The carcass of a cow has about 16 steaks. Of these, the filet mignon is the most tender of all. Anatomically, the cow consists of the front (which includes the shoulders), the belly, the back (the sirloin and around the spine), and the thighs. The so-called “noble cuts” of steak exercise less and are logically the most tender steak cuts.
You’d be right if you call these the laziest parts of the cow. Yes, no kidding! These tender cuts of steak don’t work. They leave all the tasks to the shank, flank, chuck, and brisket. That’s why the noble/tender cuts get so tender, juicy, marbled, and flavorful.
I know them all by heart with experience, and in this article, I’ll introduce you to what we in the industry call the most tender cuts of beef. I’ll also show you the second most tender steak cut and all others that come after. Ready?
The most tender steak cut is hands down, the filet mignon. No wonder it’s one of the most expensive steaks.
The filet mignon is a small cut from the narrow tip of the filet/tenderloin. This area is very narrow, and the cut, therefore, only weighs around 225 to 350 ounces. It’s located around or just after the ribs, and it’s not an active part of the cow.
That’s why the meat is as tender as butter and practically melts in your mouth whether you stir-fry or grill it.
If you look at the whole beef, the mignon is only a tiny tip. Just about a pound (two portions) of this specialty can be obtained per cow.
That explains the high price for this cut. It is known for its particularly tender, lean meat and beef flavor. The tenderness and versatility of this cut of beef make it sell like a hot cake.
What’s the best way to cook the filet mignon to get tender? Pan-fry or grill it. Cook it fast or slow and long; this cut will end up tender. Plus, it’s a pretty versatile cut of steak.
In principle, the preparation of filet mignon is no different from other cuts made from the beef fillet.
Due to its size, you have to be careful because the small, lean piece of meat is quickly cooked through.
You can sear the meat directly on each side for only 2 to 3 minutes at high temperatures.
To get the desired cooking point perfectly, I recommend always keeping an eye on the core temperature for the beef fillet during cooking.
The filet mignon should preferably be cooked medium rare or medium. Or else, it can dry out quickly when cooked through.
Then you have to let it rest briefly before slicing the steak. During this time, the meat will pull away a bit, and the juices will be redistributed.
Flat iron steak, the tender surprise from the shoulder of beef, is the most tender steak after the filet mignon.
The theory held that a good steak was always cut from the parts of the beef that weren’t moved much.
This referred to the fact that meat with fewer muscle fibers is more tender and chewable even when raw.
However, the theory has since changed. Popular types of tender steaks include the flat iron and the rib eye steak. These come from areas that the animal frequently moves.
This is a less popular cut of steak that comes from the beef shoulder or chuck primal cut, a much-moved muscle area.
The fact that a tender and filet-like steak is hidden between the shoulder layers is a surprise. The steak is as tender as a filet and flavorful as a rib eye.
The steak is shaped like an iron. Since it is released below the tendon, it is very flat and wide. However, you will also notice other differences with the flat iron steak.
On the one hand, it has a delicate texture. At the same time, it has a pronounced marbling from the muscular area in the shoulder, which moves a lot.
This widens towards the tip and provides fat content that makes the meat juicy and flavorful.
Real steak connoisseurs appreciate the aroma from the fine fiber, which has good fat marbling.
The flat iron steak retains the tenderness of the fillet and the aroma of the rib eye. Here the maxim applies: the more the area of the animal is moved, the better the circulation and the more intense the taste.
It is great for steak lovers who like searing, grilling, or roasting recipes. It ends up tender even without slow cooking and has a special aroma.
Since the meat is usually better quality, pan searing is the best way to get it tender and juicy. I like to cook it in the oven afterward to reach the desired internal temperature.
The meat is much cheaper than other beef steaks and also suitable for grilling, where preparation is more difficult.
Since the steak has an intense flavor, not many spices are necessary. You don’t even have to marinate it.
For me, the tenderloin (which houses the filet mignon) is the third most popular cut of beef. This is basically the psoas major muscle, and it sits under the sirloin.
When cut out, the tenderloin has an elongated shape, gets wider towards the back, and thinner at the opposite end where you have the fillet mignon.
The beef tenderloin is divided into the fillet point (at the very front), the middle piece or center cut, and the two-part fillet head or chateau piece.
They didn’t just name it the “tenderloin” for no good reason. This nomenclature refers to the psoas, a muscle that is rarely used and has no supportive function.
The tenderloin steak is, therefore, very fine-grained and wonderfully tender. However, it’s also very lean. It has a beef flavor and an average fat content of 25 grams per 100 grams cut. Likewise, the proportion of the tenderloin in the entire beef carcass is only about 1 percent.
Due to the fine and delicate texture of the tenderloin, it is perfect for pan frying and grilling.
Unfortunately, the noble but lean meat can also quickly overcook and become dry. It’s best to shoot for a medium rare or medium internal temperature to achieve the desired degree of doneness.
Like any meat, tenderloin should always be stored well-chilled if you are not going to cook it immediately. But how long can beef tenderloin be stored in the refrigerator?
At temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat can be kept for about 3 to 4 days, longer if turned into ground beef. For longer storage, it must be frozen.
The top sirloin steak is also one of the most tender steak cuts of beef. It’s better if it’s a bone-in sirloin steak. Pretty tender and delicious, this is particularly suitable for grilling.
The sirloin can also be prepared as a roast. Finally, after cooking and resting the meat, make sure the meat is fit across the grain.
Have you ever heard of fall-off-the-bone ribs? This is used to describe how tender and juicy ribs get when they’re grilled. The rib and the entrecôte are tender, soft, and delicious at the same time.
I get the best out of these pieces of meat on the grill and the oven in a long and slow 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 method, such as the Johnny Triggs style. This way, the steak gets tender and comes off the bone, to the delight of any pitmaster.
The ribeye steak is a well-marbled and flavorful cut of steak. Butchers take it from the prime rib roast, one of the most tender parts of the rib region.
The ribeye cap steak is also quite tender and juicy. The ribeye cap steak has all the flavor from the ribeye with the tenderloin’s tenderness. You can fast-cook or cook it long and slow.
The strip loin comes from the loin and is referred to as the New York strip loin, strip steak, top loin steak, Kansas City strip, or short loin. It’s another tender and flavorful favorite of mine. The steak must be at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
There’s no need to marinate a strip steak. Just season it to taste.
The porterhouse and T-bone steaks house some of the most tender steak cuts of beef. Why did I say that? Well, the filet mignon or tenderloin and strip steaks are found in T-bone and porterhouse steaks.
So they’re some of the best for a steak lover who loves bone-in tender cuts of beef. There’s not a lot of difference between a T-bone steak and a porterhouse. The porterhouse steak is even a more tender and juicy steak as it has more thickness than the T-bone steak.
Also called the butcher’s steak or a hanging tenderloin steak, the hanger steak is a cut of steak that’s highly prized for its flavor. It’s taken from the plate, just under the front belly of the cow.
However, you can only have a cut of hanger from the whole animal, and each typically weighs around 450 to 675 grams. So if you need about 10 pounds of hanger steak, you’d be slaughtering 10 cows!
The flank steak is another tender steak but with long fibers. So, don’t get it twisted. The steak can end up tough and chewy.
The tenderness of the flank steak depends on the cooking method. The flank steak and sirloin flank can be prepared in the pan or grill.
I don’t recommend that you cook it too long or in high heat. Simply sear the meat for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the flank steak.
Like the flank steak, the skirt steak is not in any way tender. This boneless steak is a very active part of the cow that carries the weight of the organs or the calf. It’s, therefore, very tough.
However, if you slice the skirt steak thinly and cook it rare, you can have a tender meat.
I’ve shown you some of the most tender steak cuts of beef in the market. If your teeth can’t take tough and chewy steaks, go for the filet mignon or the flat iron steak. The tenderloin steak is also very tender, but you have to be careful not to overcook it in the pan or the oven. It can harden or dry out. Finally, ensure that your meat rests well, and never slice a steak along the grain.