The two main types of steaks are grilling steaks and marinating steaks. While marinating steaks are cut from the flank section, prime grilling steaks are cut from rib, sirloin and loin sections. The loin section can be cut two ways: removing the tenderloin and strip loin separately; or cutting steaks that contain portions of both the tenderloin and strip loin (T-bone and porterhouse).
Tender grilling steaks can be cooked with minimal preparation. Less tender marinating steaks benefit from standing in an acidic-based mixture for four to 24 hours, which helps to tenderize them. Marinating steaks should be grilled or broiled only to medium-rare or medium: anything beyond medium tends to produce toughness.
• Tenderloin: Medallions or filets are cut from the loin section and are the leanest, most tender steaks. Sometimes they are wrapped in bacon to add flavour and keep them juicy while cooking. Be careful not to overcook them: they will become dry and tasteless.
• Strip Loin: Strip loin grilling steaks and medallions are cut from the loin section. Though not as tender as tenderloin, they are much more flavourful (in fact, many gourmands consider them the tastiest cut). These often appear on restaurants menus as New York strip steak or entrecote.
• T-Bone: This easily identifiable steak with the T-shaped bone is cut from the centre of the short loin (the tender section of muscle between rib and sirloin). It has tenderloin on one side of the bone and strip loin on the other. Because the meat is cooked on the bone, both sides are very flavourful.
• Porterhouse: Though similar looking to T-bones, porterhouse steaks are cut from the large end of the short loin, yielding a larger piece of tenderloin. If both are priced the same, you’ll get more tenderloin for your money with a porterhouse steak than a T-bone. Porterhouse steak takes careful cooking because the two sides cook slightly differently. Sear it over high heat then finish it at moderate heat.
• Top Sirloin: Top sirloin is a large steak (usually 2 to 3 inches/5 to 8 cm thick) and makes an attractive presentation when cooked whole and sliced to serve four or more. Because it is cut from a muscle close to the hindquarters, it is a little tougher than rib and loin cuts, but it is very flavourful.
• Rib Eye: Cut from the short loin, next to the rib end, this tender steak has a fine-textured centre portion known as a “rib eye,” which should be delicately marbled. (The whole steak without the bone is sometimes called a Delmonico steak.)
• Flank: Steaks cut from the underside flank section are relatively coarse but they contain enough fat to maintain a little tenderness. These lean, somewhat tough, but flavourful cuts benefit from the tenderizing effects of a marinade. They are best when cooked to medium-rare and thinly sliced across the grain.
• Season steaks right before or after cooking. Don’t season them too far ahead because salt leaches out the juice.
• To season steaks, you need nothing more than salt and pepper. However, flavourful spice rubs, pan sauces or compound butters can enhance steaks, and are great for entertaining.
• To test for doneness, do not cut into steaks, because juices will escape. Instead, press steak: the tighter it feels, the more well done it is. A more accurate approach is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. Cook to 145°F (63°C) for medium-rare and 160°F (71°C) for medium, or about 5 minutes per side per 1 inch (2.5 cm) of thickness.
• When done, let steak rest before cutting so juices absorb back into the steak. Tent it lightly with foil to retain heat. Do not cover tightly because the meat will continue cooking.
Steak Cooking Times