How to Buy a Steak

It’s steak night at your house. You’ve got the grill ready to go. You just need the steak. There are a lot of choices and if you don’t buy steak every day (who does?) the decision about which cut to buy can be confusing. We’ll get to the meat of the matter, with butcher, Bruce Atkins, from The Butcher Block in Franklin, Tennessee.

Notice the interior marbling of the meat, not the exterior fat. Atkins says the marbling (those streaks of white running through the steak) is where all the flavour and tenderness live.

Prime grade beef is the best you can buy, but it’s not normally what you’ll find at the grocery store. Look for Choice grade steaks, which is the next best category. Avoid Select grade beef, the lowest grade.

Fillet Mignon

The fillet comes from the loin section of the cow. It’s a muscle that the cow really doesn’t use so it’s extremely tender.

Rib Eye

Many grillers think the rib eye is the most flavourful steak and prefer it over the fillet mignon. It’s also very tender and nicely marbled. Atkins says this is the cut he snags when he takes home a steak from his butcher shop to grill.

Cowboy Rib Eye

This is the steak of the moment. It’s a massive 28-32 ounce bone-in rib eye that can feed 4-6 people. If you’re confident in your grilling skills, this never fails to impress.

Strip Steak

The strip steak is a continuation of the rib eye muscle and is about as tender as a rib eye but more economical.

T-Bone or Porterhouse

They’re essentially the same steak. Both are a combination of the fillet and the strip steak with a bone separating the two. Look for steaks with the largest portion of tenderloin, which will be the smaller portion of meat on one side of the bone.

Sirloin Fillet

Sirloin is a leaner cut of beef with not quite the marbling of a better quality steak. It’s from the part of the cow that does more work so it’s less tender than higher-quality cuts. Ask the butcher to cut it in medallions for a pretty presentation.

Flank Steak

This cut comes from the lower belly of the cow and must be grilled quickly because it’s thin and sliced against the grain to make sure it’s tender. But it has great beefy flavour and is economical.

Flat Iron Steak

You want this. It’s tender and economical. The flat iron is a muscle that is embedded in the tough chuck portion of the cow but it’s nearly as tender as a fillet mignon. This is a cut that will give you great flavour and tenderness without breaking the bank.

Skirt Steak

Skirt is also economical and must be sliced against the grain. It has a good amount of fat which makes it very flavourful. If you’re a fan of steak quesadillas in Mexican restaurants, the skirt is likely what you’re eating.