Sometimes we just have to allow ourselves the treat of beef. It’s not always the healthiest choice, but if your ethics allow, a special occasion steak is a luxury like no other. Ironically, this four letter word becomes complicated when deciding what cut of meat to buy or order.
Since to most, meat is a special occasion investment, here are some guidelines to help you choose the cut for you.
In The Kitchen.
The first beef consideration is the prepping. If utilizing a dry cooking method, this translates to shorter cooking time and a more expensive cut of meat. Moist cooking methods take longer to prepare, but the reward is that you can use less expensive cuts. The more expensive cuts of beef are fattier due to their marbling—the thin veins of fat dispersed throughout the flesh of the beef. In the case of marbling, fat is good. In fact, a grade-5 Waygu Ribeye steak, the highest grade a piece of meat can score using the Japanese scoring system, costing up to $22 an ounce, is called “Starry Night” because of its iconic marbling.
Grilling, Broiling, And Pan Frying (Oh My).
Hot and quick cooking methods are optimal for tender cuts of meat. These treasured cuts come from the rib and loin areas of the cow—the parts that endured the lightest workout during her life. Muscle has not been developed in familiar sounding cuts like the rib eye, tenderloin, strip loin, and sirloin. Not only are these prized cuts due to tenderness, but they also comprise only about a quarter of the cow’s meat. Want tender and quick but don’t want to spend big bucks? Marinate and cook up a piece of skirt or flank steak. They don’t have the marbling the rib and loin cuts possess, but after cooking, by thinly slicing against the grain, you can enjoy flavor and tenderness at a discount. No matter the cut, when you use a quick method of cooking, let the meat rest for about five minutes before slicing into it. This allows the juices to redistribute for optimal enjoyment.
Cooking ‘Em Slowly.
There’s nothing like smelling simmering stew on a cold winter’s day. The cuts of meat that do best in stews are from the parts of the animal that worked, like the rump roast, brisket, shank, top round, and bottom round. These inexpensive cuts of meat require a long simmer with liquid to break down the muscle and yield tender morsels. In a pinch, you can make a quick stew with a more tender cut of meat, according to the brothers at Ottomanelli’s on Bleeker Street, NYC. If you’re caught in a bind, choose some sirloin for the stew and you can have dinner for eight on the table in less than an hour. But under normal circumstances, plan to make your stew a few days before you’d like to serve it, as the flavors marry slowly—like in soup.
Steak House Savvy.
When choosing from a restaurant menu, the stakes can be high, as meat can be an investment. If hanger steak is an option, you’re in for a treat. This meat is fairly priced, flavorful, and tender when sliced correctly (remember the grain). If money is no object, go for the rib eye. This cut is the best of both worlds, having the tenderness of the tenderloin and the flavor the beloved NY strip. Don’t be turned off by the ring of fat that runs through this piece of prized beef….the flavor is outrageous!