Steak Knowledge

A guide to gourmet steak cuts and how “done” people like them.

americasteak-4x32.jpgThere are serious differences in how people order different steak cuts, and we wanted to know why.

“Every steak has a different fiber,” said Jens Dahlmann, the executive chef at Longhorn. “If you look at the most tender steak, it’s the tenderloin. That’s a steak that lends itself to barely cooking it. It’s got a very soft fiber and very sweet flavors to it. It works great for rare and medium-rare.”

Prime rib also works great on the rarer side. Because it’s cooked slowly and at low temperatures, a rare order of prime rib can come out without the bloodiness that turns off many rare-averse people. Other premium steak cuts can handle more heat.

“Steaks that still perform very well even if you go to a medium-well temperature, those would be the highly marbled steaks, the ribeye, even the porterhouse or T-bone,” Dahlmann said. “There is a bone running through the middle, and around the bone retains more moisture and flavor.”

hickeydottle-steak-1-rd.pngDavid Berson, director of operations at Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, agreed. “Some people like a ribeye rare, but I would recommend cooking it a little longer. It’s got a lot of fat.”

One way cooks can get a leg up is to buy thicker cuts of beef, which gives them more margin for error than the thin steak cuts most supermarkets sell. “For home cooks it’s important to get the highest quality they can,” Berson said. “With protein — fish, beef — you don’t want to cut corners.”

Meat buying is a big part of the job at Luger’s. “We look for fat distribution or marbling,” Berson said. “That’ll be a good indication of how juicy the steaks will be.”

Dahlmann suggests that home cooks invest in a high-quality meat thermometer to nail the perfect doneness every time. Any premium steak with an internal temperature from 95 degrees to 105 degrees Fahrenheit is rare, anything from 115 to 125 degrees is medium-rare and, according to FiveThirtyEight culture writer and cantankerous elitist Walt Hickey, anything above that is ruined.

Cowboy Tex, of Texas Steaks, mentions that 135 - 145 degrees Fahrenheit is a good range, and will satisfy the vast majority of gourmet steak fans, since that falls between medium-rare and medium-well done. 

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