Get to Know Your Cuts of Steak
We all have our favorites, but there’s a big wide world of steak cuts out there, just waiting for you. Here's how to navigate the meat aisle like a pro.
Every once in a while, you sit down to order and you’re faced with an entirely new cut of steak. Or is it? Your Spencer Steak, on the menu at an out-of-the-way steakhouse in Central California, is the same as that Delmonico Steak in Manhattan, which are both just fancy names for delicious boneless rib-eye steak.
A Zabuton steak — named because, in Japanese, it looks like a “little pillow” — is also known as a Denver steak, and both are the same surprisingly tasty and tender cut of chuck. Or perhaps you run across the culotte, which is better known as picanha at a churrascaria since it’s a cut of sirloin cap that’s more popular in Portugal or Brazil than the U.S.
There’s Teres Major and Spider Steaks and Merlot Steaks and, really, more cuts than you can possibly remember. But a few things are fairly consistent whether you’re in Japan, Brazil, France, London, or Los Angeles. The most tender, most flavorful cuts of beef come from the loin or rib.
While there will always be differing opinions, there are a handful of steaks that, most agree, are the best steaks for grilling, broiling, pan-searing or, if you’re out and about, ordering. Let's take a closer look.
New York Strip
Also known as: Strip Steak, Strip Loin, Kansas City Strip, Club Steak, Shell Steak
What is a New York strip steak?
A steak by so many names must be a pretty tasty steak. Strip steak is a tender cut of meat that comes from the short loin. The flavor is nice and beefy, with a big, beautiful fat cap — all of which makes this cut a steakhouse favorite.
New York Strip Steak Frites with Rosemary Flake Salt
One Pan Steak and Veggies With Garlic Herb Butter
Garlic Butter Herb Steak and Mushrooms
Also known as: Rib Steak, Scotch Fillet, entrecôte
What is a rib-eye steak?
Rib eye is a very flavorful, tasty, and tender steak that comes — unsurprisingly — from the rib section of the animal. The even marbling of rib-eyes (and high fat content) make them a crowd favorite.
Rib eyes can be bought boneless or bone-in. If the rib bone is still attached, it's known as a cowboy steak. If it has an extra-long length of bone, just for show, it’s called a Tomahawk steak.
Perfect Rib Eye Steak
Grilled Ribeye Steak with Onion Blue Cheese Sauce
Grilled Ribeye Steaks
Also known as: Tuscan Steak
What is a porterhouse steak?
A porterhouse is truly the best of both worlds — a strip steak on one side and a tenderloin on the other, connected by a big beautiful bone. The tenderloin must be at least 1-1/4 inches wide to be considered a true porterhouse. Otherwise, it’s a T-bone steak — which can have as little as a 1/4-inch of tenderloin. This is date-night steak at its finest.
Perfect Porterhouse Steak
Sunday Steak with French Butter
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
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Also known as: Tenderloin, Beef Medallion
What is filet mignon?
Known for being the most expensive cut of beef, filet mignon is also the most tender (and — depending on who you ask — the most overrated). The flavor is mild and the meat itself is quite lean. The exorbitant price comes from the fact that only about 500 grams of filet mignon come with each 1,000+ pound steer or heifer. For a great cut of filet, look for a very fine grain (i.e. thin marbling) with little visible connective tissue.
Garlic Rosemary Filet Mignon
Filet Mignon with Bordelaise Sauce
Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon
Also known as: Onglet, Bistro steak, Butcher’s steak.
What is hanger steak?
Butchers love this cut. Hanger steak literally “hangs” from the diaphragm, in an area called the plate. Each animal has but one hanger steak, weighing in at about two pounds.
Hanger Steak with Charred Scallion Sauce
Hanger Steak with Orange-Oregano Chimichurri
Zak Pelaccio's Hanger Steak Salad
Also known as: Bavette, Jiffy Steak
What is flank steak?
Flank steak hails from the belly and can be a bit chewy. As such, it's best when marinated, grilled, and cut against the grain.
Lemon-Garlic-Marinated Flank Steak
Authentic Carne Asada
Sugar Steak With Bourbon
Also known as: Romanian steak, Philadelphia steak.
What is skirt steak?
Like hanger steak, skirt steak hails from the plate. It’s a long, thin strip of steak — with an inside cut and an outside cut. The flavor is great. And because it’s thin, it's the perfect steak for quick cooking methods.
Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak
Chili Skirt Steak
Brazilian Skirt Steak with Golden Garlic Butter
What about the rest?
The most expensive and most common steaks aren’t the only game in town, of course. Here are a few different types of steak to check out:
Also known as: Dinner Steak, Finger Steak
What is top sirloin steak?
Sirloin in general is not going to be as tender as the short loin, since the muscles are used more. Still, it’s thick, lean, and one of the most affordable cuts of steak you’ll find at the meat counter.
Also known as: Santa Maria Roast, Bottom Sirloin Roast, Triangle Roast
What is tri-tip steak?
Super-popular out west, the tri tip — a small, triangular cut from the sirloin — is sort of a split between a really thick steak or a really skinny roast. Butchers used to reserve it for ground beef until they realized how delicious it was grilled Santa Maria-style.
Also known as: Top blade steak
What is flat iron steak?
This shoulder — or chuck — cut manages to be pretty tender, tasty, and not all that expensive. Win-win-win.
Also known as: London Broil
What is top round steak?
Typically, I avoid steaks labeled “chuck” or “round” since they come from the tougher, harder-working muscles at the front and back, respectively, of the cow. But there are little gems here and there. Top round benefits from a bit of marinating, which is one reason this cut is often mistakenly called “London Broil” — a name that comes from a traditional cooking method.