So you want the best steak you’ve ever had? The very first step to a flawless steak is to choose the type of steak you’re going to cook. Your grocer will likely fill the meat case with all kinds of things that look like steak, many of which have the word steak written on the packaging. But if you want the absolute best steak, let’s clear one thing up right now:
There are only three steaks.
Tenderloin. Strip. Ribeye.
Ignore everything else in your butcher’s display. Sirloin, flank, chuck, hanger, rump. These are pretenders. You may be able to tenderize them, season them up and get them to taste okay, and that might even earn you a compliment or two. But these budget cuts simply cannot compare with the top three in terms of tenderness and flavor. If you want flawless, you start with a premium cut of meat, and that means a Tenderloin, a Strip Steak or a Ribeye.
And let’s be honest: We’re in search of flawless. What we want is the “O-M-G that is the best steak I’ve ever had” kind of responses from your guests. They should be reminiscing about this steak for days after eating it. The word will get out to your family, church and work. You will become known as a culinary wizard.
If you were looking for anything less, you’d be visiting averagesteaks.com.
Having established the supremacy of these three kings of the world of steakdom, let’s take a closer look at each cut so we can better understand which you might want to try first.
When Elvis started writing the song “Love me Tender”, I’m guessing the inspiration was a tenderloin filet. This cut is simply unrivaled for tenderness. Filet Mignon, as it is often called, gets its tenderness from the fact that it is part of a relatively small and rarely-used muscle on the cow.
The fact that this muscle is so small also drives the price of this cut to the top of the list. But if texture means anything (and it does) it’s worth every penny. When cooked to a perfect medium-rare, this steak has a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture. You can eat every single bite of a tenderloin without the need to mess around with fat or gristle, making the experience that much more heavenly.
New York Strip
The strip steak is most commonly known as the New York Strip, although it goes by several other names, including the Kansas City Strip, the Strip Loin (to our meat-loving friends in Canada), and the Delmonico, after the New York restaurant of the same name which helped to popularize the cut. Whatever you call it, this steak is easy to love.
Less tender than the filet or ribeye, the strip steak has a wonderful beefy flavor that’s all its own, and a balanced not-too-chewy, not-too-buttery texture, making it a favorite of many fine steakhouses across the world.
The Ribeye has unrivaled marbling, making it the most juicy and flavorful of all steaks. Often cooked with a rib bone still attached (when prepared bone-in it is referred to as a “Cowboy Ribeye”), this steak has a mellow flavor and an exceptionally tender texture.
The Ribeye turns off some people due to the copious amounts of fat they need to work around on their plate. But true steak afficianados passionately gobble up the complexity and the boldness of this cut.
What’s the Best Steak?
Here’s the reality: None of these steaks is a bad choice for eating. Each one has a unique place at the top of the list of premium steaks, and each can be enjoyed in its own way. Objectively, the tenderness of a filet is not any better than the beefy deliciousness of a strip or the succulent juiciness of the ribeye. Each steak has its benefits.
An argument could be made that the strip steak is the “all-around” best steak. There’s certainly a bit of truth in that, but a true steak lover should avoid playing favorites and learn to appreciate what each of these premium cuts has to offer.
If you’re just starting out, we suggest starting with a Ribeye since it’s heavy marbling makes it somewhat forgiving if cooked too long. But whatever you do, don’t stop there. Try each of these three cuts of steak. Cook them using the methods we teach here.
And then decide for yourself which delivers the best steak, and comment below with your findings!