Hotdogs and hamburgers are always popular for grilling. Just about everyone eats them and they’re tough to screw up, and if you’re feeling fancy, there are plenty of ways to make burgers juicier and tastier. However, putting a nice cut of beef on the grill is where a true master shines.
The classic cuts, like a rib-eye or porterhouse, are always tasty. They can be pricier though, and are best if you’re just grilling for yourself or one or two people. There are a number of cuts of beef that are just as tasty, but less well known and less expensive, too.
There are 14 major cuts of beef and then a whole range of subcuts. Some need to be cooked slow or seasoned to bring out the most flavor. Many, however, are best when grilled, with just a bit of sauce or seasoning.
There are some perennial favorites that are always popular. These are cuts of meat that are standards on restaurant menus and are often a bit more expensive. They are usually cuts from the top of the animal, near the spine. The muscles in this area are usually used less and, therefore, tend to be more tender.
Ribs are a grilling standard. They can be marinated or slow cooked to give them a wide range of flavors, or grilled over the flame with a little sauce or a dry rub. When choosing ribs to grill, choose the ones with fine lines of white marbling in the meat between the bones. The marbling is fat and it will add flavor to the meat and keep it moist.
Always grill ribs with the meat on the bone. It will add a lot of flavor. You may want to add some salt, but don’t get too fancy. Kosher salt is best. Sea salt will get hard and won’t flavor the meat properly.
New York Strip
This is another grilling standard. It’s also a cut of meat that is found on almost every restaurant menu that makes any pretense towards serving steak. It’s a cut from the short loin and is normally fairly tender. Expectations can be high when grilling a New York strip steak, but that’s ok as it’s a pretty foolproof piece of meat.
As with ribs, a nicely marbled piece of meat will ensure a juicier, tastier piece of meat. When choosing any cut, it is also wise to choose meat that is bright red over meat that is darker. This means it’s fresher. You can just season this with salt and pepper, or get fancier with marinades and more elaborate seasonings.
Be sure to oil the grill before you begin cooking. Also, let the meat warm to room temperature before you grill it. This is a good rule to follow for cooking meat of any kind. It will make it easier to cook the meat evenly.
The porterhouse is a bone-in steak. It’s actually a strip steak connected to a broad strip of tenderloin by a t-shaped bone. It’s pretty much the same as a t-bone, but includes a broader strip of tenderloin. It’s a big piece of meat, and can be expensive.
As with grilling any piece of meat, the key is cooking it evenly. Only flip the meat once, to cook on both sides. This will keep the meat from getting too dry.
A rib-eye is cut from the rib and is a primal cut of meat. In the US, it’s usually served bone-out. When it comes with the bone, it’s called a ‘cowboy rib-eye,’ or ‘cowboy cut.’ Rib-eyes don’t need a lot of seasoning, just some salt and pepper.
This is a cut of meat that is best grilled over a low heat or indirect heat on a charcoal grill, and for a little bit longer than other cuts of meat. It contains more connective tissue than some similar cuts and all that needs time to tenderize. A lot of people like to eat rib-eyes rare, but it can actually be more flavorful when cooked closer to medium.
While some cuts of meat have always been popular, some were more popular in the past. For whatever reason, they have fallen from common favor, with their merits known only to chefs and the knowledgeable. These can be less expensive, but are just as tasty.
Like most of these sorts of cuts, the skirt steak comes from a lower part of the cow. It is part of a primal cut called the plate, and is long, flat, and thin. It is flavorful, but not as tender as some other cuts of meat.
A skirt steak is big enough that it can be split between two people. Like a rib-eye, this steak should be cooked for a little while longer over low heat. Four minutes or so on either side should be enough. Take it off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes. This is another trick to a great tasting steak. The meat will cook for a while longer from the residual heat and the juice will distribute itself evenly.
Cut the steak diagonally into strips. These are great for fajitas, salads, or whatever you might want.
The flank steak is known as a flavorful, but potentially tough, steak. Like a skirt steak, it’s best when sliced diagonally across the grain into small strips that can be used in fajitas, salads, or sandwiches. It’s lean, and can benefit from a marinade to tenderize it a bit and bring out the flavor of the meat. An acidic marinade, one that uses citrus or vinegar, will do the most to tenderize.
The flank steak should be cooked quickly over a higher heat, and served a little rare and pink in the middle. It is, like a skirt steak, long, flat, and thin, and it can be enough for a few people.
Flat Iron Steak
The flat iron comes from over the shoulder of the animal and can sometimes be tough due to gristly membrane that runs down the center of the cut. The steak can be cut in two to remove this membrane.
This is another flavorful steak that benefits from a light touch with the seasoning. Cook it over high heat for a few minutes on each side. Serve it sliced thin after letting it sit for a few minutes.
The different cuts of meat can be a bit confusing. Some are best after marinating, and some make for great steaks with little or no seasoning. A little information though can ensure you take best advantage of whatever piece of meat you have, or that you get the right cut for your needs. Grilling remains one of the best ways to cook a good cut of beef, imparting a unique flavor that is well loved by most anyone.