy flavour. While the meat is lean, Sirloin is characterised by the thick layer of fat running along its top edge. This strip of fat helps keep the meat moist as it cooks.
Recommended Cooking Medium Rare to Medium
T-Bone or Porterhouse
These steak cuts are actually two steaks separated by a t-shaped bone. These two steak cuts are the fillet and the Sirloin. This makes these steaks perfect for both flavour and tenderness, as they offer the best of both worlds. The porterhouse has a larger cut of beef fillet. The bone also helps keep the meat juicy and flavourful but may slow down cooking near the bone. It’s easy to overcook and undercook a T-bone steak, making it one of the trickiest steak cuts to cook perfectly.
Recommended Cooking – Medium Rare
Flank, Skirt or Bavette Steak
These cuts aren’t as tender as other steaks as they’re cut from the hard-working abdominal muscles. However, they are packed with meaty flavours and work well when sliced and cooked quickly. They are the traditional steak cut used to make beef fajitas. They should be cooked quickly to prevent the lean meat from drying out.
Recommended Cooking – Rare