What does it mean to live well?? It’s a personal question, and there’s no wrong answer. Wearing the finest factions, driving performance vehicles, and traveling to exclusive locales are all classic signifiers of the high life.
But none of them have a more direct impact on your quality of life than how you choose to dine. And in that respect, the more ostentatious offering is not always, the better one. The finest caviar may not be to everyone’s taste, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a diner who doesn’t delight in an adequately prepared cut of steak.
But what steak cuts rise above their contemporaries to claim superiority? To cut through the fat, as it were, let’s take a look at some of the best beef cuts on the market.
Sirloin doesn’t always enjoy a fond reputation. The general rule of thumb is that the more marbled a steak is, the more flavor it’s bound to pack.
Sirloin, however, is sourced from right underneath the cow’s tenderloin strip portion. This is a less-fatty and much more muscular part of the body, resulting in a lean steak that can be rather tough. It also tends to be one of the more frugal options.
But don’t dismiss the humble sirloin out-of-hand. With a bit of technique, even the everyman of steak can be something special.
You might have heard of the Pittsburg steak style, sometimes called the “black-and-blue.” This steak is charred on the outside while retaining a rare-to-medium-rare interior. According to legend, it takes its name from the practice of Pittsburg steelworkers flash-cooking their beef in the mills’ furnaces, producing a crisp shell that sealed in the delicate flavor of the steak.
Sirloin is an ideal candidate for this treatment. Most diners find undercooked fat unpleasant, after all. A lean cut benefits from flash-cooking techniques that fully cook the outside and leave the interior as rare as possible.
It’s still a bit of an acquired taste, to be sure. But it’s a unique technique to liven up an otherwise mundane offering.
Ribeye is the standard of the steak world. You won’t usually see a fine-dining establishment spotlighting their ribeye. But at the same time, it’s never a poor choice.
It takes its name from the fact that it comes from the “eye,” or the center, of the cow’s rib region. It’s a part of the anatomy that isn’t exercised much, lending the cut a very tender quality. And it’s far better marbled than many other cuts.
Thanks to all that fatty tissue, the flavor skews towards a more mild profile, with a “buttery” quality. Along with its tenderness, this gives it a “melt-in-your-mouth” sensation.
Ribeye is a good choice for novice cooks to start out on. With their high-fat content, they can suffer overcooking better than a leaner-cut. Most Americans prefer a medium-rare steak, as well they should. But fatty cuts like ribeye are still quite acceptable cooked medium or even a little past.
So if you find yourself preparing for a backyard cookout and are feeling trepidatious about working the grill, ribeyes are a safe choice.
Another classic cut, filet mignon, is a tender cut sourced from the cow’s back. It comes from the very tip of the tenderloin, sometimes being erroneously called tenderloin itself.
It doesn’t come with a bone so that it can be somewhat lacking in the flavor department. Many chefs compensate by pairing it with unique sauces or seasonings to give it some individuality.
The texture is where filet mignon shines. Being taken from a little-used muscle, it has true, melt-in-you-mouth quality. And being about two to three inches thick, it’s another great candidate for the grill or Broiling.
However you prepare it, the key is to do so efficiently. In fact, the lack of much marbling makes it another ideal candidate for the “black-and-blue” method mentioned earlier, with a seared exterior and a very rare interior being the optimal way to cook a fillet mignon.
New York Strip
New York strip comes from the short loin of the cow. They’re boneless and tend to be well-marbled, and they’re a favorite of restauranteurs because they come in tidy, rectangular cuts that make for great visual presentation.
You could think of it as a more-flavorful ribeye, retaining the extensive marbling but having an intense, beefy taste. The trade-off is that it tends to lack the same tenderness, and does not suffer overcooking as gladly.
The tenderloin is among the most expensive cuts. Once trimmed of all the fat and gristle, the remaining steak comes in a fairly compact package.
It takes its name from the fact that it’s sourced from a long, pencil-shaped muscle resting deep within the short loin. A cow never uses this muscle very much at all, so steaks cut from it are among the most tender.
It is somewhat lacking in natural flavor, however. A proper marinade will go a long way in helping to breathe some life into it.
The Porterhouse is God’s gift to steak-lovers, being that it’s practically two full steaks in one package. The term was thought to have been coined by Charles Dickens, with a Buffalo hotelier purported to have made a small fortune advertising their “Porterhouse steak as Charles Dickens likes”.
Whatever its origin, it’s a venerable cut with a well-earned admiration.
It can be tricky to cook, however, seeing as it is essentially a filet mignon and a New York strip joined together at the hip. Start by getting a nice, tight sear on it, and then remove it from direct heat and allow it to finish cooking to your preference.
With some practice, it can be hands-down the best steak for grilling. Likewise, it can be pan-fried, boiled, or sauteed to variable results.
Pick the Right Cut of Steak for the Occasion
Ultimately, trying to single out the single best cut of steak is missing the forest for the trees. It’s versatile enough that trying to single out a supreme selection may deprive you of interesting options that you don’t want to miss.
Any cut of steak can be divine, so long as you prepare it in such a way as to play to its strengths.
And of course, beef need not be the only steak that makes it to your plate. For a truly inspired experience, check out what makes Atlantic Bluefin Tuna an inimitable offering.
Featured image source: Delish.com