Unless you’re a chef or someone who cooks steaks regularly, the idea of shopping for steaks can be a little overwhelming. Which cut should you get? How much does each type of cut costs? Bone-in or boneless? What grade of beef should you go for? How much should you spend?
Here’s a step by step guide to help you find the best quality steak for your money:
Step 1: Choose the right steak cut.
Steaks are a lot more expensive than regular beef because they come from the prime sections of the cow that are very tender. The most popular steak cuts have their own price points and unique characteristics so find out what each of these are and pick what suits you best.
The following are the most popular cuts that you can find in a butcher’s shop, supermarket or grocery store:
T-bone or Porterhouse: This is a bone-in steak cut that includes both tenderloin and strip steak. It’s one of the most expensive cuts. Be sure to sear your steak before cooking at low heat and keep the tenderloin side farther from the heat.
Filet Mignon: Perhaps the most expensive steak cut you can find in the market (pound for pound) the filet mignon is also very tender. However it has little fat / marbling so it may be lacking in flavor.
Top Sirloin: This steak cut is relatively more affordable than the first 3 we’ve listed and it’s also juicy, tender and flavorful.
New York Strip Steak: This cut has medium marbling so it’s tender but not as much as a tenderloin or ribeye steak.
Tri-Tip: While chefs may still not include this cut on their menu, the tri-tip is still quite popular. Cook it low and slow to avoid drying out the meat. Smoking is probably the best way to prepare this steak cut.
Skirt Steak: If you are on a budget, go for the skirt steak. It’s cheap but decidedly thinner. However, it has plenty of marbling. Marinate it and don’t overcook it to make sure you get just the amount of juiciness and tenderness.
Step 2: Consider the thickness of the steak.
Once you’ve decided on what cut of steak to buy, the next thing to consider is the thickness of the cut. A tasty steak has a deeply browned crust that give way to juicy, tender meat inside. Thin steaks cook rather quickly and if you’re not careful, it can turn rubbery in no time. Look for a fairly thick steak (about 1 inch) so you can give it plenty of time to develop the crust.
Step 3: Check for marbling.
Marbling is essentially the white fat running through the meat. It’s what gives the steak its flavor and juiciness. Choose a steak with long lines of fat instead of thick chunks. Also pay attention to where you’ll find the marbling. The best choice is marbling in the middle. Take note however that steaks with very good marbling tend to be the more expensive ones.
Lastly, check the grade of the steak. The USDA gives steaks a “grade” depending on its quality. Usually, the higher grades have more marbling. Here are the grade options from highest to lowest quality:
Check out the USDA’s meat grading here: