When you're selecting a steak from the butcher counter, take a minute to think about how you plan to cook it. Different cuts of steak are best cooked in certain ways. The best steak to fry in a pan, for example, is not necessarily the best steak to grill. Know your cuts so you'll be satisfied when you see the final product on a plate.
A filet, also known as a tenderloin or filet mignon, is a very tender piece of steak from the tenderloin, which runs through the short loin and sirloin. The filet is very low in fat, which means it cooks much faster and is more prone to drying out than other cuts of steak. Pan-fry it in oil and baste it in butter to keep this cut moist. As an alternative, a hanger steak, also known as the “butcher’s tenderloin,” packs almost as much flavor and tenderness as the filet -- but costs less.
Rib-eyes and New York strips are both well-marbled, which means that they contain small amounts of fat throughout that keep them moist and tasty. The rib-eye, also known as the Delmonico or the Spencer, is highly marbled with fat throughout the cut. If you’re cooking at home, watch it closely, because the fat makes the cut vulnerable to burning. The New York strip, also known as the Kansas City strip or top sirloin, is a cut from part of the short loin once the tenderloin is removed. The cut gets its name because one side has a thick strip of fat. Because it has less fat than the rib-eye, it’s not as prone to burning.
Best on the Grill
T-bone and flat iron steaks are perfect for the grill. A T-bone is made up of part of the tenderloin and part of the strip, making it tender with a strip of fat along one side. Because of the steak’s bone, it’s very difficult to fry in a pan. When grilling, keep the fatty side farthest from the heat source so that it doesn’t burn. A flat iron steak, or blade steak, is also great for the grill. Cut from the shoulder, its uniform thickness and shape makes it easy to grill evenly.
Best to Share
Skirt steaks and porterhouse steaks are perfect for sharing. Skirt steaks are long, lean cuts with lots of flavor. Before you cook it, trim the excess fat around the exterior. A full skirt steak is large and can usually be split between at least two people. It’s a traditional cut that's marinated and used for fajitas. A porterhouse is also great for sharing—it includes the lean and tender filet alongside a marbled New York strip cut, including a bone. This steak only comes as a large cut, usually about 16 to 18 ounces.