What Is an Entrecote?

Entrecote with sweet potato puree, gnocchi and raisins
Vegar Abelsnes Photography / Getty Images

Entrecote is a French word for a beef steak that was cut from between the ribs. It's a very thin boneless ribeye. Indeed, some places will call an ordinary boneless ribeye an entrecote, probably because it sounds fancy.

But to my way of thinking, true entrecote is less desirable than an actual ribeye. Not because of the meat, which is the same beautiful ribeye meat, but because of the thickness. Or lack thereof.

Entrecote: a Very Thin Boneless Ribeye

Think about the structure of a beef rib primal: you have a large chunk of meat and bone from the forequarter of the side of beef, just behind the beef chuck, containing seven ribs: 6th through 12th.

Now, if you remove the bones, you can carve that into as many or as few steaks as you like. These will be boneless ribeye steaks. If you're making bone-in ribeyes, you can get seven steaks, each one with a bone attached.

However, there's meat in between the bones as well, which means if you cut your ribeyes flush with the bone on each side, you will then be able to make six boneless steaks from the meat in between each bone.

The meat in between the ribs is called intercostal meat. If you've ever had beef back ribs, you're mainly gnawing at the intercostal meat, because there's usually very little meat on the underside of beef ribs. That's because butchers can sell ribeye steaks for a higher price than they can sell beef ribs, so they trim them as closely as possible.

However, this intercostal meat is every bit as tender and flavorful as a ribeye steak — it IS ribeye steak. In fact, when you see thin boneless ribeye steaks, you're talking about intercostal meat.

Now: Intercostal. Entrecote. See how these are the same word? 

Thus an entrecote is a steak taken from between the beef ribs, and as such it's a thinner cut and can be cooked very quickly in a skillet, saute pan or on the grill.

Oddly enough, at one time, the word entrecote referred specifically to steaks that came from the center of the rib primal, between the 9th and 10th ribs and the 10th and 11th ribs. This meant you'd get two entrecotes from each side of beef, giving it a mysterious yet wholly arbitrary allure.

How to Cook Entrecote

We've written about how to cook a ribeye steak, and it basically comes down to cooking it for four minutes on one side and then three minutes on the other side. But this it assumes your steak is an inch to 1¼ inches thick. An entrecote might be closer to 1/2 or 3/4 of an inch, which means you're going to have to be very quick about it.

It also means getting your pan very hot before you put the steak in. It's not an exaggeration to say that an entrecote might only need a minute or two on each side to reach perfect medium rare. Because they're so thin, it's very easy to overcook them, and you don't want an overcooked entrecote any more than you want an overcooked rib-eye.