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What's the Difference Between Sirloin and Top Round Steaks?

Shopping for meat can be confusing. All those slabs of beef can look shockingly similar in the supermarket, right? How do you figure out the difference between top round and sirloin, for instance? Well, we're here to help sort it all out, with the help of best-selling author/expert, Meathead Goldwyn.

650 x 465 raw meat photo by Leslie Kelly

Photo by Leslie Kelly

Top Round Tips

While these two types of cut sometimes look similar, they couldn't be further apart on the animal. The round steak is also referred to as the rump, and that anatomical descritpion is pretty self-explanatory. That large muscle works hard, so it's lean, without a lot of fat "marbled" throughout. The entire round is very large, weighing up to 150 pounds, with the bone-in. One reason it's so popular is the price is right. It's roughly 20 percent cost of a high-end tenderloin, and many say they prefer the flavor. Sometimes, it's cut in a big, flat pieces and sold as round "steak", which Meathead said is best when cooked low and slow, either in a braise or in a sous vide setup. That treatment benefits from a quick sear at the end of the long cook time, something Meathead calls "Sous Vide Cue." For best results, Meathead suggests slicing it thinly against the grain.

More: Chef John uses it for his popular Beef Jerky. Watch the video below for the 411 on prepping that protein-packed snack.

A Sirloin Deep Dive

Many beef lovers swear by sirloin, giving a big thumb's up to its meaty flavor and juicy texture. It comes from the primal loin, in the same muscle group as the prized rib eye, near the rib cage of the animal. There's a section of sirloin that's toward the top of the muscle, which is popular at Brazilian steakhouses. It's called the picon, and while it's a rarity, it's worth seeking out at artisan butcher shops. Meathead strongly suggests cooking sirloin steaks to 130 degrees, which he measures with a digital meat thermometer. Does it need to rest for five minutes after cooking? Nope, said the author of the New York Times bestselling book on the science of great barbecue and grilling. "That's not really necessary," he said, going against conventional wisdom.

Adobo Sirloin

Photo by SunnyByrd

Final pro tip from Meathead: "Get to know a butcher, even if it's just ringing the bell at the supermarket meat counter. Knowing a butcher is more important than knowing a good stockbroker. Ask them questions, get suggestions, bring them a slab of ribs if they turn out well, and you'll probably get a heads up when they have something really good show up."

Looking for more beefy inspiration?

How to Reverse Sear for the Most Tender Grilled Meat Ever

How to Cook Steak

11 Classic Steakhouse Recipes

The 10 Best Side Dishes to Serve with Your Grilled Steak

More than 40 Round Steak Recipes

More than 50 Sirloin Steak Recipes

About Leslie Kelly

Always hungry to learn, never had my fill of oysters, Memphis dry rub ribs, wild salmon, chocolate chip cookies or a well-rolled lumpia. Washington state wine lover, bourbon fan. Totally obsessed with brunch!