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The Top 10 Steaks Ranked by Tenderness: A Guide to Whole Animal Butchery


At Front Row Meats Whole Animal Butcher Shop, we pride ourselves on providing the highest quality, sustainably farmed beef. Our shop, located at 4853 Newport Ave in Ocean Beach, offers a variety of cuts on a revolving basis, depending on the part of the cow we're breaking down. We also offer a variety of cuts with our monthly meat subscription service, the Farmer's Fare Meat Club.


This guide will walk you through the top 10 steaks you can get from a cow, ranked from most tender to least tender. We'll also discuss the best ways to cook each cut, and the nutritional benefits of grass-finished and carrot-finished steaks.


1. Tenderloin (Filet Mignon)


The tenderloin, or filet mignon, is the most tender cut of beef. It comes from the loin of the cow, specifically the psoas major, a muscle that does very little work, resulting in a tender steak. Best cooked using high heat methods like grilling or pan-searing, it's often served medium-rare to preserve its tenderness. To cook, season the steak with salt and pepper, sear it on high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side, then finish it in the oven at 400°F for 5-7 minutes for medium-rare.


2. Ribeye


The ribeye is a highly marbled cut from the rib section, specifically from the longissimus dorsi muscle. Known for its rich flavor and tenderness, it's best cooked on a grill or in a cast-iron skillet to medium-rare or medium, allowing the marbling to render and enhance the flavor. To cook, season the steak, sear it on high heat for about 4 minutes per side, then lower the heat and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes for medium-rare.


3. New York Strip


The New York Strip, also known as the strip steak, comes from the short loin, specifically the longissimus muscle. It's a tender cut with a good amount of marbling. It's best cooked on a grill or pan-seared to medium-rare or medium. To cook, season the steak, sear it on high heat for about 4 minutes per side, then lower the heat and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes for medium-rare.


4. T-Bone and Porterhouse


The T-Bone and Porterhouse are essentially the same cut, featuring a section of tenderloin and strip steak, separated by a T-shaped bone. They come from the short loin, with the Porterhouse including a larger portion of tenderloin. They're best grilled or broiled, and served medium-rare. To cook, season the steak, sear it on high heat for about 4 minutes per side, then lower the heat and cook for an additional 6-8 minutes for medium-rare.


5. Flat Iron


The flat iron steak comes from the shoulder or chuck area, specifically from the infraspinatus muscle. It's a tender cut with a rich flavor, best cooked quickly on high heat, and served medium-rare. To cook, season the steak, sear it on high heat for about 3 minutes per side, then let it rest for a few minutes before slicing.


6. Baseball Steak


The baseball steak is a cut from the top sirloin, so named because when cooked, it puffs up and resembles a baseball. It's a tender cut with a robust flavor, best cooked on a grill or pan-seared to medium-rare or medium. To cook, season the steak, sear it on high heat for about 4 minutes per side, then lower the heat and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes for medium-rare.


7. Flank


The flank steak comes from the abdominal muscles of the cow, specifically the transversus abdominis muscle. It's leaner and less tender than the previous cuts, but it's flavorful and great for marinating. It's best grilled or broiled and served medium-rare. To cook, marinate the steak, then grill it on high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side, then let it rest before slicing against the grain.


8. Skirt


The skirt steak, from the diaphragm, specifically the transversus abdominis muscle, is long, thin, and flavorful. It's less tender than other cuts but is excellent when marinated and grilled or seared quickly over high heat. To cook, marinate the steak, then grill it on high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side, then let it rest before slicing against the grain.


9. Hanger


The hanger steak, from the lower belly, specifically the diaphragm, is flavorful but less tender. It's best marinated, cooked quickly over high heat, and served medium-rare. To cook, marinate the steak, then grill it on high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side, then let it rest before slicing.


10. Round (Top, Bottom, and Eye)


The round steaks, including top, bottom, and eye, come from the rear muscle of the cow, specifically the semitendinosus muscle. They're lean and less tender, but they're great for slow cooking methods like braising or stewing. To cook, season the steak, sear it on all sides, then slow cook it in a liquid for several hours until tender.


At Front Row Meats, we're committed to sustainable farming practices. Our grass-finished and carrot-finished steaks not only taste better but also offer nutritional benefits. Grass-finished beef is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which are beneficial for heart health. Carrot-finished beef, a newer practice, is believed to enhance the sweetness and tenderness of the meat, and may also increase the levels of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant.


Remember, the availability of these cuts varies as we break down different parts of the cow. We invite you to visit us at Front Row Meats to explore these cuts and learn more about our whole animal butchery approach. Our monthly meat subscription service, the Farmer's Fare Meat Club, is also a great way to get a variety of cuts to cook and enjoy!


References


Daley, C. A., Abbott, A., Doyle, P. S., Nader, G. A., & Larson, S. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal, 9(1), 10.


McGee, H. (2004). On food and cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen. Scribner.


Ruhlman, M., & Polcyn, B. (2005). Charcuterie: The craft of salting, smoking, and curing. W. W. Norton & Company.

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