Cooking School

Steak guide: How to choose the best steak cut

Photography by Jeff Coulson Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Jeff Coulson

Cooking School

Steak guide: How to choose the best steak cut

There are three main types of steak: Grilling steaks, marinating steaks and simmering steaks. Grilling steaks are quick-cooking, naturally tender and can go straight from the fridge to grill. Marinating and simmering steaks are generally less expensive, but they need a little TLC to become tender.

Here's what you need to know to choose the best steak cut.

Grilling steaks

Tenderloin a.k.a. filet mignon, fillet steak, beef fillet, châteaubriand  
Price: Special-occasion splurge ($21 to $40 per pound)
The 411: Tenderloin has a soft buttery texture and subtle flavour yet is leaner than most other tender cuts. Be wary of overcooking this steak; it's best cooked to medium or under. This is the cut of choice for raw dishes, such as steak tartare and beef carpaccio.
tenderloin steaks



Rib Eye
a.k.a. entrecôte, rib steak, cowboy steak (if bone is attached)  

Price: Special-occasion splurge ($21 to $40 per pound)
The 411: This cut is easily identified by the small pocket of fat (called the plug) that separates the two muscles. Extensive marbling (the white lines of fat) gives this cut its signature juiciness and flavour.
rib eye steak



Top Sirloin
a.k.a. baseball steak (when thickly cut), culotte, centre-cut sirloin, cap steak
Price: Weeknight-friendly ($11 to $15 per pound)
The 411: Less expensive than strip loin, tenderloin or rib eye, this cut delivers on tenderness and is more flavourful than many of its pricier alternatives. It's ideal for the budget gourmet.
top sirloin steak



Strip Loin
a.k.a. New York strip, strip steak  
Price: Weekend splurge ($16 to $20 per pound)
The 411: This steak is known for its outstanding flavour and good marbling. While not as tender as rib eye, it's leaner and offers a beefier flavour.
strip loin steak



T-Bone
a.k.a. club steak, porterhouse (when cut to include a large tenderloin section)  
Price: Weekend splurge ($16 to $20 per pound)
The 411: This cut gets its name from the T-shaped bone that separates the larger strip loin on one side of the steak from the smaller tenderloin on the other. Consider it a two-for-one that's good for sharing or for those who can't choose between the flavour of strip loin and the texture of tenderloin.
tbone steak



FlatIron
a.k.a. top blade flatiron
Price: Weekend splurge ($16 to $20 per pound)
The 411: Considered a great substitute for tenderloin,  this extremely tender steak is gaining popularity. Always check the label to ensure it's a top blade flatiron  cut, as there is also a top blade simmering steak.
flatiron steaks




Marinating steaks


Flank a.k.a. London broil  
Price: Weeknight friendly ($11 to $15 per pound)
The 411: This large oval steak has a delicious beefy flavour with little to no connective tissue, making it quite tender when sliced across the grain. Marinating greatly improves the texture, but you can get away without it in a pinch. Its tapered ends cook faster than the middle—great for feeding a group that prefers a variety of options for doneness.
flank steak



Round
a.k.a. inside round, outside round, eye of round, rump, minute steak, fast-fry  
Price: Great value ($7 to $10 per pound)
The 411: This cut comes in three variations: eye of round, inside round and outside round. Eye of round is very lean and mild; it's best prepared with strong marinades. Inside and outside rounds have a stronger flavour; inside round is the more tender of the two.
eye of round



Sirloin Tip
a.k.a. sandwich steak, knuckle steak  
Price: Great value ($7 to $10 per pound)
The 411: This is a very lean cut with good flavour. Because of its minimal marbling, this steak really needs to be pierced and marinated to tenderize the meat before cooking. Often sold as a roast, it can easily be cut into individual steaks.
sirloin tip steak



Simmering steaks

Price: Great value ($7 to $ 10 per pound)
The 411: Think of these as roasts that serve two to three people. They're relatively tough yet flavourful and should be cooked using moist methods, such as braising or slow cooking. The most common simmering steaks are blade and cross rib. Blade is slightly more tender than cross rib, but both should be cooked low and slow to maximize tenderness.

Learn how to cook the perfect steak everytime.

Photography by Jeff Coulson

This story was originally part of "Raising The Steaks" in the June 2015 issue.
           
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Steak guide: How to choose the best steak cut

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