To the untrained eye, the different cuts of beef might not look too different from one another. However, as any good butcher will tell you, each cut varies in tenderness, leanness and flavour and can be suited to different types of cooking.
To help you understand which cut is right for you, we’re going to take a look at five of the most popular cuts of steak. We will discuss where each cut comes from as well as their respective pros and cons.
As the name suggests, the rib-eye comes from the rib portion of the cow. Since this part of the animal doesn’t do a lot of work in terms of movement, it is one of the most tender cuts of beef that you can get, second only to the tenderloin. Rib-eye also has a great deal of marbling (fat content), making it more flavourful in comparison to leaner cuts.
You might also have heard the rib-eye referred to as the scotch fillet. Though these two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between them. The steak is called a rib-eye when the rib is left with the cut. If the rib is removed, however, it’s referred to as a scotch fillet. When cooking the steak, the presence or absence of the bone will affect the flavour. When cooking a rib-eye steak, the bone tends to remain cooler than the meat. As a result, the meat near the bone cooks a little slower than the rest of the cut. The slow-cooked portion of the meat retains more moisture and therefore more flavour.
The tenderloin comes from the muscle behind the backbone of the cow. The muscle has a ‘pencil-shape’ to it, in that it’s wide towards the rear of the cow and gets progressively thinner as it reaches the front. This muscle isn’t used much. As a result, it is the most tender cut of beef that you can get.
The tip of the tenderloin is where you can get the famous filet mignon, which is generally the most expensive cut of meat in the market.
With that being said, the tenderloin tends to be very lean and doesn’t have much marbling. As a result, it’s not as flavourful as the rib-eye or the sirloin steak. Additionally, a lean composition also means it tends to dry out pretty fast when cooked. Because of this, you need to be extra careful not to overcook a tenderloin cut.
The sirloin is a subprimal cut from the posterior of the cow. Subprimal means it is a smaller, ready-to-cook cut of meat that comes from the larger, primal cut. In this case, the primal cut is the loin.
The sirloin can be split further into two separate parts. The top sirloin is the most expensive of the two. It is considered to be an all-rounder, with a good mix of tenderness and flavour. The bottom sirloin, on the other hand, is less tender. It also tends to be a leaner cut of meat, making it easier to overcook. It is, however, a larger cut of meat and less expensive than the top sirloin.
Keep in mind that in British and Australian butchery, the sirloin refers to the upper middle part of the cow. In America, that same part is usually referred to as the upper part of the short loin.
- T-Bone and Porterhouse
The T-bone and the porterhouse are similar in that they both feature a bone that separates two different cuts of meat. These two parts are the top sirloin and the tenderloin.
The porterhouse is cut near the posterior of the cow and therefore it has more of the tenderloin meat. The T-bone, on the other hand, is cut more towards the front of the cow and therefore has the thinner part of the tenderloin. The T-bone, however, does contain the front of the tenderloin, which if you remember, is the filet mignon.
The porterhouse that’s described above is actually an American-style porterhouse. In British, New Zealand and Australian butchery, a porterhouse refers to a boneless sirloin cut. Essentially, it’s the American porterhouse without the tenderloin.
Flank steaks come from the developed abdominal muscles of the cow. Because of this, it has a tougher texture compared to the rest of the cuts mentioned above. However, if cooked right, a flank steak can be extremely flavourful.
With a flank steak, you need to make sure that it is tenderised properly. You can do this with a tenderising mallet or a cooking pan. Creating knife scores across the surface will also help break down the connective tissue, making the meat even more tender.
Once that’s done, it’s best to marinate the beef for at least four hours. If you want the meat to become even more tender, marinate it for around 12 hours.
It’s recommended that you use a slow, moist-heat cooking method in order to achieve the ideal flank steak texture.
Those were just a few examples of the different cuts of beef that you can get. Some people might be a little strict about how they want their steaks done. However, at the end of the day, it’s about what you enjoy. So, try out these different cuts of steak and see what works best for you.