10 Best Beef Cuts for Grilling
No two grill-masters are likely to choose the exact same beef cuts as grilling favorites. Almost certainly, however, three factors will inform their choices: flavor, tenderness and ease of preparation. Based on these criteria, five cuts stand out, all of them from the topside of the cow, just under the backbone and roughly in the middle. The muscle in the rib section and the loin (equivalent to the small of the human back) serves primarily for stability and is not taxed like other anatomical areas. Hard-worked muscles contain more fiber, which can make for hard chewing.
“I personally love rib-eye steaks and t-bones – anything with a bone in it because the meat on bone has such great flavor,” said Bruce Albers, head butcher at Lakewood Meats & Sausage.
Number 1, Cuts from the Ribs
Inevitably, the well-marbled rib-eye steak lands near the top of any list of grill favorites. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the meat, toss it on the grill for a few minutes each side and you’re guaranteed a flavorful, succulent meal. Bone-in or boneless is fine; just avoid rib-eyes with large chunks of fat.
Numbers 2 through 5, Cuts from the Loin
Other grilling standouts come from the loin, like the strip steak (AKA New York strip or club steak). Somewhat leaner than the rib-eye, it still has good marbling, a tender consistency and requires minimal preparation.
Two popular loin steaks are nearly twins, both of them large: the t-bone and porterhouse. Each flavorful, bone-in cut includes a striploin on one side of the bone and a tenderloin on the other. Because the porterhouse is cut anterior to the t-bone, its tenderloin portion is larger. Timing can be tricky with these cuts, because the tenderloin can dry out in the time it takes to grill the striploin.
At the other end of the size spectrum is the filet mignon. This small, pricey cut is beef at its most tender. Its leanness means minimal grill time to avoid drying. Filet mignon has less flavor than a rib-eye, which is why it’s often served with rich sauces—or wrapped in bacon before landing on the grill.
Numbers 6 through 10, Less Familiar Grill-Worthy Cuts
Posterior to the loin is the sirloin, home to top sirloin and tri-tip steaks. Top sirloin is less expensive and less tender than the cuts in the top five but has outstanding beefy flavor. Never grill beyond medium-rare or it will dry out. Popularized in California, the tri-tip is a small, triangular piece of lean sirloin, with robust taste. Cut across the grain after grilling to ensure tenderness.
Great flavor places the flank steak on the top ten list. It comes from the belly area just below the loin. To counteract the toughness in its fibrous tissue, marinate this cut before grilling and slice against the grain.
Superior taste also characterizes cuts from the “plate,” the underside of the ribs, anterior to the flank. Two grill-worthy choices are the skirt steak, cut from the diaphragm muscle, and the hanger steak, supporting the diaphragm. These fibrous meats require fast cooking (at high temperatures) and slicing against the grain.
Fire up the grill and bon appetit!