August 8, 2012

Soup to Nuts: Burning love
for grilled steak

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Before buying steak for grilling, check out the beef’s marbling and how darkly colored it is, and ask what the cow was fed.

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Bring the meat to room temperature, or close to it, before grilling. This is especially important with a thicker cut that you want to cook to medium rare without overcooking the outside.

Marinating breaks down enzymes in the meat, which helps to tenderize it and adds more flavor. But unless they're grilling a cut of meat that's a little bit tougher, steak fans tend to take a hands-off approach.

"With a ribeye or the Delmonico, (I add) a little olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe a little garlic powder," said butcher Matt Fournier. "I'm a purist when it comes to a nice cut. But something like the skirt steak or even a flank steak, those are cuts that are good for marinating."

The biggest mistake people make with steaks is cooking them too long, Fournier said. "A nice cut, it shouldn't be cooked over medium," he said. "Well, even with cheaper, less expensive cuts, because then they get even worse. The skirt steak actually works out better if you cook it more towards medium. It becomes less chewy, actually."

Don't be afraid to use high heat. Make sure the grill is hot, Fournier said, "like, hot hot. Smoke-the-kitchen-out hot, so you get that nice sear."

As a general guideline, for a medium rare steak that's about an inch thick, cook it for four minutes on each side. The fattier the steak, the quicker it will cook.

Don't flip the steak more than once.

After you take the steak off the grill, let it rest for 10 minutes. During cooking, the juices migrate to the outside of the steak. Letting it rest allows the meat to resorb all that juicy goodness.

"If you cut it too soon," Spangler cautioned, "you'll end up with a big pool of liquid that really should be in your meat."

– Meredith Goad, staff writer


Generally, steak does not pose the same sorts of food safety issues you'll find with ground beef. That's because the inside of a steak is considered sanitary, since it's not ground up like hamburger, a process that can spread pathogens throughout the meat.

Cutting the steak, however, can introduce those bad bugs that can make you sick.

"If you take a raw piece of meat and stab it with a fork, that clean cavity on the inside is no longer necessarily clean," said Jason Bolton of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. "You may have just introduced what was on the surface. So use tongs to put the steak on and flip it, and make sure those are washed between touching raw and cooked. These are little things that people don't necessarily think of.

"When you use a thermometer, you're supposed to wash it after every use because you don't want to put something that's now contaminated back into a cooked product."

If you use a meat thermometer, cook the steak to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature recommended by the USDA. If you're eating outside, don't let your steak sit out longer than an hour if the temperature is at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.


SOME CUTS of beef are known by several names, which can get confusing for the consumer standing in front of the butcher's case. Here's a rundown of some common cuts and their aliases:

RIBEYE: Also known as beauty, Delmonico, Spencer, fillet or market steak

SKIRT STEAK: Fajita or Philadelphia steak, diaphragm, fajita meat, inside skirt or outside skirt steak, beef plate skirt steak boneless


TENDERLOIN STEAK: Filet mignon, fillet de boeuf, tender or fillet steak, tournedos, Chateaubriand, tenderloin medallion, tenderloin tips

NEW YORK STRIP: shell, strip, club, chip club, country club, sirloin strip or Delmonico steak



JASON BOLTON, an assistant professor of food safety at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, recommends the book "Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef" by Mark Schatzker (Penguin Books, $16). "For the steak enthusiast, it's a great read, and you learn a lot," Bolton said. "A lot of it is backed up with scientific information."

FOR A GREAT collection of steak recipes, try "Steak With Friends" by Chicago chef Rick Tramonto (Andrews McMeel, $35). This cookbook not only gives you the basics on different cuts of steak, it contains 150 recipes for classic dishes such as Steak Diane and steak-friendly side dishes such as creamed spinach and twice-baked potatoes with Irish cheddar.

GOT QUESTIONS about choosing a piece of meat or food safety? Call Jason Bolton, assistant professor of food safety at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, at 581-1366 or email him at


A tenderloin steak, also known as filet mignon, is cut from the short loin. Lean, and offering a milder flavor than other steaks, the tenderloin is also the most tender cut. And you'll pay for this irresistible combination.


This leaner cut, which is created when the tenderloin is removed from the short loin, is another of Fournier's favorites.

Spangler said people who are turned off by fat tend to choose the strip steak.

"It's very, very tender and very flavorful but not as fatty," he said. "It's much leaner than a ribeye is."

The New York strip is also known as a shell steak, a Kansas City strip, a club steak – and yes, as a Delmonico. Check out our sidebar on steak aliases if you want to get even more confused.


The skirt steak is a long, flat piece of meat that comes from the plank, just below the brisket. The "outside skirt" cut is more tender than the inside cut, which is often used to make fajitas.

"There's no chunks of fat in it, but it's very marbled," Fournier said. "And it takes a marinade very nice, if you like to marinate your steaks."

Carve a skirt steak thinly across the grain.


This is one of the more popular cuts at Rosemont Market, but you can find it at other specialty butchers as well. It's an extra-thick cut good for sharing.

"The cowboy is essentially about a 2 1/2- to 3-inch thick bone-in ribeye, with the bone frenched off so you've got a nice handle to use to cook it with," Spangler said. "It's one of those things that it's thick, it's beautiful, it's something that you could get a lot of nice color on."


A T-bone steak is a lean strip steak and a smaller tenderloin connected by a T-shaped bone. It's cut from the short loin.


A Porterhouse is basically a larger T-bone steak that is a thicker cut and contains more tenderloin than the T-bone. It's cut from the rear end of the short loin.


The London broil can be marinated or seasoned with a rub, but it doesn't have to be.

This is one of Spangler's favorite cuts.

"I prefer the original London broil," he said. "When you go to the grocery store and you see London broil, nine times out of 10 it is a top round steak. Top round is cut from the leg. The round is a very flavorful cut, and it's a little bit leaner, but the true London broil is actually cut from the shoulder, from a muscle called the shoulder clod."

This muscle is used more for support, so cuts that come from it are still rather tender, and "the flavor on it is above and beyond," Spangler said. And it's significantly cheaper than ribeye.

Spangler suggests serving it when you're having several people over for dinner and don't want to buy individual steaks for all your guests.


There's only one hanger steak per animal, so butchers used to just take this cut home to their families. But now that chefs have discovered it, you'll find it on menus all over town.

It's a cheaper cut, although it is rising in price as it rises in popularity. Hanger steak has great flavor but can be tough, so it should probably be marinated before it's thrown on the grill.

"They sometimes call it the butcher's tenderloin," Bolton said. "You get a fair amount of tenderness, a lot of flavor. You don't pay as much as a filet mignon or something like that, but it has to be cooked just right – high heat real quick, not for a very long time."


These small steaks cut from the cap of the sirloin are popular in the western part of the country. They are similar to strip steak in appearance, but more flavorful. You'll probably need to go to a specialty butcher for this one.


Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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A good cut “shouldn’t be cooked over medium,” says butcher Matt Fournier.

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