STEWARDS OF THE LAND.....

STEWARDS OF THE LAND.....
.....A view from "down the lane" ....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Staking out Beef: Know Your Steaks, their values, their cuts

If you're learning about cooking beef, it's important to STAKE out the proper information about STEAKS, in general. Steaks come in all shapes and sizes and from low price to higher-priced. Lean beef is as healthy as skinless chicken breasts, so there is no reason to avoid all beef steaks! Here is some basic information about steaks. Do check out recipes and study the steaks listed so that you capitalize on flavor and tenderness while preparing easy and great menus.

Much of the appreciation for beef comes through the cuts you select . Most important to remember? A steak is not just a steak!

There are a number of types:

The most tender cuts of beef come from the rib, short loin, and the sirloin. Steaks from the chuck, plate, and flank are tougher, although wonderfully tasty. Cuts from the brisket, shank, and round are by far the toughest and leanest of all beef cuts, which make them perfect for slow-cooking dishes. Cooking methods for these cuts include braising, roasting, stewing, but not grilling. One important note about the tougher or leaner cuts of beef: lean steaks don't have much protection against overcooking, but lend themselves to dishes that use marinades.

Getting to know the cuts of beef are important if you want to be able to select the right cuts. The rib-eye or rib steak comes in boneless or bone-in cuts: Spencer steak, Market steak, Delmonico steak are boneless. The rib steak (a favorite among steak eaters!) is a bone-in steak. These steaks are generally tender and juicy. From the sirloin comes a number of favorite cuts: from the Top sirloin comes a London broil, center cut sirloin, top sirloin butt steak. While flavorful, this cut can vary in tenderness; the Top sirloin is the most desirable. These cuts are usually at least 1 1/2 inches thick and many people like to marinade these cuts. Also from the sirloin comes the Tri-tip, a favorite in the west, but harder to find in the east. These are smaller, leaner steaks, and it's important to slice the meat thinly ACROSS the grain for maximum tenderness. Great for serving guests, the Tri-tip is featured at many barbeques and should be kept fairly thick.

From the Chuck (or shoulder), this boneless steak has good flavor, though it may carry a fair amount of fat and/or gristle. Again, these steaks should be sliced thinly when serving and many cooks prefer to cook these as pot roasts. The Top blade steak, another cut from the chuck, is quite tender and moderately priced, making it a good choice for the value. There is a line of gristle that can be cut out and this steak is great to marinade.

From the Short Loin (or back) comes the tenderloin steaks that people pay high prices for in restaurants or supermarkets: these are tender and flavorful. Included in these cuts are the filet mignon, the filet steak, tournedos, and filet de boeuf. Also from this cut comes the T-bone and the Porterhouse, characterized by a T-shaped bone; the Porterhouse has a larger tenderloin "section". Both are popular restaurant selections. Finally, from this cut comes the Top loin steak, including such selections as the strip steak, New York strip steak, boneless club, and others -- all boneless. Bone-in selections include the New York strip loin, club sirloin steak, and the Delmonico steak. All of these cuts feature marbling, which is the element that gives beef its greatest flavor and tenderness.

There are a number of other cuts, as well, from the Flank & Plate (or underbelly), which tend to be leaner but well-flavored. Great cuts for marinades or quick grilling. These include the London broil, the flank steak, the hanging tenderloin, and the skirt steak, or Philadelphia steak. These steaks are often used in fajitas or sliced in cold salads, etc.

In my next post, I'll share some information about cooking steak, about marinades, and more about beef nutrition!

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