This is the crowning joy of any barbecuer’s repertoire. The fall back, that everyone does when burgers and dogs are not an option. But, there is so much to choose from. So many differing sizes, tenderness, and places where a good steak can come from, how does one choose? Sometimes, I admit, I just wander in to the grocery store and buy whatever happens to be in the beef isle that isn’t already pre-cubed for the stew or ground.
Choosing your steak is a big decision though, more important than you may think, because the choices you make effect the quality of the steak you produce on the grill. One needs to look at marbling, moisture, colour, and for the top grades that you can.
Marbling is important. It is streaks of fat found in the muscle that are seen in the cut you purchase. It adds juiciness and flavour and can even effect the tenderness of your cut in a good way. But remember all good things in moderation, as the more marbling you have can detract from a good steak as well. The beef that you’re choosing should also have a moist surface, but not be in any way sticky or wet, and definitely avoid any cuts that have pooled liquid if you are getting pre packaged.
The colour of the cut you are getting is also important. The fat and marbling on the piece of meat should be a milky white, never tinted with brown, green or yellow. And the meat itself should be a nice and rich pink, like cherry. Well aged steaks will be red, not have a brown tinge. Really dark or brownish cuts are likely tough and tasteless.
Expensive as it sounds, and it can get that way, buy the best grades of meat you can, no matter what. Any beef aged 4 to 6 weeks is good, dry aged is better. Try to develop a relationship with your butcher, even the ones at the grocery store will listen and try to work with you.
You know the phrase “form follows function”? Well the same applies to your cut of beef. Your cooking intention for the meat should match the intention, whether it be to have a juicy and tender steak, bursting with beefy flavour, or do you want a steak that has been marinated well and melts in your mouth in a cascade of mingled spice and beef.
|Flatiron Steak, also known as Top Blade Steak, is an inexpensive steak that comes from the shoulder known as the chuck. Chuck is synonymous with stewing and braising, but this particular cut is just as tender as more premium cuts. It is best to cook this over high heat and slice it thinly when serving. Flank Steak comes from the lower hind region of the animal after the plate. It’s tougher with little fat so will need to be marinated. Cook it high and fast, until medium rare. This cut is best suited to sandwiches and salads.|
|Hanger Steak is a muscle that hangs between the rib and loin independent of any bones. This intensely flavoured steak does well with marination and seasoning, and is best cooked to medium rare to retain its juices. Sirloin comes from the area between the short loin and the round. These are very flavourful but well-exercised muscles, so they require a little work to tenderize. Marinades and pounding will benefit this cut.|
|Tenderloin Steaks are found in the area between the rib and sirloin. It gets no exercise so it is very tender with virtually no fat. Do not cook this past medium rare. Filet Mignon comes from the leanest and most tenderest part of the tenderloin. It is cut thick and give it’s best when cooked to medium rare.|
|Porterhouse Steaks, are pretty much the same cut as a T-Bone, but it provides the bone-in strip steak and a larger portion of filet mignon in one tasty package. This cut is cut in half through the bone and grills up nice and tasty like. The best ones are about 1½ inches or more thick and weigh 2 lbs. or more, they can serve up to 4 people too.|
|T-Bone Steaksare like two steaks in one. They have strip and some tenderloin all in one. It comes from the short loin of the cow, and they grill beautifully.|
|Rib Steaks, incredibly tender, this cut comes from between the rib and chuck, right between the center of the rib. This cut is great for high heat grilling because of the marbling and leaving the bone in. Having the bone frenched and leaving the cut of meat nice and thick is better known as a cowboy steak. Really not too many steaks benefit from being cooked more than medium rare, so don’t go any further than that and you’ll have a mighty tasty steak there pilgrim.|
|Rib-Eyes are the same steak as the rib steak, with the fat cap, (the strip of fat around the side of the cut which is usually about ¼ to ½–inch thick,) and bone removed. Delicious at medium rare and just an all around good cut.|
|Strip Loin is a cut that is found in the top of the short loin. Most popular in restaurants, because of its lack of marbling and friendly pairing with butters and light sauces. This steak is best cooked to medium rare to medium.|
Now you have read my schpiel on steaks. But if you think I am done, you are mistaken. There is more than meats the eye when it comes to cooking the succulent meat of cow. (And yes that pun was very intentional) Read part II of my ode to cooking steaks, The Steaks are Getting Higher, to learn about cooking, rubbing, marinating them and how to know if your steak is done.Happy Grilling!
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