A Diner’s Guide to the Perfect Steak

You’re going out on a week-long vacation or a weekend getaway. This is your chance to dine a little more
extravagantly than you do on a normal day. This is your chance to try a juicy, succulent steak.

But as you imagine yourself sitting down to order, you realize there’s a lot you don’t know about steak.
Learn all the basics below so you can order steak like a food connoisseur.

Cuts of Steak

Not every piece of steak is created equal. To put it simply, different cuts of steak come from different
places on the cow. If you buy steak at a restaurant, you’ll likely see some of these cuts listed on the menu.


This boneless cut is often more expensive than other cuts because it’s considered the tenderest meat. The
tenderloin comes from the top of the cow, near its rear. When a butcher cuts off the smaller end of the
tenderloin, it is known as filet mignon.

New York Strip

When you order a New York strip, you’re getting meat from the short loin behind the ribs. This steak has
fat on one of its edges and is tender and juicy.


Unlike most other cuts, a T-bone steak comes with the bone in. Cut from the short loin, it includes a
piece of the tenderloin and a piece of the New York strip. Many people enjoy this cut because it is packed
with fat and it has bites that are tender, buttery, and juicy.


As with T-bone steaks, butchers cut porterhouse steaks from the short loin. However, these steaks contain
more of the tenderloin than T-bone steaks do. Thus, people typically rate them above T-bone steaks.


The sirloin is the area surrounding the tenderloin. It is less tender than the short loin but can pack
more flavor.


You probably already know that a ribeye steak comes from the rib cage-more specifically, from the upper
rib cage. Ribeye steaks have high fat content, and you can cook them quickly. If you want a ribeye steak with
the bone in, ask for a cowboy ribeye.

Other Cuts

While not commonly served at formal restaurants, you’ll see these other cuts when buying steak at the
grocery store:

  • Chuck. A chuck steak comes from the front area of the cow, which also provides meat for ground
  • Round. Coming from the back end of the cow, this steak is tougher than most, so you’ll need to cook it
    to a rare internal temperature or marinate it to soak in flavor.
  • Flank. This lean meat is tough to chew on but tastes great marinated or braised.

No matter which cut of steak you order, restaurants typically add spices and seasonings for a full range
of flavor.

Steak Cooking Levels

Now that you know a bit more about steak cuts, you need to know how you want your steak cooked. Your
waiter will almost certainly ask you about your preference.

The cooking level of the steak depends on the meat’s internal temperature. Chefs cook rare steak for the
shortest amount of time and to the lowest internal temperature. They cook well done steak for the longest
amount of time and to the highest internal temperature. Here’s a breakdown of your options:

  • Rare: 120 degrees F
  • Medium rare: 130 degrees F
  • Medium: 140 degrees F
  • Medium well: 150 degrees F
  • Well done: 160 degrees F

Many steak lovers prefer their steak medium rare because it tastes soft and juicy. Others prefer medium
well because it has a hint of juice, but no blood.

So which steak cut and cooking level should you choose? It depends on your preference. If you eat at a
renowned steak house, any steak you choose will taste