The short loin contains cuts like T-bone, Top Loin Steak, Tenderloin, and the Porterhouse. The Sirloin section contains cuts like the Sirloin Steak, and the Top Sirloin. Other cuts of steak such as the chuck, round steak, and flank steak are usually tough cuts of steak.
When you hear strip of steaks these are cut from the T-bone section, a good example of a strip steak is the New York Steak. The first two mistakes when buying steak are not understanding the different grades of beef and buying the wrong cut of steak for the recipe in which you wish to prepare.
Prime steak is the best grade you can find it is tender and highly marbled. The bad part it this grade of beef is expensive and very hard to find in your local grocery store. The grade that you will find in your local supermarket is choice or select grade.
Select grade is the lowest on the totem pole and is less flavorful, and less tender. You can find prime grade steak but usually at a butcher shop. If you can not find a prime grade, then go with a choice grade.
Now, let’s take a look at the different cuts of beef. There are three sections when you are talking about cuts of beef. If you start on the upper back and move down to the mid-back your have the rib, the short loin and the sirloin. This rib area contains cuts like the Rib Roast, the Rib eye Steak and the back ribs. This cut of beef is the least tender of all the other sections.
The tenderest cut of steak comes from the tenderloin area. From this area you will get chateaubriand, filet mignon and tournedos. These cuts of steak may be more tender but do not have the flavor that tougher cuts have such as the rib-eye or rib steak and the steaks from the sirloin area. The tender cuts, which are less lean, are perfect for grilling and also with added sauces. The leaner cuts that are tougher do become tenderer when they are marinated, are sliced thin and are grilled quickly.
No matter what cut you purchase you should look for fat. Many people believe they need less fat or what is called marbling. But, that is not true. A tough steak contains thick lines of fat which means the steak contains a lot of connective tissue. What to look for in a good steak is the color. The meat should be bright red and the fat will be thin with a creamy white color and evenly distributed through the meat.
The next mistake is buying steak that is cut far from the bone. The closer the meat is to the bone the more flavor the steak will have. This is why T-bone steak is so popular.
You should also buy steak that is dry aged if all at possible. You will probably not find any beef that is dry aged in your local grocery store because this process takes longer and is a much more expensive process than is used for packaging for the mass market of meat lovers.
The meat is taken from the bag that it arrives in to the butcher and is hung in a cooler for a certain amount of time to dry out. This dry aging process and involve as much as 40 percent shrinkage. This will make the cost go up, but the aging adds more flavor and also tenderizes the meat. If you buy your steak from the local grocery, the steak has been cut, wrapped in plastic and has aged on the way to the store. This will not give your steak the flavor it should produce and it certainly will not have the time to tenderize.
When you are purchasing steak you should talk with the butcher even in the grocery store. You do not want to purchase a steak that has been injected with flavoring or is in a water solution. Now, you are paying for the extra weight that has been added to the steak. This liquid also can cause the steak to break down and make it mushy.
Also find out from the butcher if they tenderize the meat. Tenderizing should be performed a certain way that does not involve piercing the meat. If they tenderize by repetitively piercing the steak it will lose much of its natural flavoring before you even purchase the steak.
So, to sum up, the top 10 mistakes when purchasing steak are:
1. Buying the lowest grade of steak
2. Buying the wrong cut of steak for the meal you are planning
3. Buying steak with less marbling
4. Buying steak away from the bone or from the tougher cuts
5. Buying steak that is on sale
6. Buying steak that has been injected with flavorings
7. Buying steak that has been tenderized by the butcher
8. Buying steak that is not dry aged
9. Buying steak from the local grocery store.
10. Not talking with your butcher.