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Pair The Perfect Steak With The Correct Cooking Method

Before you can cook the perfect steak, you need to match the cut of meat with the correct cooking method.

grilled t-bone steaks with mushrooms_on board

Photo by Meredith

Let's start with some high-end steakhouse cuts. These tender steaks are pricey. For the most part, they need very little adornment. Some salt and a hot grill, and these steaks are melt-in-the-mouth scrumptious.

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Ribeye (aka Delmonico, Spencer, Entrecote). Either bone-in or boneless, a ribeye is essentially a thick slice of prime rib served as a steak. Lots of flavorful marbling with a very meaty flavor, the ribeye is a prime candidate for quick, high-heat cooking on the grill or skillet.

  • Salt and Pepper Ribeye Steak
    The key to this recipe is to salt the ribeyes generously and let them "brine" for two days in the fridge. Then bring them to room temperature before searing in a hot cast-iron skillet. "Salting the steaks for two days brines the steak, helps tenderize them, and adds rich flavor," says Mrs. Fisher, the recipe submitter.
  • Italian Ribeye
    This recipe calls for boneless ribeyes. The steaks marinade for an hour in a wet rub made with Italian herbs, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Then it's off to the hot grill.
  • More Ribeye Steak Recipes

New York Strip (aka top loin, strip steak, Kansas City strip). Shaped vaguely like Manhattan, the strip is a boneless steak with some fat marbling and typically a strip of fat along one long edge. Tender with good meaty flavor, the New York Strip takes well to the high heat of the grill or a high-heat sear-to-broiler method.

Filet mignon (aka tenderloin, Chateaubriand). Filet mignon is a lean, boneless steak from the smaller end of the tenderloin -- the small, more adorable end, apparently, because "mignon" means "cute" in French. Chateaubriand is from the thicker end of the tapering tenderloin. Either way, these steaks are very tender and, because they don’t have much fat marbling, mild in flavor . A nice thick filet mignon is a great candidate for stovetop-to-oven cooking.

  • Filet Mignon with Mushroom-Cabernet Gravy
    "I love pan-searing because it gives the filet mignon steaks that beautiful color and crust on the outside and leaves them so tender inside!," says the recipe submitter. " And because of the influence of my husband's French grandmother, I love to cook anything with wine!"
  • Filet Mignon with Rich Balsamic Glaze
    Quickly sear the steaks in a hot skillet, then sizzle the pan with equal parts of balsamic vinegar and red wine, cover, and braise briefly to create a wonderful glaze.
  • More Filet Mignon Recipes

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T-Bone or Porterhouse. The Big Fella. This bone-in steak includes both the strip and tenderloin part of the steak. Technically, it’s called a porterhouse if the tenderloin is at least 1 ¼-inches wide. If it’s 1/2-inch wide, it’s a T-bone. Either way, T-bones and porterhouse steaks are essentially two steaks in one, so they require some care in cooking. If you can work it, cook the strip part directly over the flames with the tenderloin portion extending into a less hot part of the grill.

  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Tuscan Porterhouse)
    This flagship, Tuscan steak is made from the region's Chianina breed of cattle which are prized for their tenderness and flavor. In typical Italian style, simplicity rules the day; little more than olive oil, rosemary, and salt are needed to highlight the rich flavor of the grilled meat.
  • Rock's T-Bone Steaks
    This T-bone gets a quick rubdown before spending some time on the hot grill. "This seasoning makes any steak awesome. It doesn't overpower the steak," says Rocky, the submitter.
  • Chef John's Chimichurri Sauce
    Here it is, the famous Argentinean sauce for grilled steaks. Herbs and garlic are whirled in a blender with olive oil and white wine vinegar to create a tangy, spicy, decidedly green-colored condiment.

The Cheaper Cuts

Now for the dirty little secret about steaks. The "tougher" cuts are often more flavorful. By comparison, think of it like the dark meat of chicken: The dark meat comes from muscles that worked for a living (thighs, drumsticks); as a result, the darker meat develops more flavor than the white breast meat of a flightless bird. Likewise, these cuts of steak are from parts of the steer that saw some action. True, they're not as tender as the high-end steaks, which had a comparatively cushy existence, but the tougher cuts make up for it in flavor and economy.

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Hanger Steak (aka butcher's steak). This lean steak is very flavorful. A great steak for marinating or wet-rubbing and then grilling over high-heat. Note: wipe off oily marinades before grilling -- or else it's inferno time.

Tri-Tip Steak (aka Santa Maria steak). Another very lean cut with a flavor that's milder than the hanger steak. Rub 'em down with seasonings and toss on the grill.

  • Easy Grilled Tri Tip
    "A great way to quickly grill large cuts of tri-tip beef," says Erika, the recipe submitter. "You can even make it on a busy weeknight. I've also made this for BBQ parties. It's better than buying a bunch of steaks!"
  • Carne Asada Sandwich
    Thin slices of tri-tip steak are seasoned with chile peppers and spices and cooked in a Dutch oven with onions and bell peppers. Top these Mexican-inspired sandwiches with melted cheese, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro.
  • Santa Maria Grilled Tri-Tip Beef
    Tri-tip is a great cut for this kind of high-heat grilling. The meat gets a simple dry rubbing; as it cooks, it's basted with a garlic, mustard, vegetable oil, and red wine vinegar sauce.

VIDEO: How To Grill a Tri-Tip Steak

Watch Chef John prep and grill a California classic, the Santa Maria trip-tip. The trick to grilling the tri-tip is getting the signature caramelized crust. The outside is charred almost black, while the inside cooks to a beautiful pink.

Complete the meal with Santa Maria Beans.

Skirt Steak (aka fajita steak). A long, thin, very flavorful cut that cooks very fast over a high flame. Skirt steak's loose-rope structure creates lots of nooks and crannies for marinades. It's the traditional cut for fajitas, of course, either grilled, broiled, or sautéed. You can also stir-fry with skirt steak; thin strips of skirt steak are done in seconds. If you can't find true skirt steak, flank steak is a popular substitution.

  • Sizzlin' Fajitas
    Cut the skirt steak across the grain into 1/4-inch strips. Then cook the marinated steak over high heat in a large skillet. "If you do not have the time to marinate the meat for 2 or more hours, just leave it out at room temperature, keeping the bag zipped tightly for about 20 to 30 minutes," says Tara Daley, the recipe submitter.
  • Grilled Coffee and Cola Skirt Steak
    "Two great drinks equals one fantastic marinade for skirt steak, the juiciest and most flavorful piece of meat you can put on a grill," says Chef John. "It's smoky and subtly sweet. The flavors are balanced perfectly with the bitterness of the coffee in the grill marks."
  • More Skirt Steak Recipes

Simply marinated flank steak

Simply marinated flank steak | Photo by Meredith

Flank Steak. Like skirt steak, flank steak comes in long, thin strips. Flank steaks are thicker than skirt steaks and tighter in structure -- meaning the grains hold closer together. Treat flank steak as you would skirt steak. Give them a bath in a marinade and some time on the grill. Or slice them into strips and stir-fry over high heat.

  • Bracciole (Flank Steak Rolls)
    An authentic Italian recipe for flank-steak rolls stuffed with garlic, parsley, and Parmesan cheese and braised on the stovetop in a tomato sauce.
  • Maria's Pepper Steak
    Here, thin strips of flank steak are treated to a quick blast in a hot skillet, bathing alongside a tangy, slightly sweet soy-vinegar-and honey sauce.
  • More Flank Steak Recipes

We have recipes for more cuts, too, including round steak, flat iron steak, and sirloin steak. Check out our collection of Beef Steak Recipes.


Related: How to Cook the Perfect Steak


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Carl Hanson

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