One of the side-effects of living through a particularly severe COVID-19 outbreak is that in addition to people becoming ill, certain industries have come to a grinding halt due to staffing issues. We’ve seen this play out in a number of places, but there has been considerable attention paid (naturally) to the gaps in food production. If you’ve found your usual cuts of meat are not available to purchase, as an example, here’s a guide to expanding your choices.
From the Onglet or ‘Butcher’s Cut’ to the Flat Iron and Skirt Steak, there are tons of cuts available that can work as a substitute to your standard sirloin. In this guide, we look at 23 different cuts of beef in detail and explain everything you need to know about cooking the perfect steak.
For the perfect steak, after selecting the steak cut that appeals to you the most — and there are plenty to choose from –follow a few key tips every time you cook steaks and you can’t go wrong.
- Ensure your grilling surface is hot, whether using a pan, a cast iron griddle or the BBQ. We like to use a flat surface to get the best-caramelised crust on steaks in our house.
- Brush the steak with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt flakes before it goes on the hot surface. Seasoning the steak will reduce smoke and the salt on the hot surface is where that delicious crust will come from.
- Don’t crowd your pan! It is a common mistake to have too many steaks cooking together or too close to each other. A crowded pan will result in stewing and spoil your steaks.
- We won’t go too much into how long each side should be cooked here as it depends on the cut and the thickness of the steak, but there are tools out there to help you with that. SteakMate is a very handy mobile app for timing when to turn your steaks based on how you like them. This is particularly handy when you are grilling to order for a crowd and have a lot to remember.
- When turning your steak that first time, please be sure to turn it onto a clean part of the grill. This is so you can let a crust form on the other side. If your pan is crowded or too small, you won’t get that wonderful caramelisation on both sides. While turning once isn’t a bad rule of thumb, it isn’t as essential as once thought, provided you have a clean dry grill surface to turn onto.
- This is the big one: Always rest your steak before serving, preferably standing on its side. We lean our steaks against a handy olive oil bottle or gently clamped at the base in tongs. It sounds odd, but it will made a difference as the steak is not them sitting on a chopping board in its own pool juices, which once again spoils that crust. A general rule for cooking all red meats is to rest the cooked product half as long as it took to cook it. It is always simpler to factor in resting time into your overall cooking so you’re not tempted to throw steaks straight from the pan onto plates for hungry guests. Resting makes all the difference as the juices settle and the meat will be more tender. You also won’t have juices leaking into the mashed potato or salad if your steak is well rested!
There are different breeds, production methods, preparation styles and even aging techniques that all impact your eating experience. It may sound overwhelming, but after following our basic tips on how to select and cook different cuts, you’ll be well on your way to being a Beef Master.
Feast! Fine Foods hosts Butchery Classes in Adelaide, so you can prepare your own steaks at home. Some of the very best beef in the world is grown here in Australia and we think you’ll be just as passionate as us about it if you make friends with your butcher and start having some fun in the kitchen.
Traditional Meat Cuts
The T Bone is made up of two muscles in the striploin; the sirloin and the fillet, with the bone kept in. This is the true beef lovers choice, as you get both steaks and the benefit of cooking meat on the bone.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: Best cooked hot and fast on the BBQ or fry pan. Rest the steak before serving standing on the flat of the bone if you can.
Also known as Porterhouse and New York steak. This also comes from the striploin but without the bone. This muscle can be left whole.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: Follow the tips for the perfect steak above and you can’t go wrong. The sirloin roast is a wonderful thing, ideal when you have a crowd to feed.
Also known as Tenderloin. Taken from the Beef Tenderloin. This part of the animal does not work as hard, so while tender, these muscles are usually less flavoursome than others. This is a classic cut, served often, but not a favourite in our house where we prioritise flavour over tenderness.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: Cook as per the perfect steak tips above. This cut can also be roasted as a whole muscle and sliced into steaks after resting. (This is the heart of a Beef Wellington.)
As its name implies, this comes from the Rump of the animal. One of the most flavoursome steak cuts as the rump muscle works hard on a beef animal. In a rump you are getting three muscles, so will find a slight difference from one end to the other.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: In our house, we usually cook two big rumps and share them between our family of four. The trick is to cook the rumps as per our tips (we use two pans), then slice the steak after resting. It is fantastic then as a steak salad.
This is taken from the shoulder blade. This cut is a little tougher, but has great flavour.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: The Blade Steak is well suited to cooking a little slower over lower heat than your standard steak and taken all the way to medium.
Less-traditional meat cuts
You may be less familiar with these steak cuts but you should definitely give them a try! Just ask your butcher – they should know them.
Also known as Hanger in the USA. Sometimes also called The “Butcher’s Cut” because it is THAT good! On the carcass it hangs under the tenderloin and supports the diaphragm. It’s is one of the most flavoursome steak cuts of all.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: It does require some small tweaks in cooking and is not a steak that suits being cooked past medium. This cut is best cooked fast and hot with a good, long rest to allow the juices to settle – you should be looking to rest it for nearly as long as it was on the hot grill. Another tip is to make sure you locate the grain of the hanger and slice across it for an even more tender result.
Also called a Feather Steak. It comes from the oyster Blade, which is connected to the shoulder blade of the beef. Some skilled butchery is required of the oyster blade to prepare this cut, so ask your butcher. Once all the silverskin and gristle is removed from an oyster blade it actually becomes a delicious, tender, often well-marbled steak that compares in quality to Scotch Fillet.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: A flat iron can be cooked as per any other steak and is probably best cooked past rare and as much as medium-well done.
Skirt steak A favourite of the South Americans.
The skirt steak comes from the diaphragm muscle attached to the 6th through 12th ribs on the underside of the short plate of the carcass. It has a tough texture but is prized for its flavour.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: The best way to cook skirt steak could best be described as slow chargrilling. Over charcoal is the best way to get maximum flavour, but taking your time and grilling to medium and slicing across the grain will also add to a truly flavoursome steak experience.
Skirt is probably the toughest of these lesser-known steak options but certainly makes up for it in extra flavour. Brilliant with chimichurri sauce.
Also known as “Bavette” in France. As its name suggests, this cut comes from the animal’s flank. This is a very lean cut that suits slow chargrilling in the same manner as skirt.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: While it is important to slice across the grain, the resultant steak is a little more tender than you will find with the skirt. Best enjoyed medium-rare or rare.
While not a steak cut, we felt we couldn’t ignore our household’s favourite cut that is so well suited to summer cooking, even if no BBQ is required. On the carcass, bone-in short ribs sit below the sirloin. Short ribs are cut either parallel to the bone (English style) or across the bone (Flanken style). Flanken style is the preferred cut for the Korean dish, Kalbi.
Cooking tips for this cut of meat: For our favourite dish, we go with a Korean style of short rib, which means cooking low and slow in a Master stock. Don’t be alarmed it isn’t hard to do, you just may need to shop for a key ingredient or two, but there are a number of recipes out there.
Preparing a Master Stock is simple and the ribs will emerge a few hours later lip-smackingly good. You can reuse your stock too. We skim and then freeze ours. What could be better? Sitting outside on a balmy summer evening with cold beers and hot sticky ribs.
If, rather than shopping for lesser known cuts of meat, you’d like to try more plant based eating – check out these recipes here.
This story on lesser known meat cuts has been updated since its original publication.