The Best Cuts of Steak for BBQ – The expert’s guide

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August 16, 2021

If the title of this article caught your eye, you must have a good meal in mind and want to have a go at it with proper research before possibly overcooking, over-seasoning, and over- any other words that imply too much of anything done to a perfectly good cut of meat. But, before we get into the juicy details, we feel obligated to mention that any type of steak needs a good amount of attention, patience, and a source of constant heat, the kind that built-in grills on gas can provide for the cooking process to deliver a mouth-watering result.

So, get your grills, aprons, tools, and seasonings prepared, and then you can take a trip to your butcher to search for the cuts of your dreams.

General pointers for any type of cut

Although we will go into deep detail with each individual cut, there are a few things that you can look for when buying any piece of meat, if you don’t have the time to familiarize yourself with all the names and whatnots.

  • Marbling: This refers to the small white stripes or dots that are visible all over the meat. Those are all fat and they add to the overall flavor, level of moisture remaining after the grilling, and final tenderness of the steak. Tenderness is also mentionable, and other than fat, soft muscle is what influences its presence.
  • Bone Presence: Similar to fat when it comes to moisture retention and adding flavor, the only downside of the cuts that do have a bone is that they take longer to cook.
  • Aged Meats: This aspect is probably the one that has personal preference written all over it, seeing as the drying process invites the presence of an outer crust, much like in the case of molded cheese, giving a more elaborate end flavor.
  • Grading: For those who might not be aware, in the U.S. meat is graded using a scale provided by the USDA. The scale is made of 8 levels, and those are Prime, Choice, and Select, the highest ones, Standard and Commercial, the medium ones, Cutter and Canner, the lowest ones.

Best Cuts

After our short introduction, we’re now going into specific detail with the most common beef cuts that have sizzled on every grill at one point or another.

Tenderloin and Filet Mignon

Although these two are used interchangeably, there are a few points that make a difference, and those are the cut and the flavor, where the tenderloin has the upper hand. The second is selected and cut from the tapered portion of the first, which is why an average male cattle can give only 500 grams of it. Both are incredibly tender, with a soft texture, and can also be roasted as a treat in small pieces. One important detail to remember is not overcooking it, as it is very lean.

Sirloin and Top Sirloin

This steak is the next step from the filet, moisture and flavor-wise, but a step behind the ribeye when it comes to the amount of fat on it, making overcooking a risk you need to keep in mind. Top sirloin is another version of the sirloin that lacks tenderness but makes up for it with its cost and flavor richness. Both can be seared on medium to high heat while making sure you are aware of the inner temperature.

Ribeye and Chuck eye

The ribeye is the high-end choice due to all its appetizing qualities, like an intense marbling, tenderness, and flavor punch. This one can come with or without the bone (also known as Scotch filet), with a thickness between half of an inch and over two inches. That variation makes it a good candidate for a medium to hot searing, followed by a resting period on the cooler end of your grill. The Chuck eye is the less expensive version of this steak because it’s part of the first two cuts that start at the chuck, before reaching the rib section.

Striploin

With alternative names such as New York or Kansas City steak, this cut goes even further than the ribeye flavor-wise, and it’s also a tender meat piece. The flavor level is raised thanks to the higher amount of fat, and the thickness in which you can find it, as well as the cooking method, are the same as that of the ribeye. As a side note, if you happen to purchase it with the bone still attached, you’ll be calling it a Club steak.

T-bone and Porterhouse

The most versatile of the lot, this piece is comprised of two steaks, sirloin, and ribeye, on either side of the T-shaped bone. This cut is tender, marbled, and comes with great flavor, all mixed in this larger-sized package. The downside is that, since it has two different pieces, it can raise the difficulty bar when you’re cooking it, so make sure you get a thicker cut and go for a reverse sear. The differences between Porterhouse and the aforementioned are the lack of tenderness in the ribeye portion and the smaller (or altogether absent) presence of the tenderloin portion. All other aspects – plus factors, cooking, thickness – are the same and if you were to order it on a night out, your wallet will probably resent you.

Flank

The Bavette or the London broil, this one is the first cut from the underbelly, meaning that it is one of the tougher pieces, with the upside of a bolder flavor thanks to the fat quantity. It can be cooked as little or as much as you’d like and it doesn’t come at a great cost, making it the best option for those who are just starting on the grill.

Skirt

Coming from the diaphragm part, the skirt amazes with a stronger flavor (if you thought it wasn’t possible to go higher) in a thinner cut. The lack of thickness makes it so that a medium-rare serving is necessarry to avoid having tough meat on your plate. For added tenderness, many recommend slicing it against the grain.

Underrated cuts worth mentioning

Without excessive detail, here are some cuts that have potential and the perk of a smaller price:

Flat Iron (Alternative: Book/Butler/Boneless Top Chuck) – Very tender, high in fat and flavor

Tri-tip (Alternative: Newport/Santa Maria/Triangle) – Two-grain patterns, leaner with good flavor

Merlot – A similar cut to a flank when it comes to the muscle fiber, tender when cooked rare

To wrap it up

As a final word of advice, since this is the end of the article, we’ll give you 3 cooking pointers:

Seasoning needs to be done appropriately, and in the case of the majority of these cuts, that means sparingly. And remember to sprinkle any pepper as a final touch, so that you can avoid the risk of a bitter taste.

Use appropriate tools. Since you don’t have any other way of knowing the exact temperature on the inner side, do yourself a favor and have a thermometer handy to achieve the cooking level you desire. Another helpful tool is a cooling rack to maintain a good outer lining after your steaks are done, as opposed to abandoning them in their own juices.

Resting is sacred. The moment when your knife cuts through the steak is the same moment when any leftover cooking process is interrupted, stripping the meat of its ability to retain moisture.

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