A New Yorker's Guide to Steak
February 21st, 2018
As we’ve pointed out before, New York City is brimming with great steakhouses. Unless you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you’d be a fool not to check them out. If you’re visiting one of NYC’s top steakhouses, chances are you’ll be dropping a pretty penny. Before you order that big beautiful slab of meat, you should have a good understanding of the different cuts. The four most popular cuts (which we’ll be covering momentarily) all come from the top part of the cow. They don’t do as much work as the other muscles, which means they’re way more tender. They’re also comparatively a much smaller portion of the cow, which makes them pricier. What are the best cut for you and what temperature should you order them at? We’re glad you asked.
New York StripNew York is the only city to have a cut of meat named after it and considering how great the New York strip is we should all consider it to be the highest honor. Of course, there are those that call this a Kansas City strip or a top sirloin, but the only acceptable alternate name is The Manhattan. When it comes to tenderness, New York strip is second only to the sirloin. This cut comes from the longissimus muscle, which is one of the laziest parts of the cow. A classic New York strip will be boneless with a thick rim of fat on one edge of the steak and a decent amount of marbling throughout. That marbling (a fancy word for small fat deposits) is nothing to be afraid of--it’s actually what gives the steak it’s amazing flavor. This cut can also be prepared in a multitude of ways, including pan searing, grilling and even broiling. If you want the classic NYC cut, this is the steak for you.
TenderloinThe tenderloin is usually the most expensive cut of steak. This boneless, tender strip of meat comes from under the ribs, typically called the short loin or sirloin. If you order filet mignon or châteaubriand you’ll be getting tenderloin. Tenderloin is typically delivered in a relatively small, compact size. A good chef will expertly remove all of the gristle and fat, leaving you with a small but delicious hunk of meaty perfection. This fine grained meat will almost melt in your mouth with a buttery, subtle flavor. If you favor quality over quantity, this is the cut for you.
T-BoneThe T-Bone is the steak lovers delight. The name says it all--the t-shaped bone in the center of the cut separates the tenderloin from the New York Strip. You read that right: this cut includes the two previous cuts. You truly get the best of both worlds when you order a T-Bone. The T-Bone requires a talented chef to prepare because the two different types of meat present a bit of a challenge. They must balance the needs of the tender, buttery tenderloin with the beefy strip steak. The T-Bone is sometimes referred to as a porterhouse when it’s a thicker cut. If you’re craving a ton of meat, order a porterhouse over a regular T-bone. You really can’t go wrong with a cut this decadent and generous.
RibeyeOf the four cuts covered in this blog post, Ribeye is generally the most affordable. That doesn’t mean it’s still not a cut above the rest. Ribeye is taken from the large prime meat around the ribs of the animal which is then cut down into individual steaks. This thick cut can be served with or without the bone left in and has a ton of marbling. Of course, some might complain that the Ribeye has too much marbling. If you don’t mind occasionally eating around large fat deposits, the rib eye will blow your mind with flavor. If you love a steak that’s bold, beefy and flavorful this is the cut for you.
Other CutsThere’s a heck of a lot more meat to a cow than just the cuts we’ve covered here. Some restaurants will offer cheaper cuts. Chucks, flat-iron steaks, hanger steaks, and round steaks are all more affordable options. That said, if you’re throwing down a lot of cash for a steak, it’s best to stick to the four choicest cuts. That said, don’t count these other cuts out when you’re making beef stew or a roast beef sandwich!
TemperatureYou’ve decided which cut you want, but now you’re not sure what temperature to order it at? Here’s the terminology to use and what they really mean.
- Blue Rare: This is when the steak has been cooked momentarily at a very high temperature so it is charred on the outside but raw in the center. This doesn't sound safe.
- Rare: This riskier way of cooking can often yield amazing flavor. The internal temperature of the steak won’t exceed 130 degrees, which means it’ll be juicy and bloody. Only true carnivores should risk ordering this.
- Medium Rare: A medium rare preparation is a great balance between juicy and flavorful. The inside will remain pink while the outer layer is browned or possibly seared. It’s not too raw, but it’s also not too dry. We recommend you go for medium rare.
- Medium: The perfect middle ground for anyone who’s concerned about eating steak that’s too bloody. There should be a tiny amount of pinkness left at the center of the steak, but it will be well cooked for the most part.
- Medium Well: This steak will be as done as possible without drying it out or burning the exterior. You won’t get as much flavor as you would from the previous cuts, but you also won’t have to worry about getting sick.
- Well Done: Overcooked, dry and often burnt. It defeats the purpose of eating a big, beautiful slab of beef. Just don’t.