It’s time to fire up the grill! Whether you’re at the supermarket, specialty butcher, or a restaurant, choosing a cut of steak — and figuring out which ones are great for grilling — can sometimes get a little confusing. The style and quality of the cut can have a massive impact on the flavor and taste of your steaks, and with so many key words and phrases, it can be tough to keep track of it all.
To make your life easier, we’ve compiled some quick facts and cooking suggestions for some popular cuts of steak. So next time you’re deciding what to bring home for dinner, or what to order next time you go out, you can find the exact cut of meat that works for you.
Sirloin: A highly flavorful, lean and juicy cut of steak that’s moderately tender with no bones and little fat. The Sirloin Steak’s affordable price offers convenience and great value, making it a great choice to feed an entire family.
Recommended Cooking: Grill, Pan-Sear or Broil. This steak is extremely versatile and can be cooked in a number of different ways. Outdoor grilling is a favorite for summer months, while pan-frying and grilling offer convenience during the winter months.
Sirloin Tip Strip Steak: This cut, also known as the knuckle or sandwich steak, is the most tender of the round cuts. Sirloin tip is the name given to this cut, yet here in New England, the term “tips” is typically expected to describe this steak cut into small pieces.
Recommended Cooking: Grill. A lean and quick-cooking cut of meat, sirloin tips are best when marinated before grilling.
Filet: Also referred to as Tenderloin, the Filet is an extremely tender cut of beef and has an almost buttery texture. Filets are also fairly low in fat content, which gives them less flavor than some of the other cuts available. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for a low-fat cut, or are looking for tenderness over flavor.
Recommended Cooking: Grill or Pan-Sear. Filets, also known as Tenderloins, tend to cook much faster than other cuts – a result of their lower fat content – and are more prone to drying out. The key to a Filet grilled to your specifications is to use a meat thermometer (145°F for medium rare and 160°F for medium). Pan-frying in oil, basting with butter, or wrapping in bacon can also help to retain moisture.
Rib eye: Distinguished by rich marbling that runs throughout and its exceptional flavor. The Rib Eye is arguably the richest, beefiest cut available. The central eye tends to be smooth textured with a finer grain than a Strip Steak, while the Spinalis Dorsi – or “Rib Eye Cap” section, the outer edge around the central eye – will have looser grain, more fat, and as a result more flavor.
Recommended Cooking: Pan-Sear. Season with salt and allow steaks to sit for at least 40 minutes before seasoning with pepper and cooking in oil. Flip frequently with tongs. While grilling is possible, the large amounts of fat on this cut make it prone to flare-ups. If you choose to go this route, make sure you have a lid and tongs ready.
Flat iron: Looks like an old-fashioned flat iron. The Flat Iron Steak is well-marbled, tender, and juicy. It is widely considered to be second only to a tenderloin in terms of tenderness while additional marbling gives the Flat Iron a more hearty “beef flavor” at about half the cost.
Recommended Cooking: Grill or Pan-Sear. Best when prepared medium-rare to medium, as cooking past medium temperature will cause the meat to become tough. Excellent on the grill. They’re great marinated, but the strong flavor makes it nonessential. Flavor lightly with salt and pepper and serve with sauce on the side.
Strip steak: Moderately tender with a tight texture and grain. Not quite as much marbling as a Rib Eye, but with no large pockets of fat, the Strip Steak is easier to cook, and also easier to eat. The Strip Steak is a favorite of both restaurants and at-home cooks!
Recommended Cooking: Pan-Sear, Grill or Broil. Less fat than a Rib Eye makes the Strip Steak an easier cut to grill, with fewer flare-ups and less burning.
T bone: Two cuts in one steak. The T-Bone is a combination of a Tenderloin (Filet) and Strip Steak separated by a “T” shaped bone. A typical T-Bone has a fairly small piece of tenderloin, between ½” and 1 ½” wide. If the cut is made further down, and the section of tenderloin is more than 1 ½” wide, it then becomes a Porterhouse Steak.
Recommended Cooking: Grill or Broil. Pan-searing is difficult due to the shape of the bone which prevents the meat from making good contact with the pan surface. In addition, cooking T-Bones can be difficult because the different cuts of meat cook at different speeds – The Tenderloin will cook much faster than the Strip section. To fix this, make sure that when cooking, you place the tenderloin section further away from the heat source, allowing for more consistent “done-ness” throughout.
Shoulder Steak for London Broil: While you might hear the term London Broil used to refer to a cut of beef, it’s actually a cooking technique. Shoulder Steak is a cut of beef typically used to make London Broil. This tender cut takes very well to rubs and marinades.
Recommended Cooking: Broil or Grill. Marinate the meat overnight to make it tender. Then, broil or grill the steak on high heat for 3-5 minutes per side. Cut it across the grain into thin strips. It can also be cooked rare and served cold or at room temperature at a later time.
Rump Tip Steak: Also known as a bottom round roast, a Rump Tip Steak is a lean and economical cut of beef. This cut has little fat, making it a little less tender. This steak is full of flavor and the fat is easily removed.
Recommended Cooking: Braise, Stir-Fry or Grill. Rump becomes tender when it’s either braised on low heat slowly or marinated for several hours or overnight. After marinating, it can be sliced for stir-frying or grilled.
Flank Steak: A cut that is relatively long and flat, Flank Steak is served in slices. This flavorful, lean, boneless steak is typically cut across the grain to increase its tenderness.
Recommended Cooking: Grill or Pan-Fry. Flank steak can be simply grilled with salt, pepper and oil for a few minutes per side or pan-fried. Marinate it to make it more tender.