I hear Sir Loin has a nice rump.
April 9, 2010 9:16 AM   Subscribe

What are the differences, really, between different cuts of steak? Is it all just tenderness, or are there significant flavor differences? Assume a decade-plus of vegetarianism has left me fairly meat ignorant.
posted by Panjandrum to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's more than just tenderness. Some are really lean while some are 'marbled' (fatty). There's also bone-in vs. boneless. Open flame cooking vs. other.

Are you looking for advice on the types to purchase for yourself or a guest/party?

More than just that, you may want to stick to smaller market/local market livestock for grass-fed beef. More than anything else, I think that grass-fed free-range tastes 'meatier' than mega-mart meat, regardless of the cut. YMMV, natch.
posted by unixrat at 9:20 AM on April 9, 2010


Best answer: This is a chart listing a few cuts of meat and what cooking method is best for them.

This one is good for identification purposes but doesn't really tell you what each cut is good for.

But yes, there are flavor differences, especially if you get pasture-raised beef. Really. Not grass-fed, pasture-raised. Makes all the difference.
posted by cooker girl at 9:26 AM on April 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pasture raised rib eye and chuck, my oh my. Very, very flavorful. Flank is an excellent and flavorful choice for marination, and also lower in fat.
posted by bearwife at 9:35 AM on April 9, 2010


Are you looking for advice for at the steakhouse, or advice for at the grocery store/butcher?
posted by Grither at 9:36 AM on April 9, 2010


Best answer: I really liked this little rundown in J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's attempt to build a "perfect burger".
posted by Greg Nog at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Best answer: fillet = low fat, very expensive, good for carpaccio, mild flavour
sirloin = slightly higher, fat, bone in, medium expensive, good flavour
rib eye = well marbled, medium expensive, good flavour
rump = medium marbled, relatively cheap, good flavour
flank = low fat, fairly cheap, stronger flavour
stewing steak = cheap, needs cooking for hours in a stew

Personally, I think fillet is only worth buying if you like it virtually raw; otherwise I go for rump, unless I'm stewing
posted by rhymer at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


rhymer has some good points, but stewing steak might be too broad a category. You might say chuck instead, which has great flavor (that's where your decent ground beef is from), and it's fantastic in braises and long stews.

Filet is kind of bland, really, though very, very tender. Rib eye is also where you find your rib roast. If you like roast beef, you'll like the steak.

In general, it seems the more difficult to cook the piece of meat (to avoid unpleasant levels of chewiness) the more flavorful it is. For me, a good slow cooked brisket is about as good as beef gets, but cooking it any other way will get you shoe leather.

Also, once you find a steak you like, try putting some crumbled bleu cheese on it. The two flavors were meant to be together.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2010


rhymer's is good, but by "good flavor," I would say it is "beefier." Generally, the more marbling a cut of meat has, the more of a "beef" flavor it's going to have- that is why I LOVE ribeye!

If you are dipping your toes into the beef world again and are a little timid, filet is a good start as it is usually accompanied by some sort of sauce because it has absolutely no flavor.

If you want to go in a little deeper, but are still worried, flank/skirt/london broil is a good bet as most are/should be marinated before cooking as they don't have a whole lot of flavor and the acids help to break down the fibers. This way you will get the texture/some flavor of the meat and it will be "meaty," but not over the top.

As for cooking, really any way you cook a steak (besides boiling it, unless you sous vide) should enhance the flavor of the meat. Some tricks to helping this in a pan is by adding a good dollop of butter and basting before pulling the steak out to rest for at least 10 minutes (THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF COOKING A STEAK!!!).

Seasoning- salt and pepper ONLY! If it's a good cut of meat, it should stand on it's own. I don't really eat filet, and when I do- it's rare or raw. Marinades, see above.
posted by TheBones at 10:59 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ahh, forgot braising (I think it was called "stewing" above). Anything with a high concentration of cartelidge/tendon/bone is a good candidate for braising. Depending on the braising liquid, you can either completely mask the flavor of the beef, or bring it out in all of it's glory (I choose the latter).

I won't go into the specifics, as that has been covered here and on the intarwebs about a million times, but a good addition to any braise is tomato paste as you are browning the meat/veg. If you smear it on the meat and let it brown with the meat about 2/3 of the way through the browning process.
posted by TheBones at 11:04 AM on April 9, 2010


And, just to throw another monkeywrench in...There is the effect dry-aging has on the flavor of beef.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:08 AM on April 9, 2010


Damn you thorzdad- I didn't think about it and you got there first :)

Real dry-aging is great- beef turned up to 11 and made "beefier."

HOWEVER, and this is a big one, most places don't actually know how to execute real dry aging. Just sticking a piece of meat in a humid refrigerator for a week or two and then charging 15 to 30% more for it is not dry aging- and that's what 75% of places claiming to have dry aged beef do.
posted by TheBones at 11:12 AM on April 9, 2010


One thing you didn't mention but I think is very interesting is that some cuts are regional, and do not exist in other parts of the world.

For one, there are the tripe bits, that in the US are much less common than in say France (it is a local specialty for me; why am I not living in Brittany, which specializes in crepes and buttery pastries with unspellable names!?).

But there are also things like picanha, a Brazilian specialty, that you just can't get in the US because American abbatoirs usually separate this section into two pieces (fillet and tenderloin).
posted by whatzit at 12:28 PM on April 9, 2010


Response by poster: Thanks everybody! I actually threw in the veg-towel a while ago, but not being a big steak eater I have always remained mystified as to what separates a rump from a rib-eye. Now, off to the store!
posted by Panjandrum at 1:07 PM on April 9, 2010


Be sure to give a flatiron steak a go; we've never looked back after first enjoying this inexpensive but very tender and flavorful, recently introduced cut.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:57 AM on April 10, 2010


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