Beef is a pretty big deal. Let’s face it: For many of us, it’s the go-to meat.
But not everyone knows that much about the beef that they’re eating, buying and cooking — especially when it comes to steak. That’s where we come in.
To get a perspective on the best cuts of beef, we talked to Marty Carpenter, an executive director at Canada Beef. His entire job is to know and advocate for beef.
Instead of just assuming the highest-ticket item in the restaurant is the most flavorful cut of beef you can get, let’s look at the distinctions between the best cuts.
There is no one best cut for any given person, but knowing what makes them different and what to expect when you cook or order them will give you a better steak experience.
5. Top Sirloin Cap
The top sirloin cap is a rarer cut of meat to find as it’s usually already sectioned out into steaks. The cut comes from the triangular-shaped muscle immediate above the top sirloin. It’s a very versatile cut of meat, both lean and flavorful, with a variety of different preparation options like grilling, broiling, and pan searing available. The top sirloin cap works really well when marinated or seasoned with a dry rub.
The tenderloin, referred to in other parts of the world as a filet, is a cut from the loin of beef. The tenderloin exists beneath the ribs and next to the backbone. The tenderloin is, as its name implies, the most tender cut of beef. Those who do not prefer the marbling of the rib eye and strip loin will thoroughly enjoy the tenderloin.
3. Top Sirloin
The top sirloin is a cut from the loin that offers good flavor in a thick cut ideal for grilling, broiling, sautéeing or pan-frying. While the top sirloin doesn’t have as much marbling as a rib eye or New York strip, it certainly has enough to provide good flavor for a steak. Preferred thickness for top sirloin cuts tends to be in the 1-inch to 2-inch range, with 2 inches being ideal. Thicker steaks don’t run the risk of drying out as easily when cooked.
2. Strip Loin/ New York Strip
The strip loin, sometimes referred to as strip steak, New York strip, and internationally, a club steak, is a cut from the short loin. The short loin is a large muscle allowing for very thick cuts, and provides a great alternative for those who don’t enjoy the significant internal fat content of the rib eye. When the strip loin is sold with a piece of the tenderloin included, it is referred to as a T-bone steak, or a porterhouse. The main difference between these two is that the porterhouse has a more sizable chunk of the tenderloin included.
1. Rib Eye
The rib eye is the ultimate steak-lover’s steak. It’s the most flavorful cut of the animal, and comes with very rich marbling, which provides superior taste when cooked. The cut itself comes from the rib section, where it gets its name. The bone from the rib is typically removed before sale, although some restaurants specifically sell “bone-in rib eye” preparations of the cut. Its abundance of marbling makes it a great cut for grilling and slow roasting.