What Is the Best Cut of Steak? The Ultimate Top 10 List
October 17, 2023
Have you ever been intimidated by the long list of meat cuts on a steakhouse menu? How are you supposed to know what to order? The options seem endless, and most people default to medium-rare, so you just go with what sounds best.
If you’re left dumbfoundedly staring at the menu in a restaurant, you’ll likely find yourself lost in your kitchen at home. Part of cooking the perfect steak is knowing how to distinguish the different kinds of cuts. And don’t forget, how beef is produced has a significant impact on quality, taste, and several other factors. It’s possible that you’ll prefer a different cut once you learn what’s different about grass-fed beef and try different producers.
You shouldn’t have to go into this adventure blindly. Here, us brothers break down the top 10 best cuts of steak. While we don't sell all of them at our farm, we wanted to pass along this helpful information.
Originally published on December 7th, 2020, this article was republished on October 17th, 2023.
1. Filet Mignon
The filet mignon is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a tenderloin steak. Though the two cuts come from the same place, they’re not identical.
The filet mignon is a very tender part of a cow’s back. It comes from the tip of the tenderloin. Even though it doesn't come bone-in, it packs a flavorful punch.
The most popular way to prepare filet mignon is to wrap bacon around the outside of the steak, both to add fat and flavor. From there, you can use your favorite seasonings and sear it on the grill, pan-sear it in a cast iron skillet, or broil it on high heat.
Serve it with a bit of au jus, gravy, or a bearnaise sauce for a restaurant treat in your home. Alternatively, some melted Garlic-infused Grassfed Butter never hurt a steak in our opinion. ;)
Whatever method you choose, make sure your filet mignon is cooked as efficiently as possible. A quick cooking time will help lock in the flavors and prevent a rubbery, bland piece of meat from ending up on your plate.
Quick cooking also preserves the meat’s buttery texture. It’s best served medium to medium-rare to make the most of the filet mignon’s traits. While this is considered a premium priced steak, we feel it's worth it every time.
The T-bone is one of the most recognizable steak cuts due to its distinctive T-shaped bone. It contains a nicely sized tenderloin and a strip of top loin (also called strip steak).
The T-bone is similar to the Porterhouse cut. One of the main differences between the two is that the T-bone steak is much thinner on the tenderloin side.
The Spruce Eats reports that the T-shaped bone is more traditionally American, while the Porterhouse steak is more commonly consumed in the British Commonwealth countries.
This steak cut offers the best of both worlds. You’ll experience the strip steak’s flavor and the tenderloin’s incredible tenderness.
The most popular way to prepare a T-bone is to season it thoroughly and grill it or pan-sear it and finish it in the oven in a cast iron skillet. Because of the meatier texture and added depth of flavor that the bone brings, you can season a T-bone much more generously than other cuts of steak.
The Porterhouse steak gives you a two-for-one type of deal. It consists of two steaks wrapped into one convenient, delicious piece of meat. One side has a large filet mignon, while the other has a tasty New York strip.
According to the experts at New Kitchen Life, a Porterhouse steak needs to be at least 1.25 inches thick to be classified as such. On the other hand, T-bone steaks is generally 3/4 - 1 inch thick.
The two most popular ways of cooking porterhouse steaks are grilling and reverse searing. Grilling is simple: season the steak to your taste and sear it on high heat for 4-5 minutes per side. Then, set it off to the side on the grill to continue cooking with indirect heat until it reaches your preferred doneness.
To reverse-sear your porterhouse, cook the seasoned steak on low heat (275° F) for 15-20 minutes. Finish the steak in a hot cast iron skillet, basting with butter, garlic, and herbs.
Porterhouse cuts may be a bit tricky to learn how to cook. However, once you master cooking a T-bone steak, you can replicate the process on a Porterhouse cut. You may need to extend the cooking time depending on the meat’s thickness
The sirloin steak comes from directly underneath the cow’s tenderloin strip portion. Because this steak cut comes from a very muscular area of the animal, it's quite likely to be tougher the our first 3 steaks listed above.
But don't let that turn you off, it's still a tender steak that our customers enjoy at a nice value.
Despite its minimal fat content, the top sirloin steak packs a lot of delicious flavors that will be the star of any meal you serve. Sirloin steak is a grilling staple, but it’s also a popular choice for steak tips and slicing thin for sandwiches.
High heat and quick cooking are key for this cut, so whether you’re slicing it thin, cutting it up and frying it, or throwing it on the grill – stick with medium-rare doneness.
5. Petite Tender
If you’re looking for a smaller cut that’s an incredibly tender, succulent, and delicious little morsel, you’ve come to the right place.
The Beef Petite Tender is named such because it looks like a mini tenderloin. But, plot twist, it's actually cut from the beef shoulder and is second only to the tenderloin in tenderness. This means that when it comes to tenderness and flavor, this steak is among the best in show.
Fun fact: this less well-known steak is known as "the Butcher's cut." Why is that so? Depends who you ask...We've heard that it's the cut butchers admire more than others - so much so that they take it home for their own enjoyment. It's also been reported that it takes a talented butcher to yield this steak from the carcass correctly.
As far as preparation, this versatile steak that can be prepared in many ways and showcased in many different dishes. Season it, pan sear it, grill it or broil it at a medium-rare to medium temperature. It can be served by itself as a full steak or cut up into tips to be used in salads, rice, or kabobs.
Slice it in ribbons for stir fry or fajitas. Thin-slice it for specialty sandwiches. The possibilities are endless!
6. Prime Rib
If you want to understand the different steak cuts out there, know that a few have confusing names. The ribeye and prime rib are just some examples of the confusion you may experience initially.
Both steak cuts come from the rib section of a cow. However, the prime rib is a larger roasting joint. It usually contains big sections of the rib bone and has robust flavor due to its excess bones, tissue, and fat.
The most popular way to prepare prime rib steak is to slow-roast it on low heat, finishing with a high-heat sear. The flavorful, thick-cut steak strands hold up to intense seasoning and bold flavors, so feel free to pair it with garlic, wine, or even a good barbecue rub.
As its name implies, the ribeye steak (we call them Delmonico!) cut comes from the “eye,” or center, of a cow’s rib portion. It typically has a lot of marbling, which is the fat found in between the muscle fibers. We also have a marbled ribeye cut you can try – Both are delicious options.
There’s also a bone-in variety referred to as a cowboy steak. This steak cut contains more meat that extends beyond the eye. The entire slab has generous marbling that offers great tenderness.
While this steak cut’s flavor tends to be on the mild side, it has a distinctive buttery taste. The ribeye steak is incredibly tender and juicy and offers a melt-in-your-mouth sensation.
Because it’s a more forgiving cut for long cooking times, the most popular method for cooking a ribeye steak is pan-frying. Simply season your steak and start it in a hot cast iron pan, searing it for several minutes on each side.
You can finish by basting it in hot butter while cooking it on the stovetop, or you can put the steak in the oven or over a hot grill to cook through. Although medium is the ideal doneness for ribeye, the juicy tenderness of the cut means you won’t ruin it if you cook it a little longer.
You can try our ribeye recipes below:
Fun Fact: this is the steak of choice for most brothers.
Amateur chefs often call a piece of meat a flank when referring to a skirt steak. These two cuts of beef are similar but have some notable differences.
The skirt comes from a cow’s diaphragm muscles. It’s a long, thin piece of meat with visible muscle fibers running along its width.
Skirt steaks have a beefier flavor than flank steaks. They pair exceptionally well with marinades, so you can have fun experimenting with different flavor combinations. Some marinades commonly used to enhance the skirt’s flavor include
- Balsamic vinegar
- Orange juice
- Worcestershire sauce
- Red wine vinegar
The most popular cooking method for skirt steak is grilling and broiling, due to the fact that this cut tastes the best when it’s cooked the least. Skirt steak is incredibly popular for fajitas, stir fry, and carne asada because the meaty flavor and robust texture stand up to intense seasonings and marinades.
Brooks (the 5th son) is a fan of pairing this steak with eggs for breakfast, be it at home or at our local Roanoke, IN diner.
9. New York Strip
The New York strip steak comes from a portion of the short loin. It’s boneless and comes from the larger end of this loin. It tends to be well-marbled and has some large pieces of fat around the edges.
The New York strip’s counterpart, the Kansas City strip, is similar in taste and texture. The Kansas City version has a thin strip of tail fat and a small portion of the bone attached.
Both of these strip steaks come from the short loin, so you’re basically eating the same cut of meat.
Another version of the New York strip is called the club steak. It contains more bone than the Kansas City cut but has no other noteworthy differences.
New York strip steaks come in rectangular shapes with tapered edges. Their shape makes for a great plate presentation.
The New York strip steak contains a much more intense beef flavor than the ribeye cut. However, the New York strip leaves something to be desired in terms of tenderness when compared to ribeyes.
The most popular method of cooking New York strip steak is to pan fry, broil, grill, or sear it on high heat, finishing it more gently by basting it with butter. It’s also popular for slicing thin for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches or French dip sandwiches.
The flank steak is one of the most popular cuts of beef. It comes from along the cow’s abdomen below the loin and sirloin. It’s a lean cut of meat that doesn’t have a lot of fat, so you won’t have to spend a lot of time trimming fatty pieces off.
The flank steak has a lot of connective tissue and muscle fibers that can take away some of its tenderness.
The flank is a flavorful piece of meat which most people describe as having a beefy taste. A good marinade will add even more flavor. Flanks pair well with marinades if you want to liven up your dishes.
However, remember that marinating won’t help tenderize your meat.
Even though the flank isn’t the most tender piece of meat, you can follow certain steps to preserve its tenderness - the most popular methods being to marinate and season it generously, and then cooking it quickly.
Flank steak is great for grilling, broiling, and searing, and it also makes great stir fry! Just make sure not to cook it beyond medium to medium-rare, or it can become tough. And always cut it against the grain to get the best texture.
What Is the Most Expensive Cut of Steak?
The most expensive cut of steak in the world is the A5 Wagyu tenderloin, for a few different reasons. All tenderloin steak cuts are more expensive than other cuts of beef because there isn’t much tenderloin on a cow. Its limited quantity makes it valuable.
Wagyu beef, of all breed, is more expensive than cattle breeds, because of the exacting standards and the expensive method of raising the cow. So that also adds to the price.
A5 wagyu is the most prized of all the wagyu grades and only goes to the cuts with the best marbling, texture, color, and yield. Since this grade is so rare, any A5 wagyu is expensive.
So there you have it: an expensive cut from an expensive cow, with an expensive grading. All three come together to make the most expensive cut of steak.
Remember, the breed of the cow is only one factor that influences the flavor, texture, and quality of meat. Wagyu producers may be using the same practices as industrial produced meat, so it’s important to look for ethical producers if you are about getting the best quality beef for your dollar.
You can visit our Learning Hub if you’re curious about the agricultural practices to watch out for.
The Best Cut of Steak for Grilling
It’s hard to say which steak is the best for grilling because many steak cuts work beautifully on the grill. Ribeye, New York strip and sirloin steaks are extremely popular cuts to grill because they take so well to high-heat cooking and bold flavors.
For the same reasons, skirt and flank steak are also ideal cuts for grilling. These meaty cuts take well to bold flavors and searing and cook up quickly on a hot grill.
Factors to Consider When Buying Steak
Whether you’re roasting, searing, or grilling your steaks, there are a few key characteristics to look out for to ensure you get the best eating experience.
- A good steak has a bold red color, with no hints of gray or brown. Aging can impart these colors, but the steak you buy should be red, and the fat should be a creamy white or slightly pink.
- 100% grass-fed beef tends to have a darker red color than supermarket beef due to the healthier living conditions of the cow and the longer life on the pasture.
- With few exceptions, a good steak is a marbled steak. Even lean cuts like flank steak and skirt steak should have bands and flecks of fat among the muscle fibers. Marbling brings better texture and juiciness
- The surface of the steak should be dry, and the steak shouldn’t be sitting in a pool of liquid. When a steak is first cut, there’s very little moisture on the surface, but over time, the liquids in the meat make their way out. So, a wet steak is an old steak.
- Where your meat comes from plays a significant part in its taste, texture, and quality. It’s important to learn about marketing labels like “organic” and “grass-fed” when it comes to both quality and sustainability.
Steak is a very versatile meal. It’s easy enough to prepare on an ordinary weeknight. But it’s also savory and delicious enough to serve as a more elaborate occasion.
Selecting the right cut of steak is a very specific kind of science and art. Hopefully, this guide has opened your mind to trying some new cuts and finding the best quality.
Find your favorite in our collection of 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised beef, delivered to your door!