First Light’s Guide to the Best Steak Cuts

Beef is cut in many different ways around the world and the naming of steaks, of course, changes from country to country, language to language. As far as true grillable “steaks”, there’s about 16 cuts. The following 8 steaks make the cut on a steak aficionados list and are what First Light Steak Club members may receive.

Understanding steak cuts becomes easy once you wrap your head around the fact that all meat is muscle tissue. As a result, regularly used muscles will result in tougher meat, while lesser muscles will result in tender meat. We generally group muscles into two categories – locomotive and supportive. Locomotive muscles, such as the legs and shoulder, are tougher than muscles that just hang around, like those in the upper middle part of a quadruped. And it is in that upper middle part – namely, the Rib section and Short Loin section – where we find the most prized, most popular, and most expensive steaks.


The Three King Steaks

The Rib section produces “Ribeye Steaks”, which are boneless, or “Prime Rib Steaks”, which are the exact same but with the bone left on. The Short Loin section comprises the “Strip Loin Steak” and the “Tenderloin Steak”. (To be exact, the Tenderloin starts in the Short Loin section and ends further to the rear of the animal in the “Sirloin” section.) Other names for the Strip Loin include Strip, New York Strip, or if the bone is left on, Wing Steak or Club Steak. Synonyms for Tenderloin include Fillet, Filet Mignon, Chateaubriand, Tournedos, Medallions, or Filet de Boeuf.

Now, the main bone running in between the Tenderloin and Strip Loin muscles is the “T-Bone”. If the cut is made crosswise, cutting through the bone, then you will get a T-Bone or Porterhouse steak (the latter cut from the back end where there is a larger portion of Tenderloin). In other words, a T-Bone steak is made up of a piece of Tenderloin and a piece of Strip Loin connected to each other by a bone.

Now let’s compare the three king steaks to one another. Of the three steaks, the Tenderloin is the most tender and least flavourful; the Ribeye is the least tender and most flavourful; and the Strip Loin takes the silver prize in both the tenderness and flavour categories. The Strip Loin and Ribeye steaks are usually similarly priced and the second most expensive. The Tenderloin is usually, in North America, the most expensive cut. These three cuts are like exotic cars and form the core of the First Light Steak Club. Whether you prefer to drive a Ferrari, a McLaren, or a Bugatti is up to you.


Beyond the Kings

If you’re a lover of steaks, this is where things get interesting. And if Ribeye, Strip Loin, and Tenderloin are the “three kings”, there is one Queen to rule them all – the “Picanha”. Picanha is the most prized cut of beef in Brazil and plays a regular starring role in the First Light Steak Club. It is tender and intensely flavoured, cut from the top of the rump. Strangely overlooked by American beef lovers, but it is a steak aficionado’s true cut. The Picanha is also referred to as the Sirloin Cap, Rump Cap, and Culotte.

If you’ve ever enjoyed classic Steak Frites in France, you’ve enjoyed another amazing steak cut called the Bavette (France), Vacio (Argentina), or Costine di Pancia (Italy). The Bavette is situated in the flank area of the beef, not to be confused with the more common “flank steak”. Flank steak is also a cut worth mentioning – easily distinguishable by its longitudinal grain.

Near the top of steak lists rests a cut called “Flat Iron”. Flat Iron originates from the top blade section of the chuck. It is finely marbled and extremely tender. We sometimes feature Flat Iron in our store section exclusive to members.

The Tri Tip has become a popular cut in the last decade, especially on the West Coast. It is a triangular extension from the Top Sirloin muscle, essentially the beef’s love handles. An entire Tri Tip weighs about 2lbs, and it is best to cook a Tri Tip while, then slice thin across the grain. A good party cut for sure.

Our members get exclusive access to recipes and cooking techniques for steak cuts.