How to Choose the Perfect Steak: All Your FAQs Answered

Steaks are a dish of meat, often beef or veal, cooked on the stove and served with various side dishes. Different cuts may be grilled, baked or fried before being cut into steaks. What is the best type of steak? You’ll find our comprehensive guide to selecting a perfect steak below
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The “how to choose the right cut of beef” is a question that has been asked many times. In this blog, I will answer all your questions about how to choose the perfect steak.

Grilling season is here, and if you’re like most people in the United States, you’ll be putting steaks over coal and flame in the coming months.

While I’ve been eating steak since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I have to say that I didn’t know much about them until lately. What is the difference between “Prime” and “Select” steaks? What makes me prefer a chuck eye over a rib eye? Should I spend a little more money on grass-fed beef?

I did a thorough dive into the issue to fulfill my hungry curiosity and get the answers to these and other questions.

I’ve outlined what I’ve discovered below. 

Let’s get started.

What Characterizes a Steak?

Let’s start with terminology before we enter into the realm of steaks.

What makes a steak a steak, first and foremost?

A steak is a piece of meat (typically beef) that is sliced across, or perpendicular, to the direction of the muscle fibers. 

This broad concept is not without exceptions. Some steaks, such as skirt and flank steak (details below), are sliced parallel to the muscle fibers.

Steaks may originate from a variety of sections of a cow, as we’ll see. The taste and softness of a cut of beef are influenced by where it originates from.

How to Choose a Steak: Frequently Asked Questions

You have a number of alternatives to choose from when it comes to cooking a steak. Which is better: Prime or Select? Angus? Grass-fed vs. grain-fed: which is better? Is it better to mature your wine dry or wet? T-bone steak or sirloin steak?

Which of the aforementioned combinations should you choose? T-bone steak, Angus Prime, grass-fed, and dry-aged?

What exactly does it imply?

We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you select which steak to choose and how to prepare it.

What is Angus beef, exactly?

Black cows eating grass in a wide field.

The breed of cattle from which the meat is derived is known as Angus. Because Angus cattle produce the majority of meat in the United States, the hamburger you had for supper last night was most certainly Angus beef. “Certified Angus Beef” is a brand of beef that you’ve definitely heard advertised. The American Angus Association uses it as a marketing tool to promote the belief that Angus meat is better than beef from other cattle breeds. To be labeled “Certified Angus Beef,” the meat must be 51 percent Black Angus and fulfill ten criteria, including the age of the cattle at harvest, the quality of the cow’s muscling, the thickness of the fat on the flesh, and the degree of marbling.

Knowing that your beef is “Certified Angus” assures you of good quality. However, you shouldn’t be too concerned with whether your beef is Angus or not; it almost certainly is, and even if it isn’t, you won’t notice much of a difference.

What is the difference between Wagyu and Kobe beef?

Beef japanese steaks displayed.

Wagyu beef is beef from Japanese cattle, and Kobe beef is a form of Wagyu beef. Kobe beef is made from a special breed of Wagyu called Tajima-Gyu, which is bred to exacting standards in the Hyogo prefecture (region/jurisdiction). 

 

The marbling distinguishes Wagyu meat from beef from other breeds of cattle: there’s a lot of it. Wagyu steaks have a wonderful, uniformly distributed quantity of fat thanks to years of careful breeding and a lengthier fattening stage. Furthermore, Wagyu beef fat melts at a lower temperature than other breeds, giving it a wonderful, buttery taste.

Kobe meat, a form of Wagyu cattle, has even more marbling and softness than regular Wagyu steak. Cattle must fulfill even tougher requirements for how they are reared, as well as the quality and marbling of their flesh, in order to be designated as Kobe beef.

Kobe beef is costly to produce because to these high criteria, thus it’s also pricey to purchase. Kobe beef retails for approximately $100 per pound, while a 12-ounce restaurant rib eye costs over $400.

If you’re looking for Kobe beef in the United States, read the labels carefully. American meat producers have started importing Wagyu cattle from Japan, crossing them with American Angus cattle, and marketing the resultant beef as “Kobe-style” in recent years. Kobe-style isn’t the same as Kobe-style. Don’t get me wrong: Wagyu beef from the United States is a delicious cut of meat. It isn’t, however, Kobe.

What does the USDA classification mean?

Let’s pretend you’ve decided on Angus beef. Next, decide if you want “Prime,” “Choice,” or “Select” beef, according to the USDA beef scale.

Beef is graded by the USDA based on the age of the animal and the quantity of fat (marbling) in the meat. While the USDA system has eight classes, most consumers will only encounter the following three:

Prime. This is the best beef available. It is derived from young cattle (usually 9-30 months old). The marbling in the meat ranges from mildly plentiful to copious. Because of all the fat, this is the most tasty and juicy cut of beef. A Prime rating is awarded to around 3% of steaks in the United States.

Choice. Choice beef is the next best in terms of quality. Choice beef is of good quality, although it lacks the marbling of Prime steak. As a consequence, it will be less soft, juicy, and tasty. Choice beef accounts for around half of all beef consumed in the United States.

Select. Select meat may still be tender, but it’s the least delicious and juicy of the three classes, with even less marbling than the other grades.

While the USDA inspects all beef for food safety, grading beef is optional. Meat farmers, in fact, must pay the USDA to get their beef graded. Most sign up for marketing reasons, so that when selling to butchers or restaurants, they may say their beef is “USDA Prime.”

The grade you choose will be determined by your budget and the qualities you want in a steak.

Choose a Prime grade steak if you want something with a lot of taste, softness, and juiciness and you have some flexibility in your budget.

 

Choose a Choice grade steak if you want to save money while still getting some great meat. It still has enough fat in it to provide a lovely, juicy taste. In fact, the website Serious Eats makes a solid argument for choosing Choice over Prime when it comes to meat quality. It’s all because of some strange inconsistencies in the USDA grading system.

Select steak is the most cost-effective option, but its leanness makes it a poor choice for “dry heat” cooking (e.g., grilling). If you’re going to grill it, be sure you marinade it first.

When it comes to beef, what’s the difference between grain-fed and grass-fed?

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the advantages of grass-fed beef versus grain-fed cattle for both customers and the environment. However, there is a lot of misconception about these two forms of meat.

For starters, all cattle, even grain-fed cattle, spend the first 85 percent of their lives on grass. Grain-fed cattle are brought to a feedlot and transitioned from a grass-based diet to a grain-based diet (corn, soy, straw, and/or alfalfa) three months before being dispatched. Grass-fed cattle have access to pasture and continue to consume grass (along with other leaves and vegetables) until slaughter.

Rather of referring to cattle as “grain fed” or “grass fed,” it would be more correct to refer to them as “grain finished” or “grass finished.”

Cattle that consume an all-grain diet gain weight rapidly and have beautiful marbling, which makes their meat taste wonderful. Because of their nutrition and increased muscular movement, grass-finished calves produce meat that is somewhat leaner and harder.

Grass-finished beef has greater Omega-3s, CLA, and vitamins A and E in terms of nutrition and health. The difference in these nutrients between grass-finished and grain-finished beef, on the other hand, isn’t significant. Both types of cattle may be fed antibiotics unless the meat is officially labeled as antibiotic-free.

The claim that grass-fed cattle are healthier for the environment than grain-fed cattle is also likely to be a wash. It’s been suggested, but not confirmed, that well-managed cow grazing helps retain CO2 underground. However, grass-finished cattle need three times the amount of land and water as grain-finished calves. Furthermore, since grain-finished calves need less time to attain market weight than grass-finished cattle (a few months vs many years), the latter spend more time farting and emit 500 percent more greenhouse emissions per pound.

So go ahead and choose whichever kind makes you happy. Except for pricing, there won’t be much of a difference.

Is it a good idea to acquire a dry-aged steak?

Dry aged beef steaks placed in chamber.

The short answer is that it depends.

Short answer that leads to a lengthy response: Read more about dry-aged beef in our article.

Dry-aged beef is more expensive to purchase because it takes more time to prepare. It is drained of moisture and then goes through a controlled breakdown process. The outcome is a more tender steak with a deeper, meatier, and butterier taste. It’s no better than wet-aged beef (which is what most beef is marketed as — vacuum-packed and kept in the fridge). It’s just a little different.

 

Which steak cut should I order?

Steaks are available in a range of cuts. Here’s the skinny on each of them:

Strip Steak with Bones (a.k.a., New York Strip Steak, Kansas City Strip, Shell Steak, Hotel-cut Strip Steak, or Ambassador Steak). Strip steaks get their name from the fact that they’re “stripped” off the cattle’s lower back, or short loin. The spine bones of bone-in strip steaks are still present in the cut. Strip steaks are juicy and tender.

Boneless strip uncooked steak.

Strip Steak with No Bones

Strip Steak with No Bones The spine bones have been removed from a strip steak. One of the benefits of boneless strip steaks over their bone-in counterparts is that they cook more uniformly. The downsides of removing the bone include a loss of taste and a less appealing appearance when serving the steak (though some diners prefer their meat entirely sans skeleton).

Thick t-bone uncooked steak.

T-Bone

Steak with a T-Bone. Cut across the cattle’s spine from the short loin. It features a T-shaped bone that separates parts of the strip and tenderloin muscles (can be seen at the top of the picture above). It’s a huge, soft, and tasty piece of beef.

Porterhouse Steak is a kind of steak. A porterhouse steak is a T-bone steak with a bigger tenderloin muscle section. It’s soft and savory, just like a T-bone. Because of its size, it’s a perfect cut to share with a second person.

Tenderloin steak with toppings.

Tenderloin

Tenderloin, sometimes known as “Filet Mignon,” is a kind of beef tenderloin. When ordering a steak at a fancy restaurant, the filet mignon is often requested. It’s the most delicate part of a cow’s flesh. Muscle fibers that travel down the interior of the spine make up this structure. The tenderloin is tender, but since it is such a lean cut of beef, it lacks taste. As a result, a filet mignon is often served with a fatty sauce.

Filet Mignon uncooked steak.

Rib Eye

Rib Eye Steak with Bones The loin and the cap are the two muscles that make up rib eye steaks. The addition of the bone enhances the beauty of the cut. It’s a favorite among butchers since it’s one of the most marbled and tasty cuts of meat.

Rib Eye Steak with No Bones Without the bone, it’s the same as a bone-in rib eye.

Tomahawk Steak placed vertically.

Tomahawk

Steak in the shape of a tomahawk. It’s a bone-in rib eye steak that includes the whole bone. On the platter, the long bone makes a stunning show. The marbling and taste are are excellent.

Sirloin uncooked steak.

Sirloin

Sirloin Steak is a cut of beef that comes from the sirloin It comes from a cow’s sirloin (the part of the animal’s back around the rump). It’s a bland cut of beef with no taste or tenderness. It has a beef flavor and is inexpensive. That’s all there is to it.

Flat Iron uncooked Steak.

Flat Iron

Steak cooked on a flat iron skillet. It originates from the animal’s shoulder blade. It’s a tender cut of beef with a taste similar to that of a strip steak. The biggest disadvantage with flat iron steaks is that there’s a huge chunk of sinew running through the centre of the cut, making it difficult to consume. Cut the steak in half along the sinew, remove the sinew, and cook the steak as two filets to avoid this.

 

Chuck Eye uncooked Steak.

Chuck Eye

Steak from the chuck eye. This is my favorite beef cut since it has all of the softness and taste of a rib eye but is considerably less expensive. Chuck eyes are a low-cost alternative to rib eye steaks that originate from the shoulder.

Flank uncooked steak.

Flank

Steak off the flank. Unlike other steaks, flank steaks are sliced parallel to the muscle fiber rather than perpendicular to it. The cut originates from the animal’s belly, and the lengthy muscular fibers make the flesh more chewy. As a steak, it’s not ideal for grilling. But it’s great for fajitas.

Skirt uncooked steak.

Skirt

Skirt Steak is a kind of steak that is served on the side. Cut parallel to the muscle fiber from the belly as well. It has a fantastic taste and is reasonably priced.

The Best Steak Cooking Techniques

No matter how perfectly you chose your steak, if you don’t prepare it properly, you won’t be able to enjoy it to the fullest!

There are two wonderful ways to cook a steak listed here; however, there are additional options, such as grilling it using a shovel!

How to Cook a Perfect Steak on the Grill

Raw steaks on grill.

How to Sear a Steak in the Backwards Position

Reverse sear cooked steak placed on cutting board.

So there you have it. Your one-stop shop for all things steak-related. Grilling is fun. And then there’s the eating.

Master butcher Pat LaFrieda’s book Meat: Everything You Need to Know was a major source for this piece; for more on meat, check out my podcast with LaFrieda:

 

 

 

The “how to choose good ribeye steak” is a question that has been asked many times. Many people want to know how to choose the perfect steak for themselves, but nobody wants to be disappointed with their purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you choose the best meat for steak?

A: Well, first you must find a good cut of meat. Then, the type of steak that best suits your taste will depend on how you like to cook it and what seasonings you prefer. Finally, I would recommend cooking with wine!

What is the secret to the perfect steak?

A: The secret to the perfect steak is not a particular temperature. Its really about how long you cook it for and using high quality ingredients from your butcher or grocery store.

What should I look for when buying a steak?

A: When buying a steak, you should look for one that is red in color and has fat on the outside.

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