In the world of steaks, the options can be overwhelming. Cap steaks, which are sometimes called culotte steaks, are flavorful gems that cook beautifully and offer tender texture and deep, rich beef flavor. As their name implies, cap steaks include the cap, which is a layer of fat and sometimes fibrous meat found on top of the steak. As it cooks, the fat renders and infuses the meat with unparalleled deliciousness. Although many butchers remove the cap before cutting the steaks as some consumers consider it to be unhealthy, cooks who are “in the know” realize the value of leaving the cap on.
Characteristics of Cap Steak
They don't call cap steaks "butcher's butter" for nothing. These little-known steaks, which are sometimes called spinalis, are typically cut from the sirloin or ribeye, although the cap itself can also be found on other cuts of beef and pork. On larger cuts such as prime rib, the cap can be left on and cooked with the rest of the roast. For steaks, the cap is the extra strip of muscle and fat that cooks up beautifully since the fat melts into the rest of the meat as it cooks. Cap steaks are traditionally cut across the grain into a steak between 1 and 1 1/4 inches thick.
Preparing the Meat
Although this delicious cut of beef has tons of flavor on its own, marinating a cap steak or giving it a healthy dose of seasoning with a dry rub takes that flavor up several notches, intensifying and complementing the beefiness. Marinate it for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator or rub it with your favorite dry rub, wrap it with plastic wrap and let it absorb the flavors for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Cap steaks pair well with the flavors of brandy, wild mushrooms, thyme, red wine, rosemary, allspice, Chinese five-spice powder, oregano, chili peppers, Dijon mustard, cumin, paprika, horseradish, garlic, salsa and Chinese black bean sauce, among others.
Ideal cooking methods for this cut are fast and hot. Pan-sear the meat in a hot pan to create a caramelized, deeply flavored exterior. Finish the steaks in an oven that's been preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the steaks' internal temperature reach your desired doneness. Alternatively, cook cap steaks on a grill that's been preheated to medium-high heat. Grill the steaks for three to five minutes per side, or until they reach your desired level of doneness.
Determining When the Steaks Are Done
The most exact method for ensuring that your cap steak is fully cooked is by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the meatiest part of the steak. According to the FoodSafety.gov website, steaks should be cooked to a minimum of 145 F, with a rest time of at least 3 minutes to ensure any harmful germs or bacteria are killed. Remember, when you remove your cap steaks from the oven or grill, the internal temperature continues rising by approximately 5 F as the meat rests.
- The Complete Meat Cookbook; Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly
- Beef: And Other Bovine Matters; John Torode
- Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook; Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot
- Field Guide to Meat; Aliza Green
- FoodSafety.gov: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures
- Serious Eats: Meet the Ribeye Cap, the Tastiest Cut on the Cow
- CooksInfo.com: Cap On / Cap Off
- Forbes: Trendy New Cuts Of Beef: Chefs Love Them For Grilling And Much More
Caryn Anderson combines extensive behind-the-scenes writing experience with her passion for all things food, fashion, garden and travel. Bitten by the travel bug at the age of 15 after a trip to Europe, Anderson fostered her love of style and fashion while living in New York City and earning her degree at New York University.