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Giant List of Steak Cuts
Walking into your butcher shop or even the meat section of your grocery store in search of steak cuts might be an overwhelming experience if you’re not familiar with a cow’s anatomy. Flank steak, skirt steak, ribeye, with so many choice of steaks, the question is, what is each cut good for?
Some of the more popular cuts such as T-bone, tenderloin and ribeye are also the most expensive. These cuts make for a high-class, tender and juicy entree, but what about the other portions of steak? Do you use steak for stews, burgers or ground beef? This list will give you a breakdown of each cut of steak with some alternative names, typical price range, where it’s found on a cow and how they are best prepared.
One rule of thumb when looking for a good steak is knowing what parts of the cow are heavily worked. The more a muscle is used in a cow’s lifetime, the tougher and chewier the meat. For example, the rear section of a cow called the “round” is heavily used because the muscles operate the back legs and therefore better suited for pot roasts or braising to tenderize them. However, parts of the cow that are not used as much, such as the tenderloin, will have more fat marbling and be much more tender (hence the name). This beef cut chart should help as you decide what type of steak you want to cook for dinner.
Chuck steak comes from the neck or shoulder of a cow and is worked extensively throughout the cow’s life. This means it’s going to be a tougher cut with a lot of connective tissue that works best in stews and pot roasts. The upside is the cost. This cut is cheaper than almost any other type of steak, but it has a very intense beefy flavor that appeals to many people.
- Names: Blade roast, book steak, butler steak, lifter steak, petite steak or flat-iron steak, 7 bone steak, ranch steak.
- Boneless?: Usually yes
- Cost: One of the most inexpensive cuts of beef.
- Cut Location: The shoulder and neck area above the brisket and in front of the ribs.
- The Look: Rectangular cut, about 1″ thick and containing parts of the shoulder bones
- The Taste: Some of the most intense beefy flavor on the cow after it’s cooked. This rich flavor makes the meat ideal for stews and pot roasts when you want good flavors. Steaks from this area will be tougher and not ideal for grilling unless marinated.
- Best Uses: Wet cooking methods are best for these steaks, including braising (pot-roasting) and stewing. You must keep these tough cuts of meat moist and cooked over a long period of time in order to be tender.
It might come to no surprise to you that Prime Rib and Ribeye steaks are from the actual ribs of the cow. These cuts are marbled with fat, for a tender, juicy and flavorful slab of beef. Ribs taste great when they are grilled, roasted, or sautéed. You can purchase them in a butcher shop or your local grocery store as they are not hard to find. Rib steak can either come with the bone or as a boneless rib-eye.
Steaks from the Rib
- Names: Entrecôte, delmonico, Scotch fillet, spencer, market, beauty, American kobe top cap steak, spinalis
- How it’s sold: Bone in or boneless
- Cost: One of the most expensive
- Where it’s from: Upper ribcage, ribs #6-12. Ribeyes are basically a prime rib or standing rib roast cut down into individual steaks.
- What it looks like: Lots of fat marbling the meat and large pockets of fat interspersed throughout. The middle (central eye) has a finer grain while the outer section is looser and fattier.
- What it tastes like: These cuts will tend to be more beefy than a tenderloin. They’re a tad less tender than a filet mignon, but the fat marbling and flavor propel this to the pinnacle of beef steaks for many people.
- How to cook it: You can grill, pan sear or broil these cuts because of their tenderness and extensive fat marbling.
If tenderness is the most important thing on your list, but you don’t want to shell out as much cash as a ribeye or tenderloin, you might want to try the nearby short loin. Another benefit, if you’re looking for a larger steak, is the considerable size of the short loin muscle. With the fat marbling somewhere between the ribeye and tenderloin, you will find this to be a very tender juicy piece of beef.
Steaks from the Short Loin
- Names: New York strip, Manhattan, Kansas City strip, top sirloin, contre-filet ambassador steak, boneless club steak, hotel-style steak and veiny steak.
- Boneless?: Usually
- Cost: Close to the most expensive
- Cut Location: The lower back area between the rib and the round sections.
- The Look: There is a large fat section on one edge of the steak, but other than that there is even fat marbling throughout. there are no large pockets of fat. The meat is fine-grained in texture which is ideal for a tender bite that doesn’t leave you chewing till the cows come home.
- The Taste: With medium fat content, short loin steaks are tender, but not as tender as tenderloins or ribeyes.
- Best Uses: You can cook these steaks over high heat to pan sear, broil, or grill as they are on the tender side as far as steaks go.
If you’re looking for more intense flavor than a tenderloin steak you might be interested in Sirloin. It’s best prepared by sautéing, grilling and broiling. In most cases, this will be the best bang for your buck in regards to flavor and tenderness. At the grocery store you are likely to find sirloin tips and sirloin steaks, which may or may not come with the bone still in.
Steaks from the Sirloin
- Names: T-bone, porterhouse, club steak, tri-tip flap meat, top butt, center-cut roast
- Boneless?: T-bone and porterhouse are not, other cuts are
- Cost: one of the most expensive, especially the top sirloin
- Cut Location: The T-bone and porterhouse are a cross section of the unfilleted short loin. The club steak is closer to the rib section and does not include any tenderloin. The tri-Tip comes from the bottom boneless portion of the bottom sirloin area.
- The Look: For a T-bone, the name says it all: there is a t-shaped bone with meat on both sides of the longer portion of the bone. On one side is a piece of the tenderloin, and the other side is New York strip. The porterhouse will have more tenderloin meat that tapers out through the T-bone and stops before the club steak section begins. There is generous fat marbling throughout these cuts of meat.
- The Taste: You get the best of both worlds with these cuts: super tender, buttery tenderloin, and beefy, juicy strip steak.
- Best Uses: Because there are basically two different kinds of steak in one cut, you have to be careful when cooking since the tenderloin will cook more quickly than the strip side. Try to keep the tenderloin further away from the heat source: use a two-level fire when grilling or position it away from the heating element if broiling if you want to get technical.
If you’re looking for the best cut of beef you’ve found it. The tenderloin is the most tender, juicy and, therefore, expensive part of the cow. This muscle on the top of the loin area of the cow is not worked very much throughout a cow’s life so it stays tender and with good fat marbling. This combination makes for a great tasting slab of beef. When you hear the words Filet Mignon or Châteaubriand you immediately think of a high class dinner at an expensive restaurant.
Steaks from the Tenderloin
- Names: Filet mignon or châteaubriand
- Boneless?: Yes
- Cost: The most expensive cut of steak
- Cut Location: The tenderloin is a strip of meat under the ribs that starts out thick on one end and gets thinner near the tail end. Filet mignon is taken from the smaller end, châteaubriand the thicker end.
- The Look: When trimmed of silver skin, gristle, and fat, tenderloin is small and compact. The meat is lean and very fine-grained in texture. Because of its smaller shape, tenderloin steaks are cut thicker than most steaks.
- The Taste: The tenderest of all the steaks and lean, tenderloin is buttery and mild in flavor.
- Best Uses: Because cuts of tenderloin tend to be thick, the best way to cook it is to sear the outside until browned, then finish the cooking in the gentle, even heat of an oven.
The upper rear section of the cow is called the round. This is a highly worked area of the cow and thus is very tough if not cooked properly. The more tender cuts of steak are closer to the top of the cow, while the tougher cuts are found closer to the shank section. Therefore, the cost of round steak will increase the closer they are to the top of the cow.
Steaks from the Round
- Names: Round steak, top of round, bottom of round, eye round, cube steak, butt steak, Swiss steak or rump steak
- Boneless?: Round steak usually is not, but rump, butt and cube steak are boneless
- Cost: Price increases the higher up the cut. Lower sections of the round are very cheap. The upper sections are more tender and thus more expensive.
- Cut Location: Round steak is taken from the rear leg muscle around the femur bone.
- The Look: Because this area of the cow is worked hard so there is not much fat marbling. There is also a bone running through most cuts of round steak. Cube steak is usually tenderized by pounding or mechanical blades that leave a cube shape in the meat, thus the name.
- The Taste: Can be rather tough if not cooked correctly due to the lack of fat marbling. These cuts do offer good beefy flavor, but make sure to cook them to optimal tenderness or your guests will be chewing till the cows come home.
- Best Uses: Wet cooking in a Dutch oven or deep frying will preserve other cooking device
Plate & Flank
The plate and flank sections of a cow are generally cheaper, but versatile pieces of meat. These boneless cuts are most commonly found in Tex-Mex dishes such as Fajitas or asian dishes like stir-fry. You would want to marinate these steaks before cooking them up on the grill because they tend to get a little tough and dry if not kept moist. The rich beefy flavor make for a tasty steak, but make sure to cut across the grain of the meat to keep chewing time to a minimum. We don’t want you to suffer from tough steak jaw fatigue.
- Names: Plate Steak, Short Plate, Flank Steak, Flap Steak, Outside Skirt Steak, Inside Skirt Steak, Jiffy Steak
- Boneless?: Yes
- Cost: One of the cheapest
- Cut Location: The belly of the cow called the plate (near the front legs) and flank (near the hind legs)
- The Look: Long and flat rectangular boneless piece of meat that often has decent fat running through it, but in general more lean than more expensive steaks.
- The Taste: Very popular for tex-mex dishes, it’s a tough and fatty piece of meat that’s great for grilling to put into other dishes as it has a very beefy flavor.
- Best Uses: Fajitas, stir-fry, bolognese sauce and arrachera are great for these cuts of meat, but you can also grill them after letting them marinate and soften up a bit.
Less Common Steaks:
Filet of Sirloin
Also known as: baseball steak
This is a cut that is rising in popularity as people are looking for smaller steaks that cost less. While not as tender as a filet mignon, it could be very easily mistaken for one based on appearance. It’s more flavorful than a filet, but not as tender. It cooks evenly and looks cool as it swells up like a baseball, hence the nickname.
Denver Cut Steak
Also known as: Underblade steak
This extremely well marbled cut is part near the short rib in the chuck section of a cow. You can easily grill this cut as it has very even distribution of fat marbling that makes for a tender and juicy piece of meat.
Flat Iron Steak
Also known as: Butlers steak in U.K. and oyster blade steak in Australia
This cut from under the shoulder blade that follows the grain. Because it is not a cross grain cut it tends to be very tough, but the flavor almost makes up for its toughness. You just need to cook it right and cut individual bites across the grain to make it more chewable.
(Butcher’s Tenderloin or “Onglet” in France)
This steak comes from the diaphragm of the cow and while it is flavorful and tender on the outer edges, the middle of this steak is rather tough. Another name for this cut is the hanging tender.
If you’re ever in Scotland or the United Kingdom you might come across this cut. It’s taken from the round area of the cow and tends to be a thinly sliced cut of meat.
Shank steak might look well-marbled, but don’t be fooled. This is one of the toughest cuts of meat and is not recommended for cooking on the grill. You can braise or slow cook these cuts to make them into shredded meat, but you’d give your jaw a workout trying to eat these like a tenderloin.
This ground beef patty is not a steak at all. It’s combined with ingredients such as onions, bread crumbs, and mushrooms. Other names for this type of “steak” include Hamburger Steak or Minute Steak since it does not take a lot of time to cook. It is made from lower grade meat so the price is significantly lower than other whole cuts of steak.
Much like Salisbury “steak” this patty is made from ground beef and less desirable cuts of beef parts that are chopped up, minced and shaped.