America is a melting pot made up of people with many different tastes and preferences. Have you ever stopped to question what tops the list of favorite foods in this country? Well, you no longer have to wonder.
According to research commissioned by Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs as reported by the Daily Mail, one food comes out the clear victor in the roundup of all-time favorite American foods: Steak. Let’s take a closer look at this meaty meal, along with highlighting some tips for grilling the most tender, flavorful steaks.
Understanding Steak Grades
You’ve probably seen steak labeled with a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grade, but do you know what those categories mean? We went straight to the source to learn more about these categories, which speak to the quality of the meat.
A “Prime” designation means steak is the best of the best. How does it come by that status? The USDA reveals, “Prime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle.
It has abundant marbling, and is generally sold in hotels and restaurants. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for broiling, roasting or grilling.”
“Choice” is the second-highest quality. Says the USDA, “Choice beef is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for broiling, roasting or grilling. Less tender cuts are perfect for braising, roasting or simmering on the stovetop with a small amount of liquid.”
A steak categorize as “Select” is the lowest grade. According to the USDA, “Select beef is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than Prime or Choice. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may not have as much juiciness or flavor. Select beef is great for marinating or braising.”
Choosing the Right Steak Cut
Another steak-related topic which confounds many Americans? How do you know which cut of meat to choose when ordering from a restaurant menu or cooking at home? While there are many cuts of steak, daily food magazine The Kitchen has identified four need-to-know cuts:
Also going by the names filet mignon, Châteaubriand, fillet, filet, tenderloin is the most expensive steak cut. It’s boneless, lean and fine-grained in texture.
These steaks are typically cut thicker than others because of their small size. Tenderloin is often described as having a “buttery” flavor. Many chefs choose to first sear it than finish it off in the oven due to its thickness.
2. New York Strip
New York strip, AKA strip, Manhattan, Kansas City strip, top sirloin, top loin and contre filet, is also usually sold boneless. While not as tender as some other cuts, New York strip has a medium fat content and bold “beefy” flavor. This versatile cut of steak can be pan-seared, broiled or grilled — all over high heat.
T-Bone, AKA Porterhouse, steaks are sold bone-in. The tenderloin portion must be 1.25” wide to be a porterhouse, and just .5” wide to be a T-bone.
This cut offers a “best of both world” meal — the amazing succulence of the tenderloin and the toothsome, juicy flavor of a strip. T-bones are tricky to cook because they’re essential two steaks in one.
According to The Kitchen, keeping the tenderloin portion further from the heat source is an effective technique for ensuring tasty results.
Also going by the names of entrecôte, Delmonico, Scotch fillet, Spencer, market, and beauty, ribeyes are sold both bone-in and boneless.
Their heavy fat marbling results in a particularly meaty, juicy and flavorful meal. High heat is also the way to go with ribeye steak, which can be pan-seared, broiled or grilled.
While these may be the most popular cuts of steak, they’re far from the only one. Other cuts include sirloin (a large cut which can be bone-in or boneless), top sirloin (and leaner and cheaper version of sirloin), rump steak (a lean tender cut suitable for grilling), and skirt steak (best for slow cooking; avoid on the grill.)
Top 5 Steak Grilling Tips
Although here are many different ways to cook steak, grilling tops the list of methods for many Americans — particularly during the summer season. Read on for five tips aimed at ensuring best results the next time you fire up that grill.
1. Prepare the Steak Well
If you want to bring out the full flavor of your steaks, adequate salt is a must. A quality steak only needs the simple combination of salt and pepper to shine, although many chefs also use spices and rubs.
2. Let It Sit
Did you know that steak needs to relax? In this case, “relax” may not mean what you think it does. Simply put: A steak cooked at room temperature will cook more quickly and evenly than one fresh-from-the fridge. Bring your steaks to room temperature — that’s about an hour outside the fridge — for optimal cooking.
3. Make Sure the Grill is Really Hot
Make sure your grill is well-heated before tossing on your steaks. One simple rule of thumb? Test by holding your hand above the grill grates. If you can’t endure it for more than two seconds, you’re good to go. To achieve that perfect charred crust, steak needs to sizzle when it hits the grill.
4. Timing is Everything
While preferred degree of doneness is a personal choice, cooking the perfect steak means getting it right. Medium rare, the most popular degree of doneness, requires 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Depending on whether you’re looking for more or less rare, subtract or add time.
Still not confident in your degree of doneness? Use a meat thermometer: 125 degrees for rare; 125-130 for medium-rare; 130-135 for medium; 135-140 for medium-well; and over 140 for well.
One last tip? Once a steak is on the grill, leave it alone. While the temptation to poke, prod and flip is strong, all it needs is one turn.
5. Let It Sit, Again
Your steaks are cooked to perfection and you’re ready to dig in. Not so fast! To bring out the best flavor, let it sit for approximately 15 minutes before serving. If you’re cutting and serving, use a sharp knife and slice against the grain.
For a vast number of steak-loving Americans, there’s nothing better than sinking their teeth into a juicy, delicious steak.
Whether you’re grilling it up yourself or ordering it off a restaurant menu, the next time you pick up your fork and steak knife and prepare to indulge, you’ll know just a little bit more about what’s on your plate.