The Best Beef Steaks and How to Cook Them

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Butchers sell more steaks than any other cut of beef, especially in Summer, when the call of the barbecue is too primal to ignore. But how many times have you picked up a steak at the market, and thrown it on the grill, and wound up with a tough piece of shoe leather? Not all steaks cook the same, and in this beef primer, we cover the most common steak cuts, and the best ways to cook them.

Blade Steak (or Top Blade Steak)

Blade Steak is cut from the shoulder of the beef steer or heifer, which is called the chuck. The blade steak is bisected by a streak of connective tissue (or gristle) running down the length of the cut. Like many chuck cuts, the blade steak has good flavor, but it isn’t well-suited to grilling and is best enjoyed braised to achieve tenderness. During braising, the tough connective tissue softens enough to be edible, but it still retains some texture. The blade steak is also cut to create the more tender Flat Iron Steak.


Chateaubriand is a thick cut from what is called “the heart” or the center of the tenderloin. It is extremely tender and juicy when cooked properly, and the steak (at 12 ounces) is usually intended for two diners. Its name derives from a Napoleonic-era chef, Montmireil, who dedicated his method for cooking tenderloin steak to his patron, diplomat and historian Viscomte de Chateaubriand. Larousse Gastronomique recommends that the steak be massaged with oil or butter, seasoned with salt and pepper and then broiled or sautéed.

Chuck Steak

Chuck steak is another name for the Top Blade Steak (see above), which is cut from the shoulder of the beef cow and is usually one-inch thick and is sliced with bone attached. It is a less desirable cut for grilling and can only be tenderized by braising. It is also called the 7-Bone Steak, referring to the shape of the bone in the number 7.

Chuck Eye Steak

The Chuck Eye steak is cut from between the 5th and 6th ribs of the beef steer or heifer. (The popular Rib-Eye steaks are cut from between the 6th and 12th ribs.) Because of its proximity to the rib-eye, the chuck eye has more robust flavor and better tenderness than other chuck steaks. Sometimes called “the poor man’s Rib-Eye”, the chuck eye is a relatively inexpensive cut, and like most chuck cuts, it benefits from being marinated before grilling or pan-searing at high heat.

Cowboy Steak

A Cowboy Steak (also called the Tomahawk Steak is a bone-in rib-eye steak cut from between the 6th and 12th ribs of the beef cow and usually weighs 2 pounds. Meat is scraped from the bone (Frenched), leaving a handle that, supposedly, a hungry cowboy would need to hold (and eat) such an enormous steak. Like other rib-eye steaks, the Cowboy Steak is richly marbled with fat, very tender and flavorful. The Cowboy Steak needs little seasoning — usually just salt and pepper — and can be grilled or pan-seared.

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon (translated to “Dainty Cut” from the old French) is a steak cut from the slender end of the tenderloin, which runs along both sides of the beef cow’s spine. (The middle thicker cut of the tenderloin is called the Chateaubriand.) Because this muscle is not exercised or supports the cow’s weight, the tenderloin is not toughened by connective tissue and is the most tender — as well as the most expensive — of all beef cuts. Filet mignon has little fat and tends to dry out with over-cooking. Filet mignon needs little seasoning, other than an addition of fat, like butter or oil, and is best pan-seared quickly over high heat.

Flank Steak

Flank Steak is a long, triangular cut from the abdomen of the cow. It has a fibrous texture, and needs to be marinated for several hours before being rapidly cooked under high heat, such as a broiler or grill to medium-rare. Flank steak has excellent flavor (especially when grilled) and can be tender, but only if thinly sliced against the grain. The most commonly known preparation of flank steak is called London Broil.

Flat Iron Steak

The Flat Iron steak was created in 2002 when the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association commissioned two research teams from the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska to develop new cuts for retail and food service that would make more efficient use of the chuck and the round. The Flat Iron steak was created by removing the central connective tissue of the top blade steak, which resulted in a triangular (hence its name), exceptionally flavorful and tender steak (second in tenderness to the tenderloin). The Flat Iron is best marinated and grilled over high heat to medium rare. The Flat Iron is an inexpensive cut when bought at a butcher or supermarket, but because of its recent popularity with restaurant chefs, it can be quite expensive when ordering it at a restaurant.
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