Sure, filets, strips, and ribeyes are the Big Kahunas. Two factors make these steaks tender, juicy, and sought-after: 1. They have lots of fat marbled into the muscle (look at the Porterhouse photo below and you can see what I mean); and 2. They are cut from muscles that aren't used as strenuously as others.
But they aren't the only steaks on a cow. There are others — maybe they have a little more chew, but oftentimes they are more flavorful and they are most definitely less expensive, which makes them appealing for everyday meals.
Lucky for the steak lover, some of these cuts — cuts that fell out of favor and disappeared — have made a comeback with the resurgence in specialty butchering. Many of the steaks have even found their way back into the standard grocery meat case too, which is great for those of us who like to grill. Check out five of my favorites below.
1. The Porterhouse
I love this steak. It's a 2-for-1. One side of the bone is a filet mignon and the other a strip loin. It is a perfect steak for two. Try serving some chophouse sides with it, like beet salad and green beans. If you look closely at T-bones (they are usually sans filet) and look for the steaks cut closest to the tenderloin sometimes you can snag a Porterhouse at T-bone prices. Even at T-bone prices, this is a special occasion steak for me.
2. The sirloin
I started eating sirloin a couple of years ago and I have come to rely on them as an everyday cut. It might be a little chewier than most steaks but the flavor outweighs the minimal toughness. I am particularly fond of bison sirloins.
3, 4, & 5. Skirt, flank, and flat iron
These are the trifecta. Any one of these steaks can land on my plate any time of day. They are what I think of as old-school butcher's cuts. In other words, back in the day they were what your butcher grills for him or herself when they get home from work. They know the cuts that are less expensive but taste great. These cuts need to be treated differently. They are lean. You will want to slice them thinly and across the grain, which creates a tender chew. You also want to be careful not to overcook them — nothing past medium.
The skirt is cut from the rib tips closest to the belly of the beast and nearest to the front legs. It's perfect for fajitas or tacos.
This one comes from the same area as the skirt but is located closer to the back legs. It makes for a great London broil — a little olive oil, lemon juice, and thyme and you have a meal.
The flat iron
Also known as a top blade steak when cut differently, the flat iron comes from the shoulder. A very sought-after steak for its rich flavor. I like my flat irons with fries.
5 rules for grilling steak
1. A room temperature steak cooks more evenly.
2. Leave your steaks alone while they are on the grill. Ideally, the notion is to cook each side of the steak the same amount of time so the steak cooks evenly. This is hard to track if you keep flipping your steak. Learn where the hot and cold spots are on your grill and use them to your advantage.
3. Let your meat rest. Cook the steak five degrees below your desired end temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Put the steak back on the grill and warm it to the desired doneness.
4. There is no need to oil your steaks. All it does is cause flare-ups and when the oil burns from the hot heat it leaves a black residue that tastes horribly bitter, and even though you can wipe away the residue remnants of bitterness remain. If your grill is the right temperature, it acts much the same as a stainless steel pan and it will release the steak or protein when the grill marks are perfect.
5. I don't marinate quick-cooking steaks for a couple of reasons. One: Marinades often overpower the beef flavor. And two: I don't like that the acids in the marinade begin to cook the steak, making a full marinade impossible without cooking the steak through. Simmer the marinade and use it as a sauce or for basting.
Recipe: Grilled skirt steak with Greek salsa
20 ounces skirt steak
2/3 cup cherry tomatoes (like Sweet 100s), quartered
20 Picholine olives, pits removed, halved
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
Small handful of oregano leaves
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup good quality feta, crumbled
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
All photos by Tom Hirschfeld.
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