One of my favorite classes George Punter and I taught was a food and wine pairing class called The Great American Steakhouse. We pulled out all the stops with a classic throwback menu of Clams Casino, Wedge Salad, Steak au Poivre, Hand-Cut French Fries, and Chocolate Mousse, plus wine pairings that were simply stunning. Needless to say we all had a blast, but we did spend quite a lot of time just talking steak.
I pulled out all of our tender steak cuts and we discussed each of their attributes. If you are always buying and ordering the same cut, I would like to challenge you to break out and try a couple different ones. Different steak cuts vary in textures, looks, moisture & fat content, and obviously price.
Rib-Eyes tend to be the choice of most serious steak lovers. Plenty of tender meat and lots of flavor, it is sometimes called a Tomahawk Steak with the rib bone attached, or Beef Rib Steak, Saratoga Steak, or Cowboy Steak. In my kitchen, I don’t mess around too much with this cut because you are paying for all of its natural, big flavor. Enjoy it simply well-seasoned with some good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. And a glass of California Cabernet.
Although Strip Steaks have less visible fat, I enjoy the firmer, slightly chewier texture better when I am in the mood for serious steak. This particular cut was made famous by Delmonico’s, an NYC restaurant founded in 1827. This restaurant offered a short loin as one of their signature dishes, and so the cut became known in the East Coast area as the Delmonico Steak. New York Strip, another name, is cut from the short loin part of the sirloin and has a fine-grained texture that has enough fat to produce lots of flavor but tends to not be as tender as a ribeye.
Call it what you want, Filet, Filet Mignon, Tenderloin, or Châteaubriand, it’s unbelievably tender and buttery on both texture and flavor. It also happens to be one of the leanest types of steak cuts. Since fat = flavor here, this is the steak I like to serve with some kind of full-flavored sauce (béarnaise or green peppercorn) or mount with some herb butter to ramp up its flavor.
The Porterhouse is a thick, bone-in steak where you get the best of the strip steak on one side and filet on the other all in one cut. (The T-Bone is the smaller, thinner cut version.) A fun steak to share or carve at the table as one of these can easily feed 2-3 people! I like to grill this one for special occasions, seasoned well and drizzled with some Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.
Love all sorts of rubs and marinades? Then Top Sirloin is for you. I tend to think of this steak cut as the unsung hero. Although it is naturally a bit tougher than the other tender cuts of steak, its grainy texture and leanness will more than make up for it in its overall flavor and price point. This cut benefits from the added fat a marinade can provide or the flavor boost from your favorite rub. I love it for steak salads and sandwiches, plus it can serve a crowd (or my family) who all want steak but are on a budget.
Vary your steak choices based on what you want on your dinner plate. Each steak cut offers different attributes and might not work for every finished dish. Remember two important things: fat = flavor and you get what you pay for!