There’s nothing more satisfying than digging into a huge, juicy steak. When you find yourself hankering for a beautiful slab of meat, it definitely helps to know the difference between a porterhouse and a filet mignon, and what to say when your server asks for your preferred doneness.
Now, let’s talk steak basics.
Steaks are pieces of meat that fall under the “fast-cooking” category. They come from the short loin, tenderloin, and ribs of the cow, and these muscles aren’t exercised very much, making them more tender than other beef cuts. Here, we focus on a few premium cuts, some that you’ll surely come across at any steakhouse.
Also Known As: Filet Mignon, Chateaubriand, Fillet, and Filet.
What Is It? Usually sold boneless, this cut is from the short loin and sirloin, under the ribs.
Why People Love It: With the least amount of fat, it isn’t as flavorful as other steak cuts, but this lean piece of meat is the most tender of them all, with a wonderful buttery flavor.
Pro-Tip: Tenderloin cuts are usually thickly, so it’s best to sear the outside until it’s browned. Try basting this steak with butter to add even more richness.
2. New York Strip
Also Known As: Strip, Manhattan, Kansas City Strip, Top Sirloin, Top Loin, and Contre-filet.
What Is It? This cut is from the short loin behind the ribs and is usually sold boneless.
Why People Love It: With a medium fat content, this cut is still pretty tender and flavorful, with a great, beefy flavor profile. Because it has less fat pockets, it’s easier to cut and cook.
Pro-Tip: Pan-searing, broiling, or grilling this cut is the best way to get the most out of your New York Strip. Since this cut has less fat, it’s less prone to flare-ups and burning.
Also Known As: Porterhouse. (Note that the difference between a T-Bone and Porterhouse steak is cut: T-bones are cut closer to the front and have less tenderloin, while Porterhouse steaks are cut from the rear end of the short loin.
What Is It? This cut is usually sold bone-in and is found in the cross section of the unfilleted short loin. This T-shaped piece of meat’s got tenderloin on one side and New York strip on the other, and a generous amount of marbling.
Why People Love It: You get the best of both worlds with this steak: Buttery tenderloin and beefy New York strip. What more can you ask for?
Pro-Tip: It’s important to be careful when cooking this particular meat because there are two different kinds of steak in one cut. Keep in mind that the tenderloin cooks faster than the strip, so it’s best to keep the tenderloin farther away from the heat.
Also Known As: Delmonico, Entrecote, Scotch fillet, Spencer, market, and beauty.
What Is It? Sold either bone-in or boneless, this cut is found in the upper ribcage through rib six to twelve.
Why People Love It: Since a rib-eye’s high fat content makes this cut extremely flavorful, it’s a fast favorite and one of the most commonly ordered steaks at restaurants. Remember, the marbling on this beauty is key to a great, succulent steak.
Pro-Tip: Because the meat is surrounded by fat, it is best to cook a rib-eye on a cast iron skillet, which results in ultimate flavor retention. When cooking this on a grill, you risk flavorful fat falling through the grill’s grates. Plus, it'll burn easily, too.
~Steak Doneness 101~
A rare steak should be warm in the middle, browned around the sides, and red in the middle. It should feel raw, yet its surface should be brown.
A medium rare steak should be warm through the middle, with a hint of red. The sides of the steak should be browned, and the center should be pink. You’ll know a steak is medium rare when its surface is firm, but has a soft middle. A medium rare steak is the ideal steak doneness.
A medium steak should be light pink through the middle, but more brown than anything else. The top and bottom should be charred but not burned.
A medium well steak should have just a slight hint of pink in the center with its surface being dark brown and charred. This steak might be a little stiff, but should still be slightly soft in the middle. This steak doneness is recommended for those who get squeamish at the sight of pink meat.
A well done steak is the most difficult to cook. It should be browned through but not burnt, and with absolutely no sign of pink. The trick to cooking a well done steak is to do it slowly over very low heat—this way you prevent burning while fully cooking the middle.