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Tips for Purchasing and Cooking Delicious Steaks

To meat lovers, nothing is more enticing than a juicy, succulent steak, served with your favorite sides and perhaps a good glass of hearty red wine. Truly, a great steak is a treat for all the senses – it looks good, tastes good, and it’s even a treat to hear it sizzle as it comes off the grill or out of the broiler and lands on your plate.

Knowing which steaks to choose will determine just how much you enjoy this tasty treat. Cooking them correctly is also a major factor. Incorrect cooking can result in a tough or dry steak and lots of disappointment. Taking a moment to learn about the cuts available and how they are best prepared can insure that your investment in this wonderful meat is well spent.

Cuts of Steak

No matter what kind of steak you choose, you’ll want to look for the best grade you can afford. You should see one of three different grades on the packages or on the labels in your butcher’s meat case. They are prime, choice, and select. Prime has the most marbling and will be produce the most tender end result but is often available in limited quantity. Choice steaks are more readily available and are a logical choice in most cases, producing a tender result as long as it’s cooked correctly. Select cuts are the lowest of the three grades. Though lean, they tend to be less juicy and flavorful.

Some of the most common varieties of steak found in your supermarket meat section include:

o Tenderloin or filet mignon – As the name implies, this is the tenderest of all cuts and is also the most expensive as well. It has a less meaty flavor than less-tender cuts.

o Porterhouse – Also an exemplary cut, the porterhouse is usually large and thick and includes a sizeable piece of tenderloin. It is also fairly costly.

o T-Bone – Obviously named for the t-shaped bone it contains, this cut comes from the short loin and is very similar to the porterhouse except that it contains a smaller piece of tenderloin.

o Sirloin – The sirloin steak is a very popular cut in U.S. stores and restaurants. It is mid-priced and can be found in both thin and thick cuts. It’s excellent when cooked on the grill or broiled.

o Club Steak – This is an excellent steak, usually triangular in shape. Similar to the T-bone but smaller, it comes from the short loin as well. It’s sometimes labeled as a “Delmonico” steak, a name derived from the NYC club that became famous for serving the club steak.

o Ribeye Steak – This is very similar to the club in appearance but is usually fattier. Nonetheless, it is tasty and juicy and carries a fairly hefty price tag.

Cooking Steaks

There are several acceptable ways to cook steak at home and each can produce a desirable result. Some work better with particular cuts of steak than others but you can experiment with the different methods to see which you prefer for the various steaks you enjoy most. You’ll also need to determine how long you need to cook the steaks by each method to reach your desired doneness. It’s best to use a meat thermometer to test the temperature: Rare – 120 degrees; Medium Rare – 125 degrees; Medium – 130 degrees.

o Grilling – Most steaks are just wonderful when cooked on the grill, especially strip steaks and top sirloins. You can eat them “as is” or marinade them before you put them on the grill. To cook, remove them from the fridge about an hour before you plan to cook them so that they reach room temperature. Coat your pre-heated grill with cooking spray and cook over medium-high heat. As with most grilling procedures, you should only flip the steak once. After it’s reached the desired doneness, remove it and let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

o Pan-Searing – An excellent way to cook steaks when grilling is impossible and ideal for tenderloins and other lean cuts, pan searing is best accomplished in a cast iron pan. Coat it with a few teaspoonfuls of olive oil and sear on each side for about 5-7 minutes. When they are done to your liking, remove them from the pan, place them on a plate, and cover them with foil to allow them to continue cooking for about 10 minutes.

o Searing/Roasting – You can cook steaks with a combination of searing and roasting for a great, flavorful result. Sear for just one or two minutes on each side in an oven proof pan and then transfer to the oven for about 5 minutes. This works well with very tender cuts.

o Broiling – This method is great for sirloin, porterhouse, t-bone, or any other steaks with a good deal of marbling. Brush the meat with a little olive oil and place under the broiler about 4 inches from the heating element. For a steak that’s about an inch-and-a-half thick, it’ll take about 4 minutes on each side to reach medium.