What is a steak?
A steak is simply a cut of beef. They are usually cut across muscle fibres and may or may not have a bone in them.
Each area of where the steak is cut from on the cow will differ in price. Generally speaking, the more tender a cut of meat is (due to lack of exercise) the more expensive it will be. This is why short loins, tenderloins, and ribs are so much more expensive.
Types of Steak
• Other names: Filet mignon, Châteaubriand, fillet, filet
• How it’s sold: Boneless; it is the most expensive cut of steak
• Where it’s from: Short loin and sirloin, under the ribs. A whole tenderloin starts out wide and gets less thick at the other end. Filet mignon comes from the thinner end, while Châteaubriand comes from the thicker end.
• What it looks like: When trimmed of skin, gristle, and fat, tenderloin is quitw small and compact. The meat is lean and very fine-grained in texture. Because of its smaller shape, tenderloin steaks are cut thicker than most steaks.
• What it tastes like: The tenderest of all the steaks and lean, tenderloin is buttery and mild in flavor.
• How to cook it: Because cuts of tenderloin tend to be thick, the best way to cook it is to sear the outside until browned, then finish the cooking in the gentle, even heat of an oven.
Sirloin/ New York Strip
• Other names: NY strip, Manhattan, Kansas City strip, top sirloin, top loin, contre-filet
• How it’s sold: Usually boneless
• Where it’s from: Short loin (behind the ribs)
• What it looks like: Strip steaks are rectangular with a slightly thinner edge. Has a lot of fine-grained meat with some large pieces of fat around its edge.
• What it tastes like: tender and lean with lots of beefy flavor and a bit of fat. They’re not as tender as tenderloins or ribeyes but still very tender.
• How to cook it: Cook over high heat — pan-sear, broil, or grill. Also great for sandwiches.
• Other names: T-bone, date steak
• How it’s sold: with a bone in. The tenderloin must be 1.25 inches wide to be a porterhouse, and only .5 inches wide to be a T-bone.
• Where it’s from: A cross section of the short loin
• What it looks like: A T-shaped bone with meat on both sides of the longer portion. On one side is a piece of the tenderloin, and the other side is New York strip. Lots of fat on it.
• What it tastes like: one side (of the bone) tastes like buttery tenderloin, and the other side is a beefy, juicy New York strip.
• How to cook it: Because there are basically two different kinds of steak in one cut, you have to be careful when cooking since the tenderloin will cook more quickly than the strip side. Try to keep the tenderloin further away from the heat source.
• Other names: Entrecôte, Delmonico, Scotch fillet, Spencer, market, beauty
• How it’s sold: Bone in or boneless
• Where it’s from: Upper ribcage, ribs #6-12. Ribeyes are basically a prime rib or standing rib roast cut down into individual steaks
• What it looks like: Large sections of meat and fat throughout. The middle (central eye) has a finer grain while the outer section is looser and fattier.
• What it tastes like: Ribeyes are very beefy and juicy, with plenty of fat to carry their flavor.
• How to cook it: Cook over high heat — pan sear, broil, or grill. With the high fat content, though, you need to be careful about flareups.
• Other names: London Broil
• Where it’s from: The flank, below the loin and sirloin and along the cows abdomen.
• What it looks like: Lean without much fat and lots of fibers running along it’s length.
• What it tastes like: Beefy and good to marinade. Be sure to cut into thin strips against its grain for maximum tenderness.
• How to cook it: Quick high heat is best for flank steak, but it also takes well to rolling and stuffing.
• Other names: Often confused with flank, though skirt steak comes from the another area of the cow’s abdomen.
• Where it’s from: Skirt steak is from the diaphragm muscles of the cow.
• What it looks like: A long thin steak with visible muscle fibers running across the width of the steak.
• What it tastes like: Even beefier than flank steak, and very good to marinade.
• How to cook it: Skirt steak is best seared or grilled and makes a great stir-fry meat. It is the classic cut used in wraps and fajitas.
Steak Doneness and Temperature Guide
Doneness for a steak simply means how much/long you cook a steak for. If you're cooking steak at home, the best way to tell the 'doneness' of a steak is to use a cooking thermometer.
Rare – 50°C (120°F)
The steak has a cool-to-warm very red center, and soft, tender texture. This is a good choice for leaner steaks, like top sirloin or filet mignon that don’t have as much fat to melt.
Medium Rare - 55°C (130°F)
Steak will have a warm red center and a nice brown outside. Cooking to medium rare allows the fat (marbling in the steak) to add a buttery rich flavour to your steak. This is considered the best doneness for a juicy, flavourful steak.
Medium – 60°C (140°F)
The steak will have a hot pink center and slightly firmer texture. The longer cooking time will make the steak slightly drier and less tender (more tough).
Medium Well - 65°C (150°)
The steak will have a mostly brown center and firm texture. The meat will be drier as water evaporates during the cooking process.
Well Done – 70°C (160+°F)
The steak will have no color left, will be very firm and much, much drier. The meat loses fat and moisture as it cooks, resulting in a dry, tough texture.