For many of us, there’s nothing more delicious than a perfectly-cooked steak. But if your entire range of steak knowledge starts at filet mignon and ends at T-bone, then we’ve got some news for you: There are lots of different types of steaks out there, and they’re all unique. Here are 15 that any steak-lover should know.
The steer is a huge animal, and it can technically yield an infinite array of steak cuts. In fact, many different countries have different ways of butchering the animal, and serve a completely different range of steaks than we do in the States. But in the United States, steers are broken down into a handful of distinct primals, the large sections of the cow from which steaks are derived, above.
Each primal is made up of distinct muscle groups, and some of those muscles work much harder than others; how much a muscle works has a direct impact on the quality of the steaks created from it. The chuck and round get serious workouts, so the meat tends to be tougher and full of connective tissue. The tenderloin doesn’t do much at all, so it’s incredibly tender. Some primals, like the shank and brisket, are all but impossible to cook as a steak, so they must be cooked low and slow in order to break up the connective tissue and render it edible.
While each primal can yield a wide variety of steaks, we’ve broken them down into the 15 most popular steaks around, from cheap cuts to ones prized by the best steakhouses. Some of these steaks can only be found at steakhouses and upscale butcher shops, others are easily affordable at your local supermarket; some are tender but mild-flavored, others require some more chewing but are rich and beefy; some are so lean that they need to be cooked fast and hot; others are more marbled. This is by no means a comprehensive guide (and certain primals, like the sirloin, can prove tricky to understand), but if you want to know your steaks, it’s required reading.