Beefing Up on Steak

steakExcept for the vegans and vegetarians, who doesn’t love a tender, great-tasting steak?  With so many options, picking from a long array of steaks on a menu or on a meat shop can be a daunting affair. What are the basic things that you must know to pick the right cut, grade or kind of beef to better enjoy your steak?  If you’re a carnivore, it is time to beef up your basic knowledge of steaks.

Remember that a mouthwatering steak begins with a decent raw steak. Thus, the basic skill or knowledge about the grade of the meat and cut can help tell you a great steak from a regular one.

The Grades of the Steak Meat

The grade refers to the quality of the meat, which in turn is based on the age and marbling of the meat. Marbling can let you visually determine the texture and the delicious flavor of the meat. Lean meats have less of it and less flavor. Those with small streaks of fat through the meat, the “marbling effect,” makes the meat less tender but more flavorful. Fat streaks need to be fine; if these are thick, it has more connective tissues that make the meat tough. In addition, pick meat that is bright red in hue with creamy white fat streak uniformly scattered all over the meat.

The Cuts to Go For

There are three major sections from which the steak cuts can be made. Derrick Riches shares ideas on what beef to buy in this article Steak: Grades & Cuts posted in About Food.

Starting on the upper back and moving down to the mid-back you have the rib, the short loin and the sirloin. The rib contains cuts such as the Rib Roast, the Rib-eye Steak and the back ribs. This is the least tender section of the three. The short loin produces the T-bone, Top Loin Steak, Tenderloin and the Porterhouse. The Sirloin gives the Sirloin Steak, and the Top Sirloin. Other steaks like the chuck, round and flank steak come from those respective areas and tend to be tough cuts of meat. Strips steaks, like the New York Steak is cut from the T-bone portion.

Tenderloin is the most tender cut of beef, though it’s less tasty. This section gives cuts such as filet mignon, tournedos and chateaubriand. On the other hand, if you are looking for delicious cuts but not as tender, go for the rib steak, rib-eye and the sirloin cut.

Upscale Steaks

There are several options out there for you. Which is perfect for you? Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt shares ideas about The Four High End Steaks You Should Know.

First, he defines what steaks are as “fast-cooking” cuts – “…cuts that are low enough in connective tissue that they don’t require the long cooking times that “slow-cooking” cuts require.”

Second, he pointed out despite the availability of so many types of steak cuts, he still considers those that come from pretty unused (and tender) Longgisimus dorsi and Psoas major to be the kinds served in a steakhouse. From these two muscles come a variety of cuts. Four of which are highlighted in the post being the pricey high end steaks that they are. These are: the rib-eye, the boneless strip steak, the tenderloin (filet mignon) and the T-bone/porterhouse steak.

What’s the Perfect Steak for You?

Chicago Gourmet Steaks’ post How to Choose the Right Steak or Cut of Beef describes five types of steak cuts; one can be just perfect for you.

  • Filet Mignon: This comes from the tenderloin and the leanest of all the cuts. It is among the most expensive steak and requires less marinating and grilling time. Don’t overcook it to prevent the meat from drying the meat.
  • Boneless Strip Steak: This steak from the strip loin is marvelously marbled, tender and delicious. It doesn’t require intense or extended marinating time and it is best cooked medium to rare, so as to prevent it from drying out. It is less pricey and can be used for casual home cooking/grilling.
  • T-Bone and Porterhouse: This steak comes with a T- shaped bone hence the name. It is a wonderful steak because it offers two types of meat that are separated by the bone – filet and strip. Note that these two meats will cook at different time. Use the hotter part of the grill to cook the strip and the cooler part to cook the filet.
  • Rib-eye: The type that comes with a bone is also referred to a “Cowboy Steak” known for its intense flavor. It is highly marbled, making it a flavorful piece of meat. Grill on high to medium to maintain the moisture.
  • Sirloin: This is a less tender meat. If you want it tender, the top sirloin will not disappoint you. It is less pricey, tender and is suitable for large gatherings or cookouts. Grill to medium or rarer. Marinate for a few hours for added flavor.

If you love steak, but you are often frustrated because you usually pick the wrong steak, you just need to “beef” up your knowledge about steaks. This simple guide should be able to help you make a smarter choice next time.

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