When it comes to grilling steak, are you confident of negotiating the many different cuts at your disposal?
Well, not all cuts of steak are created equal, and not all cuts are easy to prepare and grill other. Beyond this, some cuts should be avoided altogether, but this is no hardship with so many excellent alternatives available.
Now, regardless of the cut of steak you purchase, you should always aim for a minimum of choice grade. Most of the beef you find in the supermarket in the United States is graded choice or select. Choice has more fat than select grade beef.
The more marbling you find running through beef, the more tender the end result.
If you want prime grade beef, you should head to a butchers. Not only are they liable to have higher grades of beef than you find in the supermarket, but the cuts often boast even better marbling than choice grade beef.
As we said, not all steaks are quick and easy to cook, and not all of them are advisable for grilling. So, rather than compiling a numbered list of all cuts of steak, we’ll be breaking them down into the following three categories for you:
- Steaks You Can Easily Season and Grill
- Steaks That Require More Work
- Steaks You Should Avoid
We’ll also be giving you a quickfire guide to cooking steak before we wrap up, but come back soon for a more detailed guide on grilling steak a pro. For today, our focus is on those various cuts of steak.
I. Steaks You Can Easily Season and Grill
You’ll likely recognize most of the following steak by name, and with good reason.
The following cuts contain a winning combination of great marbling and tender muscle. They also only need a few minutes on the hot side of your grill to give you a taste sensation. All you’ll require for seasoning is some salt and black pepper.
- Filet mignon
- New York strip steak
- Top sirloin
Widely considered the king of steaks, great ribeyes are juicy, tender, and very well-marbled.
Ribeyes are available bone-in and bone-off. You should look out for streaky marbling, but you should avoid cuts of ribeye with large central globs of fat.
If your butcher is preparing this cut of steak for you, ask for a thickness from 0.5 inches to 2 inches to taste.
Sear your ribeye and then finish it on the cool side of your grill.
The Steak Cookoff Association uses ribeye steaks for competitions. That should tell you all you need to know.
The filet mignon is cut from the beef tenderloin, among the very tenderest cuts. Each steer typically yields no more than a pound of filet mignon, making it correspondingly expensive.
Despite being remarkably tender, filet mignon is not especially flavorful, so it’s often wrapped with bacon to add an extra dimension.
New York strip steak
A New York strip steak goes by many names, including shell steak, club steak, and Kansas City steak.
All of these names describe a cut of beef that’s very tender and well-marbled. The beefy flavor makes this as favorite cut in steakhouses all over the world.
Ask for this steak prepared to the same thickness as a ribeye (0.5 to 2 inches). You grill the steak in the same way, by searing it over direct heat and then finishing it up on the cooler side of the grill. Alternatively, start the strip steak on the cool side and finish by searing.
The bulky T-bone steak combined the striploin (on the left) and a part of the tenderloin (to the right). This combination can complicate cooking the T-bone, as one side can finish before the other.
Ask for a T-bone steak to be sliced at least 2 inches thick. Grill using the reverse sear method for best results.
The top sirloin is cut from the sirloin primal, and it’s one of the best budget-friendly cuts.
In return for the low price, you’ll get a steak which might not be especially tender, but which is certainly not lacking in flavor.
Grill top sirloin steak rapidly and use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature. You should avoid going further than medium-rare with this cut, or you could end up with a dried-out steak.
The porterhouse and T-bone steaks are commonly mistaken as the same cut, but this is not the case.
This cut comes from further up than the T-bone, yielding a bigger portion of the tenderloin.
Have this steak cut thick, and cook using the reverse sear method.
II. Steaks That Require More Work
There are some cuts of beef that were formerly reserved as butcher’s cuts, but are now becoming more widespread.
Since the following cuts come from more overworked muscles, they are tougher. Counter this by using tenderizers and marinades.
- Hanger steak
- Flat iron
A hanger steak, also known as a butcher steak, is a cut hanging between the loin and rib.
Although the meat is not particularly thick, you can get around this by grilling the steak quickly over direct heat.
You should slice this steak against the grain to maximize tenderness.
A flat iron steak comes from the beef chuck primal. This cut is essentially a top blade steak cut lengthwise instead of crosswise. Altering the direction of the cut means the thick seam of gristle is avoided, and the resultant cut more tender.
Grill flat iron steak quickly over a high heat until it’s medium-rare.
A flank steak comes from the beef flank primal or belly.
This steak is tough but flavorful with a thickly grained appearance.
You need to grill this cut of steal quickly over a high heat, and you should slice it against the grain.
Skirt steak is sourced from the beef plate primal cut. This is found inside the chest and cavity of the abdomen.
This cut of steak is thick-grained. It’s also packed with very chewy connective tissue, but it’s still a very flavorful cut.
Try grilling skirt steal very rapidly on an extremely hot grill. This cut even responds to being grilled directly on the coals.
Slice against the grain and consider serving this cut of steak in some tacos.
The tri-tip steak is a triangular cut from the bottom sirloin sub-primal cut. If it’s untrimmed, a tri-tip steak can weigh around 5 pounds.
This cut of steak is very popular in the Central Valley and in California. The tri-tip steak is sometimes referred to as a Santa Maria steak.
So far, so good. How about the cuts of steak you should give a wide berth when you’re hunting for the best steak for grilling, then?
III. Steaks You Should Avoid
The following cuts are all extra-tough and shouldn’t be used for grilling.
Avoid grilling any of the following steaks:
- Short ribs
- Rump roast
- Chuck roast
Now, while we wanted to laser in on the best steak for grilling, we’ll round out with a snapshot on grilling it most effectively.
IV. How to Grill Steak Like a Pitmaster
When you’re grilling steak, you have two primary options:
- Cook the steak hot and fast
- Cook the steak using the reverse sear method
1) Cook the steak hot and fast
With this method, you first quickly sear your steak over the direct heat. This could take as little as one minute per side, depending on the thickness of the steak.
If you need more doneness, finish the steak on the indirect side.
2) Cook the steak using the reverse sear method
Set up your grill so you have a twin cooking zone with indirect fire.
Slowly cook your chosen cut of steak on the indirect side. When it’s nearly done, raise the grill temperature so you can finish by quickly searing your steak.
The reverse sear method works most effectively with steaks at least 1.5 inches thick.
Well, we hope today’s brief guide on choosing the best steak for grilling has given you some food for thought.
Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy grilling experience with some simple seasoning or you want a more ambitious steak extravaganza, there is a cut on our curated shortlist for all tastes and budgets.
Bookmark Madiba before you head off today, and be sure to pop back soon for all your grill-related needs. See you soon!