Not understanding cuts of steaks can lead to people not enjoying their meat to the full or they are put off buying it altogether because they are scared of making the wrong decision. In this article, we’ll explain where different steak cuts come from on the cow, what characteristics the steaks have and what that makes the steak good for in your cooking.
Here’s a diagram of a cow, illustrating where the different cuts of steaks come from to help you identify different cuts of steaks.
Common cuts of steaks:
Fillet Steak or Tenderloin Steak
Fillet steak is the most highly prized of all the steak cuts; it comes from the tenderloin area (you’ll see this labelled on our diagram) and is a muscle that isn’t worked very hard when the animal moves about so it remains very tender and is also a very lean cut of meat. It’s more expensive than many other cuts of steak and so tends to be served in smaller portions.
The classic way to cook a fillet steak is to fry or grill it, with professional kitchens preferring to use a very hot pan or griddle; check out our tips on cooking perfect fillet steaks. Steak aficionados will tell you that it is a waste to stew or roast fillet, although many restaurants do offer the second option and tail end fillet is sometimes used in dishes such as beef stroganoff that require a very tender cut.
Just above the tenderloin you’ll find the sirloin, another delicious cut of steak that is tender and pretty lean. One of the differences between the fillet and the sirloin is that the sirloin is covered with a layer of fat that, when cooked properly, melts into the meat making it juicy, tender and delicious.
The muscle tissue that makes up sirloin steaks is used slightly more than the tenderloin, meaning the meat isn’t quite as melt in the mouth (although it’s still pretty tender) and this is reflected in the price and therefore often in the serving size. There is a distinction between top and bottom sirloin, with the former cut of steak being considered more desirable (it will usually be marked up as top sirloin if that’s where it is from). Find out how to cook sirloin steaks in our article.
Rib Eye Steak
Ribeye steak comes, as you might guess, from the rib of the animal. Usually the rib bone is removed although it is also popular to serve this cut of steak bone in, especially in the US. Rib eye has a dizzying number of alternative names, being referred to also as Delmonico steak, scotch fillet, beauty steak, market steak, Spencer steak, Filet de la Thistle and Entrecôte in France.
Rib eye steaks are marbled with tiny veins of fat, which far from being unpleasant, melt during the cooking process to give an absolutely delicious, rich and juicy flavour to the meat. Often described as the beefiest tasting of all the cuts of steaks available due to the muscle getting a lot of exercise during its life, rib eye is great grilled, fried or slow roasted to release all of its flavour.
T Bone & Porterhouse Steak
T-Bone and Porterhouse cuts of steaks are prepared in a similar way, involving a vertical cut that encompasses elements of both the fillet and front of the sirloin (what the Americans call the short loin) on either side of a distinctive T shaped bone.
The difference between the two is that Porterhouse steaks are cut from further back on the sirloin and therefore contains a bit more of the tenderloin or fillet than T-Bone steaks and there’s a corresponding price difference. Both sit between fillet and sirloin cuts of steak price wise, however if you find a comparatively cheap Porterhouse (approx. the same price as sirloin) it is likely to be just the short loin or front of the sirloin, without the bone.
T-Bone steaks are suited to being cooked hot and quickly on a grill or fried; the bone conducts heat so this cut of steak tends to cook very evenly and it has the added bonus of preventing the meat shrinking of drying out during cooking. Price wise these steaks are similar
Rump steak is the most economical of all the cuts of steaks, lean meat that comes from the powerful hindquarters of the animal. Because the muscle tissue that makes up these cuts of steak is used all the time by the animal, they build long, wiry connective tissues and sinews that can give toughness to the meat when cooked.
Rump steak can still be delicious; marinating or tenderizing the meat (check out our article on aged steak which covers tenderizing steak through ageing). With careful cooking can be nice grilled, however there are many other ways to cook rump steak such as stews, stir fries and mince dishes.
To try a whole selection of different cuts of steaks you can learn how to order steaks that really sing with flavour or you can trust us to do the hard work for you and order now online in just a few easy clicks.