Filet, Porterhouse, et al: A Cook's Guide to Luxury Steaks
When you splurge on steak, you want to be sure it's the cut you want and that you know how cook it. Our meat expert demystifies high-end cuts so you can be sure to spend your money wisely and enjoy a truly steakhouse level meal.
One of the most popular and expensive cuts, the filet mignon is cut from the tenderloin and is the softest and most tender of steaks. It's a rich and buttery piece of meat with a subtle flavor. While most high-end proteins are cooked so their natural flavor can shine (think lobster), the filet's delicate profile makes it an excellent canvas to pair with bold flavors (think peppercorns, cheese, and rich sauce). It's sublime wrapped in buttery pastry in Beef Wellington.
With more marbling than the filet, the strip or New York strip steak has a richer, more prominent flavor. It's located just a bone away from the tenderloin in the striploin (hence it's name), and although is the meat is very tender it's not quite as soft as a filet. The strip steak is a low-maintenance steak that you can dress up with a balsamic reduction, shiitake mushroom sauce, or simply season and broil to serve with a steakhouse-worthy side.
This is the steak for someone who wants it all. The Porterhouse is a bigger loin cut (serving 2-3) and includes both a filet mignon and a strip steak. A little edgier than the loin cuts, the Porterhouse can actually be less expensive to buy than a portioned filet and offers a more striking presentation than a portioned strip steak. The "T Bone" that separates the strip from the tenderloin adds extra flavor in the cooking process, giving both steaks a robust flavor without sacrificing the tenderness you expect from a loin cut. The only drawback: because you're dealing with two different muscles, the Porterhouse can be a challenge to cook evenly. Allowing the steak to reach room temperature before cooking helps. Try slicing the steak on a bias and serving it with the bone on the plate and a dollop of herb butter or a drizzle of parsley sauce for a stunning presentation.
Often called a bone-in ribeye, this is a hearty portion cut from the rib section. Butchers refer to the cut as a rib chop and chefs call it everything from hatchet steak to a cowboy steak (both are a frenched rib chop), to a cowgirl steak (a rib chop without the rib cap). It's also known as "the meat-eaters" steak because it has a rich but not overpowering flavor that comes from the beautiful marbling and the bone. Because it can be such a fatty steak, it's important to get a nice sear on the outside to help break down the external fat and internal marbling before you continue cooking. Whether you want to char a rib chop, roast it with an herb crust, or cook it in a cast iron pan, to me this is the steak with the best flavor and looks; it makes for a stunning presentation, especially when cooked rare or medium rare with a charred crust then sliced on the bone.