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Lets Talk Steak


As I was jotting down notes for this article, I thought I would discuss everything I knew about different cuts of Beef. However, I realized that my intensions were a bit on the lofty side. There are so many cuts of beef that are considered steak; my article could easily turn into a novel. Therefore, Iíve decided to pick the most common cuts of meat.

First letís go over some basic information on the quality of the beef we eat.

It goes without saying that some cuts of meat are naturally more tender than others. Cuts that come from the less-used muscles along the upper and mid section of the animal (the rib and loin sections) are always more tender than the cuts that are from the muscles used more often such as the shoulder, flank, and leg. Also, because the more tender cuts make up a smaller portion of the animal, they are always in more demand and therefore more expensive.

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) grades beef with based on a distinct measure of quality, which includes eight different grades. They are Prime (available at hotels, fine restaurants and high-end markets), Choice (available at most butchers and grocers), Select (uniform in quality, but leaner than the higher grades), Standard (sold as ungraded or ďbrand nameĒ), Commercial (this grade and lower are used to make ground beef, frankfurters and other processed foods), Utility, Cutter, and Canner. Choice is a very good grade and it is about the lowest grade you want to consider investing your time and money into for a serious cut of beef.

Grill, Smoke or BBQ? I never refer to cooking a steak over direct heat as BBQing. Thatís grilling. BBQing is slow cooking over indirect heat. Smoking is the same, but with wood chips. The steaks Iíve listed below (excluding Prime Rib) are meant to be grilled over direct heat. I preheat my grill to about 400 degrees. I put the steak on the hot grill and let the meat sear on one side, usually about 3 minutes, then turn it over and sear the other side. Never ever poke or cut a hole in your meat. I use tongs to handle the meat and I know it is done by how spongy the meat is. If the meat has a little bounce to it when I press the center with the tongs, itís on the rare side. If it has very little give it is getting done in the center. With a little practice, youíll be surprised how easy it is.

Below Iíve identified several of the most popular cuts of beef used to cook (grill) as steaks. Iíve also included Prime Rib as many fine steak houses offer this cut on their menu.

T-Bone: This is probably the most popular steak because of its distinctive look and you get a lot of bang for your buck. The T-Bone steak has the characteristic "T" shaped bone and the large muscle known as the Top Loin on one side and the smaller muscle on the opposite side is the tenderloin or filet.

Porterhouse Steak: The Porterhouse is similar to the T-bone steak, only bigger. This cut also has an extra muscle located in the center Top Loin section on the upper side. This steak is usually at least a quarter to half inch thicker that the T-Bone. It is a bold steak, not for the light of heart or someone with a small apatite. This is like two steaks in one.

Top Loin, bone-in or out (a.k.a. Strip Steak, New York Strip, Kansas City Steak, etc): This cut comes from the boneless large eye muscle from the T-bone or Porterhouse. It is average when it comes to tenderness. Best when only cooked to medium rare at the most, as it becomes tougher if cooked longer.

Tenderloin (a.k.a.: Filet and/or Filet Mignon, which is French for boneless small): This is considered the king of steaks (and the finest cut of beef) because of its tender, melt in the mouth texture; it can literally be cut with a fork. The tenderloin steak has a fine texture, is circular in shape and is usually about the size of a tennis ball. This steak is often cooked and served wrapped with a slice of bacon (barding). I personally prefer this method because while this cut is very tender, it is also very lien and the bacon adds a little fat and much flavor. This steak should never be cooked beyond medium.

Sirloin (a.k.a.: Flat-Bone Steak, Round-Bone Steak, Pin-Bone Steak): There are several cuts that come from the Sirloin section of the Beef. In addition to the Sirloin cuts mentioned above, the Sirloin also comes in the boneless Top Sirloin, which is also referred to as a Butt Steak or London Broil. This cut is average in tenderness. To achieve maximum flavor and tenderness do not cook beyond medium. Even though I consider this steak to be of average quality, it is large, which gives you a lot of meat for your money.

Rib Eye (a.k.a. Ribeye, Delmonico): This is a cut of beef from the large end of the rib section. The Ribeye is my all-time favorite when cooked properly and it is one of the most popular and expensive steaks on the market and/or a menu. The Ribeye is very tender with excellent flavor, largely due to its marbling. This cut is often served bone-in, which adds even more flavor. In its whole, unsliced form it is known as a Rib Roast (See Below).

Prime Rib (a.k.a. Rib Roast): Prime Rib comes from the Rib Roast, which is from either large or small end of the rib section. The term ďPrimeĒ doesnít necessarily mean that the cut was graded as ďPrimeĒ beef by the USDA, but even a ďChoiceĒ Rib Roast will impress if cooked properly. The difference between the Rib Eye and the Prime Rib is the way itís prepared. The Rib Eye is cut from the rib section before cooking, while Prime Rib is cut from the Rib Roast after it has cooked. It is most often served rare with horseradish sauce or the au jus.

Enjoy!

Submitted by:

Debbie Beaston

Debbie Beaston lives in Texas and is an avid cook, specializing in grilled and/or smoked meats. Check out her family BBQ sauce recipe at http://1topsecret-bbq-sauce-recipe.com/. Itís the best!





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