The 5 Steaks You Should Be Grilling Now

August 16, 2013

Welcome to our new weekly series On the Grill, where our Sunday Dinners columnist Tom Hirschfeld will be showing us how to grill everything from steaks to salads with confidence (and style).

Today: How to grill the perfect steak, soup to nuts: the 5 best steaks to grill, the 5 rules for cooking them perfectly, and the recipe to make first: Grilled Skirt Steak with Greek Salsa.

best steak for grilling

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Sure filets, strips, and ribeyes are the Big Kahunas. Two factors make these steaks tender, juicy, and sought-after: 1) they have lots of fat marbled into the muscle (look at the Porterhouse photo below and you can see what I mean) and 2) they are cut from muscles that aren't used as strenuously as others.  

But they aren't the only steaks on a cow. There are others -- maybe they have a little more chew, but oftentimes they are more flavorful and they are most definitely less expensive, which makes them appealing for everyday meals.

Lucky for the steak lover, some of these cuts -- cuts that fell out of favor and disappeared -- have made a comeback with the resurgence in specialty butchering. Many of the steaks have even found their way back into the standard grocery meat case too, which is great for those of us who like to grill. Check out five of my favorites below.

best steak for grilling

The 5 Steaks You Should Be Grilling Now

The Porterhouse: I love this steak. It's a 2-for-1. One side of the bone is a filet mignon and the other a strip loin. It is a perfect steak for two.  Try serving some chophouse sides with it, like beet salad and green beans. If you look closely at T-bones (they are usually sans filet) and look for the steaks cut closest to the tenderloin sometimes you can snag a Porterhouse at T-bone prices. Even at T-bone prices, this is a special occasion steak for me.

best steak for grilling


The Sirloin: I started eating sirloin a couple of years ago and I have come to rely on them as an everyday cut. It might be a little chewier than most steaks but the flavor outweighs the minimal toughness. I am particularly fond of bison sirloins.

best steak for grilling


Skirt, flank, and flat iron: These are the trifecta. Any one of these steaks can land on my plate any time of day. They are what I think of as old-school butcher's cuts. In other words, back in the day they were what your butcher grills for him or herself when they get home from work. They know the cuts that are less expensive but taste great.  

These cuts need to be treated differently. They are lean. You will want to slice them thinly and across the grain, which creates a tender chew. You also want to be careful not to overcook them -- nothing past medium.  

The Skirt: The skirt is cut from the rib tips closest to the belly of the beast and nearest to the front legs. It's perfect for fajitas or tacos.

best steak for grilling


The Flank: This one comes from the same area as the skirt but is located closer to the back legs. It makes for a great London broil -- a little olive oil, lemon juice, and thyme and you have a meal.

best steak for grilling


The Flat Iron: Also known as a top blade steak when cut differently, the flat iron comes from the shoulder. A very sought-after steak for its rich flavor. I like my flat irons with fries.

best steak for grilling

5 Rules for Grilling Steak

1. A room temperature steak cooks more evenly.

2. Leave your steaks alone while they are on the grill. Ideally, the notion is to cook each side of the steak the same amount of time so the steak cooks evenly. This is hard to track if you keep flipping your steak. Learn where the hot and cold spots are on your grill and use them to your advantage.

3. Let your meat rest. Cook the steak five degrees below your desired end temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Put the steak back on the grill and warm it to the desired doneness.

4. There is no need to oil your steaks. All it does is cause flare-ups and when the oil burns from the hot heat it leaves a black residue that tastes horribly bitter, and even though you can wipe away the residue remnants of bitterness remain. If your grill is the right temperature, it acts much the same as a stainless steel pan and it will release the steak or protein when the grill marks are perfect.

5. I don't marinate quick-cooking steaks for a couple of reasons. One: marinades often overpower the beef flavor. And two: I don't like that the acids in the marinade begin cook the steak, making a full marinade impossible without cooking the steak through. Simmer the marinade and use it as a sauce or for basting.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Greek Salsa

Grilled Skirt Steak with Greek Salsa

Serves 4

20 ounces skirt steak
2/3 cup cherry tomatoes (like Sweet 100s), quartered
20 Picholine olives, pits removed, halved
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
Small handful of oregano leaves
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Olive oil
1/4 cup good quality feta, crumbled
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Greek Salsa from Food52

Photos by Tom Hirschfeld

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Sue J. September 8, 2015
If you want good tender meat,Grass fat Bulls are the best. Age it 30days. This old boy has been fat and lazy all his life. works about 2 months.. Need to be careful about ageing grass fat beef, excess fat has to go.,CLEAN walk in is a MUST. The fat will go rancid if you are not careful. You can't beat Bull hamburger.

scruz June 21, 2015
my favorite is a nice sirloin, but it must be at least an inch thick. i usually ask the butcher to cut it 3 inches thick. great leftovers for steak salad, steak enchiladas, chili, and beef stroganoff. yummy. for the first night's steak, i like to marinade and then drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Jim M. June 5, 2015
I love a skirt steak but I wouldn't exactly call them inexpensive. My local Wegmans sells them for around $18.00 per pound!
Laura415 July 25, 2014
I always use the acidic flavors contained in marinades as a side sauce for grilled meats. I just don't like soaking my meat in acids. It changes the buttery, salty, mineral tang of the meat of a grass fed steer too much for my taste. Chimichurri sauce on the side for me please.
James L. July 23, 2014
What is the origin of the hanger steak. Is it the diaphragm muscles or some part of the abdominal muscles?
Kay July 5, 2014
My absolute favorite (and a favorite of family and friends) is a Tri-Tip. Always delicious! I cover the entire cut with Lowry's seasoning salt then grill. Perfect every time.
Jim September 2, 2013
The mention of bison was great but with all the drugs in beef and most being corn (GMO) finished, I'd really like to see grass fed meat discussed much more frequently!
I_Fortuna September 1, 2013
When I was a child, my grandfather always did the BBQ and it was always Porterhouse or New York steaks. I wish I knew what he did to make them so good. When they were done, my grandmother would always cut the filet for me. I grew up thinking all steaks should be this tender and delicious. They owned a Black Angus ranch in Nevada and really knew their beef. Now, I always insist my steaks be rare and Angus. Yes, I am spoiled, but I am worth it.
Benjamin B. August 17, 2013
can you explain your tip "look for the steaks cut closest to the tenderloin" can you tell where it was cut? i cant call myself a steak noob but this was a bit confusing...thanks!
thirschfeld August 17, 2013
I am talking about t-bones in this case. As you move from the back to the front of the cow the tenderloin diminishes. Think of a pencil and as you move toward the head of the cow the pencil tapers to a point. T-bones can be cut with no tenderloin on it (as mentioned below it's sometimes called a club steak when there is no filet) but as you move forward to the head of the cow the t-bones (they now contain a larger portion of filet on one side of the bone) eventually become a porterhouse which contains the largest cuts of filet mignon on one side of the bone. Does that make sense?
thirschfeld August 17, 2013
sorry that should say, "as you move backward to the tail of the cow the t-bones (they now contain a larger portion of filet on one side of the bone) eventually become a porterhouse which contains the largest cuts of filet mignon on one side of the bone." Does that make sense?
Alfred G. August 17, 2013
The Flap Steak
The flap steak, or flap meat as it is also called, is a small cut found in the short loin. Technically known as the obliquus internus abdominis muscle, it is a flat layer of muscle found on top of the tri-tip. It is cut from the tri-tip by slicing horizontally through the layer of fat and connective tissue that binds them together. Once trimmed, the flap is a thin piece of relatively tender beef, with long muscle fibers similar to those of the beef flank.

The Skirt Steak
There are two types of skirt steak, the inside and the outside portions, both cut from the "plate" portion of the steer's abdomen. The outside portion is slightly larger. There are a total of four skirt steaks on a carcass, but they are relatively small and in an average steer they will only total 8 lbs. of trimmed beef. Like the flank and flap steaks, skirt steaks have long, chewy fibers, but can be tender if prepared correctly.

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Bob K. August 17, 2013
Nice article, but with what I believe to be a couple of misinformation.
1. Filets do not have any marbling.
2. T-bones DO have a filet side; it just is usually smaller than that of a Porterhouse.
thirschfeld August 17, 2013
Well, they do have marbling. Granted the tenderloin is very lean but it still contains fat. It is also tender because it is the least used muscle. All you need to do is go to google images, type in raw filet mignon and you will see lots of filets with marbling. You are right t-bones can have a filet side but just as often they don't. My point is look for the t-bones with tenderloin and get your moneys worth.
Bob K. August 17, 2013
Thanks for your comment. In all of my
66 years I have never seen a t-bone without a filet side. If it did not have a filet side, it was called a club steak.
Rochelle B. August 17, 2013
Tip #5 is my favorite tip! The livestock manager and butcher on the farm where I last worked was adamant about not overpowering the beef flavor on quick-cookers. And after putting in all that time and pasture, I understand why!
thirschfeld August 17, 2013
k.woody August 16, 2013
Great information, thanks! I'm a huge fan of skirt steak. Grilled with canola oil, salt, and pepper and served with chipotle sauce. Heaven. It's also called flap meat sometimes, no?
Alfred G. August 16, 2013
Not necessarily. Skirt steak is the outside flap and actual flap meat is the inside flap and is not as good as skirt steak.
thirschfeld August 17, 2013
I have never heard it called the flap. That is interesting. There is an inside skirt and an outside skirt both come from the "flap" up toward the front leg end of the cow. The flank comes from the same area but towards the hind end.
Marc S. August 23, 2013
As per the NAMP Meat Buyers guide the obliquus abdominis internus is the flap.

Further infos you may also find here: