Let’s get serious, anyone can cook up a platter of hot dogs and burgers, but a true grill master should be able to sear and cook a beautiful steak to juicy perfection.
But, before that even happens, you should know the basics to help perfect your technique, choose the right cut for the meal and know what part of the cow it comes from. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the four top tier steak cuts, what they bring to the table and how to cook them like a pro.
Premium steak cuts are the most tender parts of the cow, cut from the muscle used least often during the animal’s life, the longissimus dorsi that runs the length of the spine, outside the ribs. From here, you’ll get the ribeye, the strip, and the t-bone.
The highest of these high-end cuts comes from the Psoas Major running along the steer’s spine and inside the ribs, opposite the longissimus dorsi. This is known as the tenderloin or filet mignon and is usually the highest priced item on any restaurant menu.
Now that you have a rough idea of where the cuts are coming from, let’s break it down and go through them individually:
Other names: New York Strip, Top Sirloin
Where it comes from: From the longissimus dorsi, near the back of the steer in the short loin.
Taste: Minimal fat pockets, with even, moderate marbling. Little to trim makes prep quick and easy and grilling smooth and straight forward compared with the ribeye and t-bone. There is some chew and tenderness is moderate.
Grill Notes: This is easy on the grill, the lower fat content reduces flare-ups and a consistent cook without burning is more achievable for the novice. Less is more here, grill over high, direct heat to seal in the juices and prevent the meat from drying out. You’ll know the grill is hot enough by holding your hand 2 inches above the grate; you should be able to keep it in place for no more than 5 seconds.
Other names: Delmonico Steak, Scotch Filet, Spencer Steak, Entrecote.
Where it comes from: From the longissimus dorsi, near the front end from the rib primal.
Taste: This cute has maximum marbling and a significant piece of fat that separates the longissimus dorsi and the spinalis. The fat content brings the classic, beefy steak flavor. The “Eye” of the meat is the most tender with a fairly fine grain and smoother texture.
Grill Notes: The Ribeye is not for the newbie griller. The high fat content makes flare-ups common and expert handling is needed to keep from charring the meat. If you do get a flare-up, be ready with your tongs to move the steak away from the open flame until it dissipates.
The marbling is also your friend because it keeps the steak juicy and prevents dry out. Thicker is better for the ribeye, visit your butcher counter if you can. The thicker cut will allow you to create a great crust on the outside while maintaining a perfect medium rare inside. Remember, err on the side of rare, it’s easy to throw it back on for extra cooking, but you can’t do much to save an over-cooked steak (literally lots and lots of blue cheese and a bottle of red wine is your only hope).
Other names: Porterhouse
Where it comes from: This is a two-fer of a cut. It is both a piece of tenderloin and a slice of strip separated by a T-shaped bone, surprise! It is cut from the short loin primal. If it’s a porterhouse, the tenderloin section is about an inch wider and the piece is cut further back.
Taste: This is a no brainer, the strip section will taste like a strip steak, the tenderloin portion will taste like tenderloin; enjoy the best of both worlds.
Grill Notes: Start off by selecting steaks with consistent, rich marbling. We recommend trimming excess fat from the outside edge of the steaks to reduce flare ups. Set up your grill with a high heat zone and a medium-low heat zone. Sear first on the high heat area and finish in the medium zone to achieve that delicate medium-rare internal consistency. This is not as tricky to grill as the ribeye and a great cut to show off your badass grill skills.
Other names: Filet Mignon
Where it comes from: This is the primo cut, taken directly from the very center of the psoas major muscle in the short loin primal.
Taste: This is naturally the most tender cut of steak and should “melt in your mouth” with no chew. The fat content is low and that strong beefy flavor found in the ribeye. This is your pick for tenderness, not necessarily for flavor.
Grill Notes: There shouldn’t be any flare-ups with these little slices of heaven. The tenderloin will cook much faster than any other cut we’ve discussed due to the lower fat content, so be vigilant to prevent the meat from drying out. Sear first and then cook to medium-rare (internal temp of 135 degrees) on indirect heat. This isn’t the most difficult cut to manage on the grill, but it does require more finesse to cook it just right.
We hope this article has given you a solid base for building on your steak skills and leveling up your outdoor grill game. Got questions? Leave them in the comments!
I am a grill freak! It's hard to pick my favorite thing to grill, but if I had to choose... it is still a tie between pork ribs and a juicy beef burger. I am currently grilling on a Weber S210(I live in a small space) but my dream grill is definitely a summit. Those things are bad ass. Anyways I would love to hear from you, leave a comment or question below!