If you don’t know the difference between a flank steak and a T-bone, ordering at a restaurant or preparing for a barbecue can be difficult. Use this primer as a quick reference for the different types of beef steak and how they are best prepared:
- Chuck Steak – Chuck comes from the shoulder area of the cow. This meat contains a large amount of collagen and other connective tissues, which can be can cause it to be tough when cooked quickly on a grill but becomes quite tender when cooked with slow methods like baking, braising, stewing, or roasting. Chuck steak is often used to make ground beef.
- Cube Steak– Cube steak is usually made from top round, which is taken from the large hind quarter muscles of the cow. Cube steak is tenderized and softened by pounding with heavy mallets or other mechanical methods, and is named for the indentions made in the meat.
- Filet Mignon – This steak is cut from the tenderloin, which is a small, very lean, and tender muscle that runs along the back of the cow. Because the tenderloin is small and the most tender cut of meat on the cow, it is usually the most expensive. It's best to cook filet mignon for a short amount of time so it doesn't dry out.
- Flank Steak – Flank steak is a long, flat cut of meat taken from the belly of the cow. Although this cut is quite flavorful, it tends to be tougher than other cuts of beef. It's best when marinated, cooked over high heat like a grill or slow braised, and sliced against the grain.
- Hanger Steak – Similar in flavor and leanness to flank and skirt steaks, hanger steak is a boneless cut that's best when marinated and grilled. Slice and use for dishes like steak tacos.
- New York Strip Steak – A New York Strip steak is similar to a porterhouse or a T-bone steak, but without the filet or tenderloin attached. This flavorful cut of meat is ideal for grilling or broiling and is a favorite of steak lovers. This steak, which is cut from the rear portion of the back, may also be referred to as a top loin steak or a club steak if it's bone-in.
- Porterhouse Steak – This steak is a combination of two parts: strip steak and tenderloin. This large steak is cut from the back, below the ribs and contains a large, t-shaped bone. Porterhouse steak is similar to a T-bone steak but generally has more tenderloin filet attached. It's popular at steak houses for its large size, and is typically seared before finishing in the oven or on the cooler side of the grill.
- Rib-Eye Steak – This steak is cut from the ribs of the cow and contains a high amount of marbled fat, which makes it tender, juicy, and flavorful. Rib-eye steaks are can be grilled or roasted in the oven to soften the fat and connective tissue. The large amounts of fat can cause flare-ups when grilling, so it's best to keep a close (but not too close) watch.
- Round Steak – Taken from the butt of the cow, round steak is typically very lean. If not cooked properly, this cut can become quite dry due to the low-fat content. Round steaks benefit from a nice marinade, are best for grilling and slicing for fajitas or stir-fry, or making into ground beef or jerky.
- Sirloin Steak – Sirloin is taken from the hip of the cow and tends to be slightly more tough and lean than other cuts. The top sirloin is more tender and better for grilling, and the bottom sirloin is better for roasting. Tri-tip is a cut of bottom sirloin.
- Skirt Steak – Skirt steak is cut from the diaphragm of the cow and can be further divided into inside or outside skirt steak. Both are a flavorful, thin cut of meat with lots of connective tissue. It's best cooked quickly over a hot grill and sliced very thin against the grain.
- Strip Steak – A very tender cut of steak taken from the loin and also referred to as New York Strip Steak.
- T-Bone Steak – Named for the T-shaped bone that connects a piece of top loin with a piece of tenderloin, T-bone steaks are worthy of a special occasion. Great for grilling, the filet side should always be angled the farthest away from the flame to prevent over-cooking.
- Tri-tip Steak – This steak is a triangular cut from the bottom sirloin and is built for the grill. The boneless cut of beef is flavorful but economical, and is best when it's not over-cooked.