Think a steak’s a steak? Visit your nearest gourmet steak house or butcher and you’ll soon find that’s not true. The choice of steak now includes the cut, the breed, what the cow’s been fed, and its hanging time. This can be confusing for those who aren’t seasoned steak eaters so we’ve provided a low-down on how to pick the steak that’s right for you, whether you’re perusing a menu or choosing one to take home and cook yourself. And we’ve included some recommendations for wines that will work with the steak and showcase its flavor.
Cut from the tenderloin of the cow, a muscle that is rarely used, filet mignon is the leanest, most tender choice. Due to the small size of the muscle and its popularity, the price tends to be higher, making it ideal for a special occasion. Its lack of fat means that it is best cooked medium rare to rare to avoid drying it out and needs only a short marinading time. Cooked well, it should melt in the mouth.
LetsPour’s recommended wine pairing: A dry red, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or red Bordeaux.
T-Bone and Porterhouse
The name T-bone is taken from the shape of the bone separating the two types of beef which make a T-bone – strip and tenderloin. It has the tenderness of the tenderloin and the marbling of the strip, giving it a great flavor. When cooking yourself, be aware that the smaller tenderloin will cook more quickly than strip so keep that side of the steak closer to the edge of the grill. Porterhouse is simply a larger sized tenderloin but both are big cuts.
Highly marbled, the rib-eye is less lean than the filet mignon but the fat gives it a succulent juiciness and buttery flavor. Because of this, it is the first choice of many steak lovers and chefs and the great news is that it isn’t too pricey. The extra fat means it will retain its juices if cooked to medium. Check out the BBQ Geeks for how to grill a rib eye steak.
LetsPour’s recommended wine pairing: A graceful Pinot Noir
A great value steak that’s perfect for grilling, frying and barbecuing, it’s also a large cut so only order if you’re hungry! Cut across the whole primal, rump steak consists of a cross section of different muscles with the grains running in different directions, and a rind of fat. This means there is a variation in tenderness throughout so it should be marinaded for a good few hours to produce the best flavor. The Steamy Kitchen has great ideas for how to bring out the most in a value cut of steak.
LetsPour’s recommended wine pairing: A brawny, well-balanced Malbec.
The above are just a few types of cuts and different butchers and restaurants will offer different varieties, with an equally diverse price range. If you’re unsure, ask your butcher or waiter to take you through the different choices – they would be more than happy to. Other things to watch out for when choosing meat to cook at home are:
Marbling – the rule of thumb is the more fat, the more flavor but the less tender. With that in mind, choose a steak with a medium amount of marbling, evenly distributed, to give both depth of flavor and tenderness.
Color – the meat should be a deep, dark red and certainly not grey.
Feel – good quality, well hung meat should look dry but be slightly sticky and soft to the touch without being flabby.
As a travel writer, Emily Buckley has eaten steaks everywhere from Argentina to New York, and when in need of a good steakhouse in Perth hotfoots it to Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill in the Burswood Entertainment Complex.