10 Best Beef Cut for Steak

    Last Updated on September 1, 2020

    best beef cut for steak

    If you’re like me, you get as excited to visit the butcher as a kid in a candy store.

    The huge selection of meats offers endless variety for amazing dinners, and can be a great source of inspiration.

    What’s that? You don’t get shivers up your spine just thinking of what beef cut for steak you might get to try next? Well, I do believe it’s time to introduce you to this list of steaks that will have you grilling for months to come, then!

    Look, I get it -- choosing a beef cut for steak can be hard if you don’t know what you’re looking for. That’s why I’ll be covering the basics for choosing a great steak in detail before we get right into the pros and cons of each cut of steak your butcher can prepare for you.

    So when you’re ready to start grilling the tenderest, most flavorful steaks that you’ve ever had… Simply read on!

    How to Choose the Best Beef Cut for Steak

    No matter which beef cut you choose for your steak, there are a few things to always keep in mind. While every steak cut will differ in its flavor and texture, they should all have 3 things in common:

    #1 Thickness

    Choosing a thick, full-bodied steak can make the difference between your dinner being a juicy, flavorful feast… Or a dry, disappointing finale. 

    Sure, you can learn how to cook thinner cuts on a grill -- it just takes so much more practice and finesse that it’s much better to go for a thick cut anyway. With this in mind, always go for a steak that’s at least 1 inch thick.

    #2 Marbling

    The white lines that run through every beef cut for steak are called marbling, and they’re the secret to amazing, juicy flavor. While the current health trend may veer more towards low-fat foods, these veins of rich, natural fat are what give the most desirable cuts for steak their signature flavor.

    There’s an art to picking out great marbing, though: Look for thin, even lines rather than bulky, uneven coloring. It’s good to have a steak with fat -- but it’s bad to have an overly fatty steak. Common sense will lead the way for you on this one.

    #3 Quality

    No, we’re not talking about a general idea of how good the steak might be… Quality, in this case, is a very rigorously defined criteria laid out by the USDA. Essentially a measure of the factors that influence tenderness, juiciness, and flavor, the USDA grades beef as SELECT, CHOICE, or PRIME. With any reputable butcher, you’ll find most everything they sell coming from certified Prime cows.

    With those markers of quality in mind, let’s get right into the 10 best beef cut for steak!

    1

    Filet Mignon

    Everybody’s favorite steak cut for sounding fancy, the Filet Mignon is a very particular cut of the tenderloin region, taken from the most tender area near the ribs. They usually measure up between 2 and 3 inches thick, and are very user-friendly for grilling.

    Properly prepared, Filet Mignon is one of the very few cuts of steak that can have a genuinely “melt in your mouth” texture. Try searing it about 4 minutes per side in an extremely hot pan, then topping with butter and finishing in a 450 degree oven for another 5 minutes. You’ll definitely want salt and pepper to complement its neutral flavor.

    Pros: 

  • Cooks equally well in a pan or on the grill
  • Pairs perfectly with a bacon wrapping 
  • The most tender cut for steak
  • Cons:

  • One of the most expensive steak cuts 
  • Less “beefy” flavor than many other cuts
  • 2

    Porterhouse

    A fantastic combination of both a strip and a tenderloin, the Porterhouse has been a steakhouse favorite for generations. One of the thickest, fullest cuts of steak, a beef cut has to measure at least 1.25” in order to be officially called a Porterhouse.


    Similar to a T-Bone, but with a larger tenderloin, Porterhouses are taken from a cut closer to the leg. They’re definitely one of the best cuts you can order at a steakhouse. If cooking it on your own, sear it over a high heat to seal in the juices, but finish it with indirect heat to get a perfect temperature all the way through.

    Pros:

  • Thick, juicy, and extremely flavorful 
  • Two steaks in one 
  • Ideal for grilling or cooking in a cast iron skillet
  • Cons:

  • On the expensive side 
  • Thickness can make it hard to cook to an accurate temperature
  • 3

    Top Sirloin

    Coming from a more muscular region just underneath the tenderloin strip, what the Top Sirloin lacks in tenderness it more than makes up for with an incredibly rich, beefy flavor. It’s a relatively lean cut of steak that’s quite good for anyone watching their fat intake.


    Any Top Sirloin that you intend to put on the grill can benefit from a small amount of tenderizing beforehand. This little bit of effort will help break up any chewy muscle fibers, making for a silkier chewing experience.


    You’ll need to cook this cut longer than many others because of its leanness, so it is perfect for charcoal grilling. Expect 8 to 12 minutes of grill time for a one inch cut, and consider giving it a little olive oil, salt, and pepper rub before hitting the grill.

    Pros:

  • Rich, beefy flavor 
  • Affordable 
  • Less fat can be good for health-conscious grillers
  • Cons:

  • Turns tough quickly if overcooked even a little bit 
  • Takes longer to cook than comparably sized steaks 
  • Almost no marbling flavor
  • 4

    T-Bone

    Cut from an area closer to the stomach known as the “short loin”, T-Bones are another example of a 2-in-1 steak: They combine a tenderloin on one side and a strip steak on the other.


    Alongside the Porterhouse, the T-Bone is a perennial steakhouse favorite. With two flavors and textures to enjoy, they can feel especially extravagant when grilled properly.


    Usually coming in between 1 and 2 inches thick, they’re tailor-made for grilling. Just be careful to note that you’ll need to keep an eye on the relative doneness of both sides during cooking; it’s one of the only downsides of this fantastic cut.

    Pros:

  • 2 steaks in 1 
  • Great variety of flavors and textures 
  • Perfect thickness for grilling 
  • Almost always have great marbling
  • Cons:

  • Somewhat tricky to cook evenly 
  • On the more expensive side
  • 5

    Flat Iron

    Also known as a “top blade steak” or “butler’s steak”, the Flat Iron is regarded as both an exceptionally flavorful steak, as well as one that is difficult to prepare. Coming from the shoulder region, it has a gristly membrane that must be removed if you want to cook the finest steak from it.


    The tradeoff for your extra work in preparing this beef cut for steak is fantastic marbling at a very reasonable price. While many might turn their nose up at this uncommon cut, their loss is your gain: Butchers are often happy to have you take these delicious steaks off their hands.

    Pros:

  • Amazing marbling 
  • Rich and full flavor 
  • Very affordable 
  • Tender and juicy
  • Cons:

  • Shoulder membrane makes it difficult to prepare 
  • Gristly if not prepared correctly
  • 6

    Hanger

    Getting its name from its location in the cow, a Hanger steak quite literally hangs from the diaphragm, between the rib and loin. This location makes it one of the least used muscles in a cow’s body, which means that it’s also amazingly tender.


    You’ll sometimes hear Hanger steak referred to as “butcher’s steak” as well -- because they have been so fond of this beef cut for steak that the butchers often keep it for themselves!


    As a thinner cut of beef, you won’t need much time on the grill for this steak. A simple salt and pepper rub with a pat of butter is all the embellishment that this flavorful cut needs.

    Pros:

  • Maybe the most tender beef cut for steak 
  • Less well known, easier to get for a good price 
  • Grills quickly and evenly
  • Cons:

  • Thinner steaks can be hard to cook perfectly 
  • You’ll probably need to go to a specialty butcher for it
  • 7

    Ribeye

    This boneless cut ranks as many a steak-lover’s favorite steak, if for no other reason than its incredible marbling. Coming from the prime rib area of a steer, it strikes a balance between fat and muscle that’s difficult to find in any other cut.


    At between 1 and 1 and a half inches thick, Ribeyes makes excellent grilling steaks. Their high fat content will keep them moist and juicy on even the hottest of grills, as long as you sear each side for a minute or two first.

    Pros:

  • Least expensive “premium” cut 
  • Amazing marbling 
  • Thickness makes it easy to grill perfectly every time
  • Cons:

  • Dripping fat can cause major flare-ups on the grill; watch your eyebrows! 
  • Serious shrinkage during cooking
  • 8

    New York Strip

    As the Ribeye’s more affordable cousin, New York Strips don’t get nearly enough love. When you’re grilling on a dime, there’s no better cut than this one from the short loin.


    New York Strips are often even, tender, and moderately marbled. This makes them an ideal steak for introducing grilling to skeptical newcomers. Without the intensely beefy flavor provided by fuller marbling or denser muscle, it truly is the most crowd-pleasing steak cut.

    Pros:

  • Perfect for grilling on a budget 
  • Even marbling 
  • Tender texture 
  • Great “middle of the road” steak for feeding everyone
  • Cons:

  • Not as flavorful as many other cuts
  • 9

    Tri-Tip

    This West-coast favorite, sometimes called a “California Cut” or “Santa Maria Steak” has long been appreciated by cooks on a budget. A supremely economical cut of meat, it boasts a rich flavor and affordable price, making it perfect for feeding large gatherings.


    Averaging around 1 inch thick, these lean and tender steaks have a surprisingly abundant amount of marbling for the price. Grill them for between 10 and 15 minutes to maximize flavor; just don’t take them over medium without marinating them beforehand.

    Pros:

  • One of the most affordable steak cuts 
  • Lean and tender, with a good flavor 
  • Easy to grill
  • Cons:

  • Really needs a marinade for best flavor 
  • Hard to source; probably a special request at a butcher shop
  • 10

    Flank

    A particularly lean cut, the Flank steak comes from the upper abdominal region of a cow (or sometimes the lower chest). If you’re looking for the leanest cut that still makes a great steak, this should be your go-to.


    Of all the steak cuts on our list, the Flank benefits most from having an overnight marinade. Because the Flank has more connective tissue than many other cuts, even a little bit of tenderizing goes a very long way towards grilling a delicious steak. Pro tip: This is the ideal cut for fajitas or steak sandwiches.

    Pros:

  • Very affordable 
  • Leaner meat is great for health-conscious grillers 
  • Perfect for fajitas or steak sandwiches
  • Cons:

  • Needs a marinade to help with its texture 
  • Turns chewy almost immediately if overcooked
  • Final Verdict

    Choosing a beef cut for steak is a very personal matter, and it all comes down to your individual tastes. While your author is most fond of New York Strip for its combination of even texture and reasonable price, your mileage with it may vary.


    If you’re still in doubt as to which steak to go for, there’s only one thing to do: Get to grilling and test them all out! Thanks for reading today, and best of luck in all of your steak grilling adventures!