When is a Steak not a steak? It’s not a steak when it’s meat cut from the shoulder chuck of the cow, is ground up and flattened into a hamburger! Not one of my better jokes, but it’s kind of true. Apologies in advance to all of Vegtarian/Pescitarian/non carnivores. This post is going to be all about cows and a brief overview of what the different cuts of meat are called and what to do with them. I promise, there is a vegetable series in the works.
Most people have a general understanding of the cuts of meat. T-bones are good good for the grill, flank steaks are ideal for marination and ground beef can be used for a variety of cooking styles. Below I’ve broken out some of the more popular cuts, what I have learned and random knowledge that leaks out of my brain from my Mom, Alton Brown and America’s Test Kitchen. Unfortunately, only the last two have a show.
Flat Iron Steak: Flat Iron Steak is cut from the shoulder of the animal and is cut with the grain. Sometimes called a ‘top blade’ steak flat iron cuts have a large amount of marbling throughout. Generally this cut is good for pan searing or cutting into strips for stir frying.
Rib Eye Steaks: Ribeyes come from the rib of the animal, specifically 6 -12. Essentially it is a boneless prime rib and have a dense beef flavor, so not a lot of seasoning is needed beyond pepper and salt. Great for grill cooking, I have found that pan searing and finishing in the oven brings out the best flavor of this cut.
Porterhouse: Think of this cut as a giant T-Bone except cut further back in the lumbar region. Usually higher in price, this cut can easily be a meal for two and is usually offered at quality steakhouse restaurants.
Top Sirloin: Also called NY sirloin this inexpensive cut is from the hip of the animal. The tenderness and flavor are somewhat muted. This type of steak does well with seasoning and is ideal for pan cooking as a whole.
Skirt Steak: Skirt steak can be found in it’s whole form but is mostly seen pre sliced and marinated in a fajita type seasoning. It is cut from just behind the brisket, under and just behind the front legs of the animal. While it does have a heavy beef flavor it is not known to be very tender which is what makes it ideal for cutting and marinating in strip form.
Tri-tip: “This cut was made for grilling and grilling is what you should do. If your going to grill it for long then marinate it through and through” (sung to Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots Were Made for Walkin”) Full of flavor this is cut from the lower rear of the animal and is most easily identified in it’s whole from by it’s triangular shape. This is the cut the folks from Firebreather BBQ used when at the CFI 2013 games. Using dry rubs and marinade are the best way to compliment the flavor. Ideally, a covered gas or wood grill to cook to medium works best.
I could honestly just keep listing cuts of meat. I love cow. Fun fact: There are over 800 breeds of cattle around the world! Similarly there are over 30 variation on cuts of meat that come from a cow. So you can see how I can’t possibly go through them here. I would encourge the carnivorous athletes to visit you local butcher and get to know your cuts of meat or go to the J&J Grass Fed meats website to learn about what cuts they offer and have it delivered right to the gym!