All About Steak
As promised, though it seems like a lifetime ago, here’s my post about some tasty cuts of steak and an online butcher worth a try.
I started working on this post in back in early March with the intention of posting it early to give folks plenty of time to order their steaks for Father's Day. Well, a pernicious little virus upended everything in a hurry. When the first Sars-CoV2 shut down orders started coming to state after state, online ordering went through the roof. Porter Road was sold-out for much of April and May. I've been checking back frequently and it appears they are able to re-stock much better these days. Make sure to check out Porter Road's COVID-19 Update Page before you buy. It's loaded with info on when they will be restocking, beef, pork and lamb, as well as the best times to buy.
I have been buying meat from Porter Road for over a year now. Their motto, "If it's not raised right, it can't be delicious." is why I do. They haven't replaced my local grocer, farmer's market, or butcher for all my meat buying but for special occasions, or when my hankering for something special won't subside, Porter Road is my go-to.
Porter Road expertly hand-cuts all their meat in Kentucky with minimal waste. "Nose to Tail", as they say. The beef is pasture-raised in Tennessee and Kentucky without hormones, antibiotics, or GMO feed. No factory farming here. Then they dry-age their beef for a minimum of 14 days. The taste is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Steaks ship fresh, not frozen, in their own biodegradable cooler that's worth keeping & reusing! Two of my favorite steaks are the Bone-in Ribeye and the Chuck Eye. Think beyond T-bones and New York Strips, folks!
Let’s talk steak. Did you know that a Kansas City Strip is the same cut as the more popular New York Strip? The Kansas City steak keeps the bone-in while the latter is boneless. Both are found towards the back of the steer, where the muscles don’t get much of a workout. This creates a tender piece of meat, but for my tastes it lacks the marbling that brings texture and flavor.
For intense beefy flavor, the ribeye is the answer. This cut can be found at the upper part of the back closer to the shoulder. This is where you’ll find some of the tenderest meat imaginable, as it comes from softer, less-worked muscle fibers in the center of the steer.
When choosing a ribeye steak, I always look for a generous rib-cap or deckle. This is the curved marbled top-cap that surrounds the eye of the meat. While the ribeye packs the biggest beef flavor and tenderloins (filet) offer the most tender meat, the deckle delivers both in glorious umami harmony. In the back of a butcher shop it’s simply referred to as, “Butcher’s Butter.” The French have a name for it too, calotte. You’ll call it steak for the soul!
Unfortunately, a rib-cap steak can be hard to find and it's awfully expensive. The reason for the high price tag is that you must ruin the entire prime rib section to cut away this coveted cap of meat (deckle) to make a long rib-cap steak which would feed only two to three people.
I have, on occasion come across and bought a tied-up version of the rib-cap from my local butcher. Pieces of the deckle taken from the prime rib or ribeye steaks are neatly rolled up, then tied. They make a nice steak and are way more affordable than the whole rib-cap steak but are also hard to come by. After all, what fool would want the butcher to remove the best part of their ribeye steaks! (I have heard rumors of folks finding these rolled and tied rib-cap steaks at their local Costco. It's certainly worth a look for those of you who are members.)
My advice is to choose a ribeye with the largest deckle you can find. And please, don't cook it past Medium.
Another cut that is affordable and close to the deckle in texture and flavor is the Chuck Eye. This steak comes close to the open grain texture and rich beefiness of the rib-cap and they cost much less than a ribeye. It's an incredible cut, with a nice balance of tenderness and flavor that lands somewhere between a Ribeye and Strip steak. While they are rare, with only six in an entire 1,200 pound animal, Porter Road seems to have them in-stock regularly at $13 (.69 to .81 lb.) a steak. If you find the Chuck Eye, or any other cuts are sold out Porter Road offers a convenient Wait List feature. I've used it several times and it's quick and easy. You'll get an email letting you know that the cut is back in stock.
A few other steaks worth trying.
The Teres Major or the "petit tender." It's smaller than a whole tenderloin but has a similar texture with a bit beefier flavor. I've never seen this cut other than at Porter Road.
You've probably all seen Hanger Steak on a restaurant menu before. This beauty has mineral notes and a nice open grain that make it worth trying at home. Your better grocery stores and local butcher shops should carry this steak. If you can't find it near you, Porter Road carries it.
The Flat Iron Steak is second only to the Filet when it comes to tenderness. It's a fabulous steak that's cut deep from the shoulder, making it tricky to retrieve. It's tender, has great flavor and it is one of the easier steaks to cook. If you like your steak medium or medium-well this cut is for you. A little harder to find than the other "flat" cuts, but my Whole Foods has it regularly and Porter Road sells it when available.
Along with theses steaks, Porter Road offers a full complement of beef, pork, poultry and lamb. They offer free shipping on orders of $100 or more. If your purchase is less than $100, get a friend or two to add to the order to take advantage of the free shipping.
Here's my advice on internal temperatures when cooking steaks.
- Rare — Internal temp 110°F = Red center, very cool
- Medium Rare — Internal temp 120°F = Red, warm center
- Medium — Internal temp 130°F = Pink throughout
- Medium Well — Internal temp 140°F = Pink Center (Flat Iron Steaks work well at this temp))
- Well — Internal temp 150°F = No Pink (Eat a burger instead)
More advice. Don’t overcook your steak and make sure your steak knives are in tip-top shape. I prefer straight-edge steak knives over serrated edges. And, I keep them very sharp. They slice through steak like it's butter. Whatever style you prefer we have a nice selection of quality steak knives. One more tip, only bring out your steak knives when there's steak on the menu. They won't abused doing tasks they were not intended to do and they will stay sharp longer.
Browse our current selection of quality Steak Knife Sets from the most popular cutlery brands worldwide.
To keep your knife edges sharp, you must sharpen them often. Blades dull when they hit bone, hard countertops, hard veggies and fruits, or with lots of use. A sharp knife is a safer knife. If you’re using too much force to cut, slice, chop, mince or dice your edge is worn and your knife needs attention. Thankfully, you’ve got a couple of options.
I love having a hand-held sharpener in my cutlery drawer. As soon as you notice your knife edge beginning to dull pull out your hand-held and give the blade ten or so back-and-forth passes through the sharpening stage and then another ten through the honing stage. Try cutting with your knife again and you should feel way less resistance when cutting. You should need less pressure (or force) to cut through foods cleanly.
Another choice is to get an electric knife sharpener. These are perfect for when you have a few knives that you want to sharpen at once or when the hand-held isn’t putting a good edge back on your knife anymore. This usually means the edge is very dull and needs more metal taken off to get the blade back to the right angle and with a razor-sharp edge. I find the more I use the hand-held the less I need to drag my electric sharpener up from the basement.
When this happens, I try and make an afternoon of it, checking and sharpening every dull knife blade in the kitchen. And, sending a quick text out to my universe, at least 2-3 friends inevitably show up. The knives they bring more resemble letter openers. Hmm, I think I may have an idea for a few upcoming birthdays!
Finally, you could choose to have your knives professionally sharpened once or twice a year. If you live in or near the Greater Philadelphia Region, you’re in luck. **Drop off your dull kitchen knives to any Kitchen Kapers store and we’ll professionally sharpen them for $5 each. Make sure you safely wrap your knives in newspaper or something similar before transporting them. *Important Update: As of 6/16/2020 all of our Stores are offering Curbside Pickup only. Call or email your desired location to arrange for knife sharpeneing services during curbside pickup hours.
I would still suggest buying a hand-held sharpener for a quick weekly tune-up on your most used knives. No matter what sharpening option you choose, keeping your knives sharp will make kitchen prep easier and safer.
Browse our Collection of Knife Sharpeners including wet stones for those who prefer a truly manual sharpening experience.
This well-used and well-loved kitchen knife showed up at our Princeton, New Jersey store earlier this year to be sharpened. The 10" carbon steel chef's knife has a gorgeous patina and was made by the French knife manufacturer, Sabatier. "Who doesn't love a bit of old-school heavy-metal?" The staff was so thrilled they sent me this photo.
Finally, a few things you may not want to live without.
Here's a great cast iron campfire cooker from Lodge. This thing was built for cooking steaks with the perfect sear. Bring along a big can of baked beans and fire up a hearty steak dinner. You'll imagine you're roughing it out on the open range and that the Internet's a century from invention. Proudly made in the USA. More info.
Cooking Steak in a cast iron pan is a classic for sure and so is this 10.25" beauty from Le Creuset. The Signature Skillet features an enameled black interior that doesn't require seasoning and will sear steaks, chops and more with ease. The skillet can be used with virtually any heat source, including gas, electric, ceramic, halogen and even induction, and comes with Le Creuset's Lifetime Warranty. Made in France. More Info »
The essentials and nothing else. A capable set of long locking tongs for grabbing, flipping, and turning along with a long-handled turner/spatula with a big head for flipping burgers, steaks and the like are the two grill tools you'll grab the most. This OXO Good Grips 2-Piece Grill Tool Set fits the bill! More Info.
This should keep you and your grill happy all summer long!
Keep an eye out for my follow-up post this summer. I'm gonna go hog-wild on the best cuts for pork BBQ and smoke!
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