Here's a pocket guide to meat cuts and cooking steak that carnivores can really sink their teeth into, with 3 of our favorite best buys and 3 of our favorite splurges.




TOP ROUND aka London Broil
 Taste: Very lean with mild flavor; dense and slightly chewy.
 Good to know: Inexpensive with no fat to trim off, so more meat for your money; even shape makes it easy to slice thin. Marinating will tenderize the meat.
 Serve it: Best served rare to medium (overcooking will turn this cut into leather). Must be carved very thin, against the grain. Great cold for sandwiches.

grilled appetizer

SKIRT STEAK aka fajita steak
 Taste: Juicy and flavorful.
 Good to know: Quick-cooking and versatile. Firm, accordion-like grain soaks up dry rubs and marinades.
 Serve it: Best served rare to medium-rare. Anything more toughens the meat.


STRIP LOIN aka strip steak; New York strip steak; shell steak
 Taste: A beef-lover's steak -- you can really taste the steer.
 Good to know: A trophy cut -- tenderness, succulence and a satisfying chew. Low maintenance: cooks evenly, ideal for a variety of cooking methods (grilling, broiling and pan-roasting).
 Serve it: Rare or medium-rare: This cut turns mealy when overcooked.


grilled meat

RIB EYE aka Delmonico Steak
 Taste: Naturally tender cut cooks up juicy, with a rich flavor of caramelized meat.
 Good to know: Can be sold bone-in for rib lovers and for a more dramatic presentation. Lots of marbling makes it self-basting. These steaks are pricey, so look for ones with a large "eye" and less surrounding fat.
 Serve it: Rare to medium-rare.

grilled steak

FILET MIGNON aka tenderloin steak
 Taste: Its mild flavor and tenderness make it the perfect canvas for a starring sauce.
 Good to know: Expensive, but unlike other cuts, it doesn't need to be trimmed and doesn't shrink much during cooking. Avoid acidic marinades -- they'll deteriorate the fine grain and make the meat mealy. Lean and tender enough to be eaten cold.
 Serve it: Best eaten rare to medium. Skip the steak knife -- it cuts like butter!


 Taste: Combines two contrasting cuts in one sitting -- part of the delicate tenderloin and robust, juicy strip.
 Good to know: Nothing says "steakhouse" like a T-bone. Great for steak lovers who eat with their eyes first. The bone adds flavor and seals in juices. Perfect for carnivores who feel the meat's just a vehicle for getting to gnaw on the bone.
 Serve it: Best served rare to medium-rare.


Aged Beef: It's not about how old the cow is. Aging is a process that allows the natural enzymes in the meat to tenderize the tissue and develop the flavor. Dry-aging is an expensive investment for both you and the butcher -- with delicious results. "Wet-aging" in vacuum-sealed plastic is a cheaper alternative available in many grocery stores.     

Marbling: The streaks of fat within the muscle make for flavorful, juicy, tender meat. As a general rule, the more well-marbled, the better the steak.

Prime, Choice and Select: Ranks in a USDA quality grading system based, in part, on marbling. While all beef is USDA-inspected for wholesomeness, grading for quality is voluntary and the USDA charges for the service. Budget cuts labeled prime or choice often make for a better steak experience than a rib eye or strip steak labeled select.

100% Grass-Fed: Cattle that has grazed only on grass. It's leaner, lower in calories, and higher in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than grain-fed beef; it's also more likely to be free of antibiotics and growth hormones.

USDA Organic: Cows that are raised on organically grown feed but not necessarily on grass. They can't be treated with synthetic hormones or antibiotics.

Certified Angus Beef: A brand, not a breed, created by the American Angus Association