Tips from Top Butchers
The amount of marbling in a rib-eye steak is what sets it apart from other steaks and gives it a signature flavor. The marbling can vary, depending on whether the steak is cut from the shoulder end or the loin end. When cut from the loin end, the steaks resemble New York strip steaks, as the loin is the source of strip steaks. Ask your butcher for steaks cut from the shoulder end to get that true rib-eye flavor.
—Bryan Flanner, Bryan’s Fine Foods, San Francisco, CA
Porterhouse and T-bone steaks differ only in that they’re cut from separate parts of the loin. They both include the New York steak and filet (tenderloin) and are held together with a T-shaped bone that runs down the middle. The Porterhouse’s filet section is larger than the filet on the T-bone.
—Jim Coscone, Huntington Meats, Los Angeles, CA
New York strips are best if cut from the rib-eye end rather than the sirloin side. The last 3 to 4 steaks near the sirloin side have a small cap muscle and corresponding piece of connective tissue separating the two muscles, which is why they are called two-toned. This results in a little tougher bite through that section.
—Mark Martin, Nelson’s Meat Market, Cedar Rapids, IA
When you are cooking a bone-in steak such as a porterhouse, keep in mind that the area around the bone will cook more slowly than the rest of the meat. Always remember to check the internal temperature close to the center of the steak (but away from the bone) to get an accurate reading. This way, you can make sure that your steak is cooked to perfection.
—Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada, Lindy and Grundy’s Meats, Los Angeles, CA
When the cooking method is quick, hot and dry, like grilling, it’s best to use a cut with generous marbling so that the meat stays moist and flavorful. You could also choose round or tri-tip if you prefer leaner meat, but those cuts can toughen up on the grill.
—Ryan Farr, 4505 Meats, San Francisco, CA
The importance of cross-grain cutting when working with meat that has stringy muscle fibers – like tri-tip, flank steak and skirt steak – cannot be stressed enough. Use your sharpest knife to cut perpendicularly through the fibers. This will ensure that the meat is tender, not chewy, when cooked.
—Robert Fleming, Alexander’s Prime Meats and Catering, San Gabriel, CA
For an alternative to skirt steak, ask for hanger, flap or flank steak. My favorite cut for everyday grilling is flap meat, also called bavette steak. It is well marbled, tasty and affordable. To ensure that the meat remains moist while grilling, ask your butcher to leave the meat “unpeeled.”
—Tia Harrison, Avedano’s, San Francisco, CA