What Are the Best Cuts of Beef? Your Guide to Picking the Perfect Steak

Beef is a beloved staple in many people’s diets. Its hearty flavor and satiating protein content make it a go-to for nutritious, satisfying meals. With so many cuts to choose from, picking the right steak for your meal can feel overwhelming. Read on for a guide to picking the best cuts of beef for grilling, pan-searing, braising and more.

A Look at the Most Popular Cuts of Beef

Beef comes from the cow and is divided into sections based on which part of the animal it comes from. The most prized cuts of beef typically come from the middle of the cow’s back, between the shoulder and rump. These areas don’t get much exercise, so the meat is very tender. Here’s a look at some of the most popular cuts of beef:


The ribeye comes from the rib section and is known for its rich flavor and generous marbling. The marble fat running through the ribeye keeps it juicy and enhances the beefy taste. Ribeyes can be cooked bone-in or boneless. They are great for grilling or pan searing.


The tenderloin runs along the spine of the cow. It’s the most tender cut because it doesn’t get much use. Tenderloin is where filet mignon comes from. It has very little fat, so the flavor is mild. Tenderloin is perfect for sautéing, roasting or putting in a beef wellington.

Strip Steak

Also known as New York strip, the strip steak comes from the short loin. It is tender and lean with a strip of fat running along one side. Strip steak has robust beef flavor. It works well for grilling, broiling and pan frying.


The T-bone contains two steaks in one – a strip steak and a tenderloin. It has a T-shaped bone that separates the two cuts. T-bone offers the best of both worlds – flavor from the strip and tenderness from the tenderloin. It’s great for grilling or pan searing.

Filet Mignon

Filet mignon comes from the small end of the tenderloin. It is extremely tender and lean with very little fat. Filet has a delicate flavor so it’s nice to season it robustly or wrap it in bacon. Filet is suitable for grilling, pan searing, broiling and sautéing.

How to Pick the Best Cuts for Different Cooking Methods

Choosing the right cut of beef ensures the best results for the cooking method you want to use. Here are some tips:

  • For grilling, go for ribeye, strip steak or T-bone. Their fat content and flavor stand up well to the high heat. Don’t grill filet mignon – it will dry out.

  • For pan searing or sautéing, choose tenderloin, filet mignon or strip steak. Their tenderness makes them ideal for stovetop cooking. Avoid chuck or round cuts as they will be tough.

  • Braising is great for less tender cuts like chuck, brisket and round roast. The moist heat tenderizes the meat. Don’t braise expensive tender cuts – it will make them mushy.

  • Roasting tenderloin, prime rib and other tender cuts keeps them juicy in the oven. Cook low and slow for round or chuck roasts to turn them fork tender.

  • Ground beef is extremely versatile for dishes like burgers, meatloaf, meatballs and chilis. Go for 80/20 or 85/15 ground chuck for the best balance of fat and flavor.

Factors that Impact Beef Quality

There are a few things to look for when selecting cuts of beef for the best eating experience:

  • Marbling – The intramuscular fat in beef is called marbling. More marbling means more flavor and moisture. Prime grade beef is abundantly marbled while Select has less.

  • Color – Beef should be a bright cherry red. Dark purple or brown hues indicate the meat is old. The fat should be white or cream-colored, not yellow.

  • Texture – Fresh beef is firm and velvety. Avoid cuts that look slimy or feel slick and sticky. Dryness signals the meat is past its prime.

  • Butchery – Clean, precisely cut steaks indicate attention to detail. Jagged edges or thick chunks of fat are undesirable. The meat should not be sitting in liquid.

  • Sourcing – Higher quality beef comes from animals that are grass-fed, humanely raised and free of hormones and antibiotics. Local butcher shops may source from small regional farms.

Handling and Cooking Your Beef

Proper handling and cooking helps beef taste its very best:

  • Place raw beef on the bottom shelf of the fridge so juices don’t drip on other food. Use within 3-5 days.

  • Pat steaks dry before seasoning or searing. Wet surfaces cause splattering and steaming instead of browning.

  • Cook beef to an internal temperature of 145°F for medium rare doneness that is juicy and tender.

  • Let meat rest for 5-10 minutes after cooking so the juices reabsorb. Slice across the grain for tenderness.

  • Add a pat of herb butter on top of steaks when they finish cooking for extra richness.

  • Take lean cuts like filet mignon beyond medium rare and they will quickly turn tough and dry.

  • Utilize marinades and rubs to boost flavor in less expensive, less marbled cuts of beef.

Recommended Cuts for Popular Beef Dishes

Certain beef cuts are better suited for some dishes over others. Here are suggestions for great results:

  • Steak Fajitas – flank steak or skirt steak
  • Pot Roast – chuck roast or brisket
  • Beef Stew – chuck steak or stew meat
  • Cheesesteaks – ribeye or top round
  • Beef Wellington – filet mignon or tenderloin
  • Tacos – flank steak, brisket or skirt steak
  • Roast Beef – rib roast, tri-tip or top sirloin
  • Meatloaf – 80/20 ground beef
  • Burgers – 80/20 or 85/15 ground chuck

The Takeaway

With a wide spectrum of cuts ranging from budget-friendly to splurge-worthy, beef offers amazing versatility in the kitchen. Understanding the difference between cuts allows you to pick the right steak for your cooking method and the meal you want to create. Seek out high quality beef from reputable butchers for the very best flavor and experience.

The Complete Guide to Cooking the Perfect Steak


What is the best cut of beef to buy?

For roasts, the best cuts include rib (on the bone or boned and rolled), sirloin, top rump and fillet. For quick cooking, try fillet, entrecôte, rib eye, sirloin or rump steaks. Brisket, topside and silverside are good for pot roasts, and stewing and braising steak are good for stews and casseroles.

What is most tender cut of beef?

The most tender of all cuts of beef, tenderloin steaks are lean and known for their delicate, butter-like texture and thick cut. These mouthwatering steaks are so tender they can be “cut with a butter knife.” Tenderloin steaks are commonly known as filets or filet mignon.

What is the best cut of beef to cook?

Cuts like a whole eye fillet (aka chateaubriand) are the quickest to cook and the most tender but a rolled scotch roast probably has the best combination of flavour and tenderness. A porterhouse roast is the next best thing.

Leave a Comment