Ah, steak. Tender, juicy, rich steak, char-grilled to perfection on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth soft and pink on the inside. The texture and taste of a perfectly seasoned and cooked slab of beef is hard to beat – not for nothing is in considered one of the best, most luxurious dishes in the world, often with a price tag to match. But there are many aspects to “steak”, starting with which cut of beef you choose – each has their own particular characteristics, and must be treated accordingly. This handy guide will help you know your chuck roast from your ribeye, and how to get the best out of them.
Unsurprisingly, steak has a long history; fossilized bones with butchery marks dating back 2 million years have been found. The word itself dates from the 15th Century, and is derived from the Scandinavian word steik, and the Old Norse steikja; around this time, the term also started appearing in rudimentary cookbooks. Culinary traditions around steak are strongest in countries with large tracts of suitable land for grazing cattle – Argentina, South Africa, Ireland, Spain, the US, and the UK – although cuts of steak can be quite dissimilar between them owing to different methods of farming, cattle diet, and cutting up the carcass.
At Buffalo Market, we are big believers in providence and the benefits of eating organic. With cattle, this means animals that are grass-fed and beef that’s lower in cholesterol and fat, higher in antioxidants, and free from growth hormones, synthetic chemicals, pesticides, and antibiotics. It also just tastes better. That’s why we work closely with locals farmers and producers like Land & Farm to bring you the choicest cuts from small, bespoke farms. Here’s what to look out for in terms of each cut’s characteristics, and how to cook them.
New York Strip Steak
New York Strip Steak is a particular cut of sirloin – it’s a boneless section that’s cut from the top sirloin. This comes from the area between the last ribs and the pelvis, from a muscle known as the longissimus. This muscle does very little work, making it especially tender and tasty. The cut earned its fame – and its name – thanks to Delmonico’s Restaurant, a New York institution that opened in 1827, where it was a signature dish.
As one of the juiciest, most tender cuts, New York Strip benefits from simple cooking – just season it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sear in a cast iron skillet with some butter and maybe a little garlic. Best served medium-rare.
Top sirloin comes, just like strip steak, from the hip area; it’s from the primal loin, around the gluteus medius muscle. Naturally lean, top sirloin is one of the most versatile cuts of beef – it has a deep, intense flavour like a roast, yet can be easily cooked like flat steak. Some consider top sirloin inferior to ribeye or porterhouse, but handled carefully, there’s no reason why it can’t be delicious.
Somewhat cheaper than other cuts, top sirloin is commonly used for steak and eggs, or cubed for stews; not for nothing is it also known as “weeknight steak”. For best results, pan sear or grill – simply season as above, or use a dry rub or marinade, then add to a smoking hot skillet or grill pan. Cook for around three to four minutes each side, depending on thickness, then leave to rest for ten minutes. The result will be juicy, pink, flavoursome meat.
Ribeye is, naturally, cut from the rib section, which spans from rib six to twelve. Mostly consisting of the longissimus dorsi muscle, it’s both flavoursome and tender, and the marbling of fat in this cut makes it ideally suited to hot, fast searing and grilling.
The term “ribeye” designates the centre portion of the rib, where the meat is the best. In the US, ribeye normally has the rib bone removed; in Australia and New Zealand the bone is left on. The extra fat gives this cut its intense, beefy flavour, and it’s also one of the tenderest steaks you can buy. Seasoned with salt and pepper, and seared in a cast iron skillet with some garlic and foaming butter, ribeye is perfection itself.
Cut from the shoulder and neck area – it’s also known as shoulder steak, or boneless chuck – chuck roast is best suited to making pot roasts and stews. Fattier than brisket, chuck roast has a richer taste but is higher in saturated fats and has more marbling. This makes it ideally suited to longer cooking; as the fat and connective tissues break down, it bastes the meat from within, making it extra tender. As such, braised chuck roast falls apart easily, and is ideal for shredding.
There are literally hundreds of pot roast and stew recipes that call for chuck roast, and it's particularly suited to any beef dish prepared in a slow cooker. Try making a classic Sunday roast, with carrots, onions, potatoes, and a rich gravy, or Mississippi Pot Roast, with ranch dressing, au jus gravy, and pepperoncini peppers.
If the softest, juiciest, melt-in-your-mouth steak if what you’re after, filet mignon is the cut for you. Taken from the smaller end of the tenderloin, or the psoas major, it’s the most highly prized, and expensive, steak available – typically, one steer will yield no more than 500 grams of filet mignon.
Known in the UK as fillet steak, and in France as filet de bœuf, it’s the tenderest cut of beef, but the relative lack of fat and connective tissue means some believe it to be less flavoursome – for this reason, it’s often wrapped in bacon for cooking, or served with a sauce. This is one steak that you absolutely do not want to overcook – anything more than medium rare is considered a waste. Simple sear or grill on a very high heat for one or two minutes each side; the middle of the steak should be virtually raw.
The Mack Daddy. The Big Kahuna. The steak. Coming in at anywhere from 18 oz. to a whopping 48 oz., the T-Bone steak is a helluva cut. That’s because technically, it’s two steaks on one – soft, tender filet mignon and bold, beefy New York strip steak, separated by the t-shaped bone that gives it its name. Cut from the short loin subprimal, it’s often cut further into those two types of steak – filet mignon and strip steak. But left together on the bone, you get this behemoth.
Many get T-bones confused with porterhouse steaks, which is understandable, as they're very similar. A porterhouse has a full-size filet portion because it’s cut from the anterior of the short loin where both the tenderloin and strip portion are larger, whereas a T-bone is cut from the middle to the end of the subprimal where the tenderloin tapers and narrows. Therefore, the amount of filet mignon on a porterhouse is more than on a T-bone.
The T-bone is unique, but that also makes it tricky to cook – technically, you’re cooking two different steaks. You have to be careful since the filet side will cook more quickly than the strip side. To grill, use direct and indirect heat; sear the T-bone for three to five minutes per side, depending on thickness, then move it to side of the grill with no heat, making sure the filet portion of the T-bone is towards the coolest part of the grill. T-bones can also be partially roasted or even done sous vide for the more adventurous home chefs.
The Denver Steak
The Denver Steak is a relatively new cut of meat, one that’s less than a decade old. The cut comes from the boneless chuck roll, which is mostly muscle from the area that starts under the shoulder blade and continues to the ribs and backbone (the ribeye also comes from this area). Most of the cuts derived from the underblade area are tougher, and better suited to ground beef and stew meat, but the Denver steak is an exception.
It’s extremely flavorful, due to marbling, and more tender than the surrounding meat – in fact, it’s the fourth most tender muscle section of the animal. As soft as a cushion, it benefits from being cooked quickly and simply on an extremely hot grill, and served no more than medium-rare.
But the key to a great Denver steak experience, however, is how you slice this particular cut. It must be cut against the grain for maximum taste and tenderness; cut the wrong way and you will make the delectable steak tough and less flavorful.
At Buffalo Market, we carry all these cuts and more – all organic, and all super high quality, sourced from Land & Farm. For the true carnivore, there’s also a Butcher of the Month club - our monthly choice from our butcher, who selects your meats from the most exceptional farm-to-table ranchers packed with impeccable flavor – and our Carnivores Only Gift Box, containing eight steaks and two pounds of prime ground beef. Add some of this meaty goodness to your cart today and get cooking!