What Exactly Is a “Delmonico” Steak?

It’s one of the most famous steaks around, but it doesn’t actually refer to any particular cut

At Delmonico's, their Delmonico steak is a boneless ribeye.

If you’ve spent any time eating at fancy steakhouses, you’ve probably encountered something known as a Delmonico steak. Unlike steaks like rib-eyes, New York strips, and filets mignons, however, the name doesn’t exactly indicate what part of the steer the steak is from. So what exactly is a Delmonico steak, and why is it called that?

To begin to answer that question, we need to go back to its birthplace: Delmonico’s. Widely considered to be America’s first restaurant, Delmonico’s is still one of New York’s most popular steakhouses, and there indeed is a Delmonico steak to be found on their menu. If you order the Delmonico steak at Delmonico’s today, you’ll receive a boneless rib-eye that hasn’t been dry-aged, brushed with melted butter and beef fat after it comes out of the broiler. Back in the 1800s, however, the first Delmonico steaks were whatever the best cut was on a particular night, Delmonico’s chef Billy Oliva recently told Eater’s Nick Solares. Animals were generally slaughtered on-premises, so as it was being butchered the chef would decide which particular steak was of the highest quality, and that would be the night’s Delmonico steak.

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Nowadays, the variations on the Delmonico steak are as numerous as the restaurants that are serving it. Some serve a boneless rib-eye, some serve bone-in rib-eyes, some serve New York strips, either bone-in or boneless. Some will even tie together two chuck eye steaks and pass it off as a Delmonico. At the end of the day, a Delmonico steak can be any steak, as long as it’s thick-cut (most clock in at more than an inch and a half thick); it’s usually also of a high quality. But if you’re planning on ordering one, we suggest you ask exactly which cut you’ll be receiving. Click here to learn which 50 steakhouses are America’s best.