From Filet Mignon and Flank to Sirloin and Skirt, Our Beef Steak Glossary Includes All the Cuts You Need to Know
If you don't know the difference between a flank steak and a sirloin, choosing the right steak to pan sear for a celebratory dinner or grill for a cookout can be difficult. Knowing the main types of steak and how they are best prepared will also make it easier to order at a steakhouse. Our primer on the types of steak is the handy reference you need—review it now, but also come back to it whenever you're in the mood for a delicious, juicy steak. We'll help you get it right every single time.
Not a cut to pan sear or grill like many other steaks, chuck steak is a budget-friendly option that comes from the shoulder area of the cow; it contains a large amount of collagen and other connective tissues, which means it is not suited to quick cooking, like grilling. Instead, it should be used for slow-cooking methods such as braising, stewing, and roasting. It has an intense beef flavor, and you'll often see chuck steak made into ground beef.
Here's another "steak" that's not the usual. Cube steak gets its name from the indentions in the meat that are a result of pounding it with mallets or by mechanical methods to tenderize it. Cube steak is generally cut from the top round of cow (which is the hind quarter muscle).
One of the most popular and expensive cuts of steak, filet mignon is cut from the tenderloin; it's the softest and most tender of steaks, which results in a rich and buttery piece of meat with a subtle flavor. It's delicate flavor makes it an excellent canvas to pair with bold flavors (think peppercorns, cheese, and rich sauce). It's also wonderful wrapped in buttery pastry for Beef Wellington.
One of our favorite budget-friendly types of steak, flank steak is a long, flat cut taken from the belly of the cow and is easy to identify because of its shape. It's flavorful but chewy and less tender, so it's generally marinated before being grilled and sliced against the grain.
Similar in flavor and leanness to flank and skirt steaks, hanger steak is a boneless cut taken from the diaphragm of a cow, an area also known as the "plate." It's sometimes known as the butcher's steak because butchers would reserve this cut for themselves. It's a long, thin cut of meat that is tougher than skirt steak. It's best marinated before cooking and delicious when grilled.
New York Strip Steak
The strip steak, or New York strip steak, has more marbling than the filet mignon and 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 pairs well with a variety of sauces, or simply season and broil to serve with a steakhouse-worthy side.
A bigger loin cut, the porterhouse includes both a filet mignon and a strip steak, and it serves two to three people. You'll recognize it by its large T-shaped bone, which adds flavor to both steaks during cooking; still, the porterhouse retains the tenderness of a loin cut. One word of caution: It can be challenging to cook a porterhouse because you are essentially cooking two different types of steak at the same time, so watch your meat carefully.
Cut from the cow's ribs, the rib-eye has plenty of marbled fat which makes for a tender, juicy, and flavorful steak. Just know that the fat can sometimes cause flare ups on the grill, so this type of steak needs to be watched carefully. Fun fact: The rib-eye is sometimes called a Delmonico steak on restaurant menus.
Similar in flavor to the flank and hanger steaks, skirt steak is a long, flat cut that like the hanger is cut from the plate of a cow and is full of beefy flavor. It cooks quickly and is often used for fajitas. There are only two skirt steaks per cow, so skirt steak is more often seen on restaurant menus than in grocery stores.
Cut from the hip area, the sirloin steak is a transitional cut; it's not as tender back and short loin cuts but more tender than rump and leg cut steaks. It's a popular choice in grocery stores as it's relatively cheap and there is little waste, plus it takes well to grilling, broiling, and pan searing. It can cook up on the dry side so marinading is a good idea to ensure this cut is juicy and tasty.