The 5 Tastiest Cuts of Beef for Steak

Published Categorized as Food
Tasty beef on a wooden cutting boardlisovskaya /Depositphotos

You can’t find it better. Here are the tastiest cuts of beef for steak, and how to select them.

The hearty entrée of any good meal is beef steak. And the cut of beef you choose can make a world of difference in terms of tenderness, juiciness, smell, and taste. So, what are the best cuts of beef for steak?

The tastiest cut of beef for steak can be argued, but the one people mostly go for is the ribeye. There are other cuts, like the filet mignon, T-bone, and tri-tip that many cooks swear by. The fat and the marbling are what can make or break the taste and texture of your steak.

We will explain why fat and marbling are what you should look for when choosing the best steak. The USDA also offers a grading system that helps us determine the tenderness. We will get into that—and much more—that you will enjoy and find most interesting.

Why Fat and Marbling Makes the Best Cut of Steak

Fat can greatly contribute to the overall quality of a steak. It is what makes the meat succulent and the mouth water when you sink your teeth into it. The fatty tissue gives the steak a formidable, full-bodied flavor that makes it one of the best dishes around.

The marbling of a steak—how well the fat is distributed between the muscle fibers—has a significant impact on what type of meat you select. If you want your steak to be rich and hearty, choose one with superior marbling. Ultimately, marbling can affect how tender or chewy the meat is, as the intramuscular fat is rendered into the meat and contributes with juiciness as it cooks.

Slabs of Meat With Prime Grade Beef Steak

When you pick USDA Prime grade beef, you have a prime choice of delicious meat. For those of you who live stateside, USDA Prime is the highest quality you can get for beef. It has more marbling and is usually juicier than other grades, whether Choice, Select, or Standard.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s grading system helps American cooks buy their meat with confidence because it gives them a good idea of what they are getting in terms of tenderness, juiciness, and flavor.

“After beef is inspected for wholesomeness,” the USDA describes on its website, “producers and processors may request to have it graded. Grading of beef is voluntary and a plant must pay for the service.”

The grading process—and the requirements that come with it—are not to be underestimated:

After the USDA decides which grade will best suit consumers, they pick out individual cuts to give Prime status for being more tender and flavorful than other types of steak from different cattle breeds.

As a golden rule, each slab of prime-cut beef comes from a steer that is less than 30 months old. The animal must have been raised on a diet that allows its natural flavors to develop without any artificial ingredients or animal by-products added during the process.

So, if you enjoy beef and you only want the best for you and the family, by all means, go for Prime cuts of meat; you will get your money’s worth. The choice is yours for quality beef that will satisfy your taste buds to the fullest.

The USDA Grading System

The four grades of beef that are given are Prime, Choice, Select, and Standard. There are other types of meat in the grading system, but we will focus on what can be eaten for steaks. All other grades are considered to be lesser cuts, and end up on your plate in the form of processed meats.

  • USDA Prime: The highest grade you can get on beef is prime because it has extra marbling and tends to be juicier than other grades like choice, select, or standard;
  • USDA Choice: Grading at a mid-level in taste compared to prime or select meats, this type of steak has more marbling than the standard grade;
  • USDA Select: This type is less marbled than prime or choice grades. When cooked, it also has fewer juices, which means it comes out tougher with little flavor;
  • USDA Standard: The lowest grade because it has little fat and lacks juiciness. It can come out tough because there is not much marbling. This is the grade of beef that usually ends up in the form of processed meat in the cannery—or braises and stews in the household.

To ensure you receive top quality, purchase your steaks from a butcher that allows customers to choose their own meat. You can then see first hand which type tastes best to you and how tender it is before buying it, so you know what kind of steak cut you enjoy most.

What Are the Juiciest Cuts of Meat?

The best cuts of meat are the ones that have the most flavor, ain’t no doubt about it. While this may be subjective, certain rules of thumb can gauge meat quality. Very tender cuts of meat, for example, will require minimal chewing and dissolve quickly on the tongue.

Less tender meats may need to be brined before slow-cooking or marinated overnight to help break down some of their fibrous tissues. The following are several options for steak lovers looking to find “the juiciest” of beef cuts:

Rib-Eye Steak

This is a top-tier cut of beef that boasts both tenderness and flavor due to its high-fat content. It comes from an area near the ribs called “ribeye.” This juicy piece of steak is best grilled over high heat for that caramelized outer crust and pink, juicy middle.

Filet Mignon

The filet mignon is a cut from the beef tenderloin. It has a velvety texture because it does not have any muscle fibers running through it. The filet mignon provides a rich, buttery taste when grilled or pan-seared on high heat. Sliced thin, this cut of meat makes a great burger patty if mixed with other cuts such as chuck steak.

T-Bone Steak

The T-bone steak gets its name due to the T-shaped bone in the center of this cut of beef. This steak’s name also implies that it comes from significant cuts of meat. The flavor is rich, and the texture is tender; that said, this cut needs to be handled with care when cooking to avoid overcooking due to its large size.

Tri-Tip Steak

The tri-tip steak is a triangular strip of beef from the bottom sirloin section near the hip and bottom rear quarter of a cow. This cut has slowly started gaining popularity in recent years because it is relatively inexpensive and provides a hearty bite with an intense beefy flavor.

The exterior becomes caramelized when cooked over high heat, while the interior stays juicy and pink within. These steaks are usually large in size, requiring marinades or brining before preparing them on grills or ovens.

Top Round Steak

The top round steak comes from an area of the cow’s hind leg near the rump. The meat is tough but flavorful when cooked low and slow in stews, braises, or casseroles. Top rounds benefit greatly from marinades prior to cooking.

This cut goes well with heat and can be cooked relatively quickly on high heat over searing grills on an excellent crust while keeping the insides tender and pink.

Make Friends with the Local Butcher

These are several of the most popular cuts of beef that provide a rich flavor, succulent texture, and plenty of juice. Choosing to buy steaks instead of ground beef doesn’t have to break your wallet if you know where to go.

Make friends with the local butcher, and you will never have to drive far to get the best of the best cuts available. They can help you choose a perfect cut, and so can we, whether you have a family night or a hot date.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.

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