What Cut of Meat should you Buy?

November 11, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015






T-bone steaks cooking on a grill.  (John Moore/Getty Images )
T-bone steaks cooking on a grill. (John Moore/Getty Images )
In the past, I’d shop for steaks to barbeque and would always end up disappointed. Trying to be a good shopper, I’d look for the best deal, in other words, the cheapest. I’d season my steak, throw it on the grill, and make potato salad. When I served the steak, to my inexperienced surprise, it was tough.

I later educated myself on various cuts of meat and realized steak is just like everything else, you get what you pay for. According to Chef Shane Chartrand, cuts of meat vary greatly and some cuts are not as succulent or tender as you expect. This means the backyard barbeque chef needs different ways to cook steak to enjoy the tenderness that your steak knife was longing for.

Here are a few and easy tips when shopping for that “perfect steak.”

* Loin: always a tender cut, cook on the barbeque however like!
* Tenderloin: is top notch tender. The name says it all.
* Sirloin: tender, but doesn’t have much fat which will, if over cooked, be a tougher piece of meat.
* Flank steak or brisket: These are among the least tender of all meats, needs marinating and moist heat cooking (in liquid, in an oven with vegetables and cooked slowly)
* Inside or outside round: moist heat method (in liquid, in the oven with vegetables and cooked slowly)
* Shoulder roast: tougher meat these cuts require moist heat for sure!

Understanding this quick breakdown on the types and what to consider, remember that when meat is a little tougher than other cuts, you have marinate a bit to break down the collagen. Using an acid like vinegar or lime juice aids in tenderizing the meat. Another option is to use moist cooking, a slow cooker, or braising. Don’t hesitate to get advice from your butcher especially if you don’t understand the name of the meat on the package. He’s there to help you.

Finally, keep it simple. A great way to barbeque is this: buy a rib eye, season with salt and fresh pepper, and cook to your taste. Let the steak “rest” on a plate for a few minutes to relax the meat that’s been cooking so rapidly. Sauces, relishes, and ragout rubs are a nice way to extend your dishes' impact. Enjoy!