A Guide to Prime Steak Cuts

The hot weather is finally here! Dust off your barbeques and fire them up because it's time to discuss prime steak cuts. We'll explain some of the more popular steak cuts (ribeye, striploin and filets) as well as some other cuts that you might find tasty too. 

Here's a quick reference chart and you will probably recognize most of these cuts. Which ones are your favourite?

Beef cut chart

While a cow can yield more than 600 lbs of meat on the rail, there are certain sections of the cow that are more coveted and are better suited for steak than other parts. Legs and shoulders are tougher working muscles and thus are typically tougher cuts of steak which are suited for longer cooking times (think a smoked brisket). However, the upper middle section of the cow is where the ribs and short loin are located which produce the most popular, tastiest (and priciest) steaks.

The rib section produces the wildly popular ribeye steak, usually well marbled and without the bone. When the bone is left on, it is considered a prime rib steak. There really isn't a taste difference, only an appearance difference although a very thick cut ribeye steak that includes a long frenched bone is considered a tomahawk steak for its resemblance to an axe. These cuts are rich, flavourful, and juicy. Definitely one of our favourites.

The loin sections yield striploin steaks and tenderloin steaks. The striploin steak is commonly called a New York Strip and is cut from the short loin (the portion of the back behind the ribcage) and can be cut with or without bone. This cut has lots of good marbling and a very strong beef flavour. The tenderloin is also known commonly as filet mignon or chateaubriand and although extremely tender, it has a much milder beef flavour and benefits from generous seasoning (hence bacon wrapped filet mignon). You may have noticed that they are generally much smaller in size when compared to the other steaks. This is because the amount of tenderloin per cow pales in quantity to the other cuts. This is reflected in higher market prices of tenderloin and the reason why it's a coveted steak and a premium steak at most steakhouses.

By making a crosscut near the tenderloin and striploin sections, it will produce the T-bone steakessentially the tenderloin and a piece of striploin connected to each other. It's a great option for having both flavour and texture. A porterhouse steak is basically a very large T-bone that has larger tenderloin and striploin sections on it.

Another cut that might not be as popular but is extremely versatile is the flat iron steak. Taken from the chuck, flat iron steaks have an iron-shape, a uniform thickness, rich beef flavour, and good marbling. When cooked to a medium-rare and sliced thin, they can be marinated or accompanied with a nice sauce, used in a kebab, stir fry or sandwich.

So to quickly summarize: The ribeye steaks are the least tender but the most flavourful. The tenderloin steaks are the most tender but have the mildest flavour. The striploin steaks fall somewhere between the other two. Although the price of tenderloin steaks are pricier than ribeyes and striploins, you won't find it surprising that most people prefer the latter because you'll get more value from a slightly cheaper and bigger portion. The flat iron steaks are the least expensive of the bunch, but also the most versatile and could be considered an "every day" steak because of how many dishes it can be used in. To make things even more interesting, a lot of the tenderness and flavour is highly dependent on how you like to cook your steaks. With proper steak cooking/grilling techniques (pan sear, grill, sous vide), even the least tender steak can be made very tender and juicy. We can explore cooking methods in another blog post!