Steak Ordering Guide – Three Tips for Getting the Perfect Cut

You find yourself at a famous Steak House, and the server looks your way to take your order – there’s just one problem: you have no idea what cut to choose!  There are so many options ….a filet mignon, a ribeye, a porterhouse, so many choices to try!  Then, as if the steak gods wanted to make things even more complicated, there are bone-in steaks!  And what exactly is the difference between a Kansas City Strip and a New York Strip?  Each steak cut has its own unique characteristics, but don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Tip #1: Know the Cuts

Just like any other meat, different steak cuts come from different parts of the animal and have different levels of tenderness and flavor.  Here we will help familiarize you with the most popular cuts.

The Ribeye

The ribeye and strip steaks are some of the most tender because they come from the two areas farthest from the horn and hoof and are the least worked muscles of the cow.  The ribeye gets its name because it comes from the rib area. The ribeye steak is boneless and is essentially made up of the eye and the spinalis or ribeye cap which is the outer part of a ribeye or piece of prime rib.  The bone-in version is usually referred to as a cowboy steak and is generally a larger cut.  The ribeye tends to have more fat than other cuts, a lot of which will melt during cooking and add another layer of flavor to the steak. So for those that want the most flavor and don’t mind a little extra fat the ribeye is for you.


The Strip Steaks

Strip steaks are steakhouse classics, known for great marbling, tenderness, and flavor.  New York strips are boneless and cut from the strip loin after it is removed from the short loin.  A Kansas City Strip is a New York strip that has been left on the bone. Both the New York strip and the KC strip are very well marbled and full of flavor, so if you want a steak that doesn’t have a lot of fat but has a rich beef flavor, the Strip is for you.


Filet Mignon – The One You’ve Heard All About

The most tender beef cut, Filet Mignon is lean yet succulent and elegant.  It has a buttery, melt-in-your mouth texture, and mild taste.  Filet Mignon is cut from the least worked part of the cow, and usually is one of the most expensive cuts, and one of the most delicious! The filet mignon or tenderloin is extremely lean and has less marbling than other cuts. The smallest part of the tenderloin starts in the short loin and ends in the sirloin.  The Filet Mignon has a milder flavor than other cuts but it is incredibly tender, so if you are looking for a wonderful, lean steak that will melt in your mouth a filet mignon is for you


The Porterhouse

The porterhouse comes from the short loin closest to the sirloin or tail end of the animal.  The porterhouse is actually made up of two different cuts of beef, a tenderloin along one side of the bone and a strip steak on the other, which makes it the best of both worlds! Good steak houses know when cooking a porterhouse, to remember that there are two different cuts of beef, which cook slightly differently.  The tenderloin side cooks a little quicker, so it needs to be placed over a part of the grill that is not quite as hot. If you are looking for a steak with rich beef flavor and a steak that is milder and incredibly tender the porterhouse is for you.

Tip #2: The big debate: Bone-In vs. Boneless

For decades, steak-lovers have argued about the value of leaving the bone on or taking it off.  On either side, steak aficionados, grill-masters and chefs have debated this issue.  Some cuts of meat are always on the bone such as a porterhouse, “T” bone or Kansas City strip, and others can be served on the bone or off like a filet mignon or a ribeye.  It really boils down to personal preference.  The flavor difference is not as substantial as some would have you believe, but also not non-existent as others would say.  The reality is that the bone protects some of the meat while cooking and as a result it stays moist.  Bones heat up slower than the meat and stay hotter longer so the meat that is right up against the bone will tend to be cooked less than the meat that is on the edges. Bones do impart some flavor because of the marrow and they tend to hold the steak more intact.  The best way to decide is to try it both ways and see which you prefer – now that’s a homework assignment we can all get behind!

Tip #3: Choose your Doneness

When you order a steak at a specialized steakhouse restaurant they’re going to ask you one very important question: “How would you like your steak cooked?” There are some who will tell you to keep it rare but there are also those who will says medium-well is the way to go. Be wary of ordering well-done, some restaurants will even have a disclaimer on the menu about ordering well done steaks.

RareA rare steak is placed on a hot grill and marked in a crosshatch design for only a couple of minutes. A rare steak is going to be caramelized on the outside but have a cold red center.

Medium RareCooked the same way just cooked a little longer, a medium rare steak will be caramelized or charred on the outside but have a cool red center.

Medium – A medium cooked steak will be nicely charred and caramelized on the outside but will have a warm pink center. There will be less juice present the longer a steak is cooked.

Medium Well – All steaks should have a good char or caramelization on them and a medium well steak is no exception. It is cooked throughout with just a slight hint of pink in the very center. Cooking a steak to this temperature will result in a firmer steak and virtually no juice

Well DoneA steak ordered well done is done so at your own peril…this will be a steak that is cooked all the way through with no pink at all. Cooking a steak to this temperature will result in a much drier steak and no juice. In addition, a lot of the flavor will be lost when cooked this degree.

These three tips will help you to order the right steak and to gain a better understanding of the different cuts. Now that you’re a steak “pro” you’re ready to go to make your steakhouse reservation and show off your steak ordering skills!  Run, don’t walk, to the nearest steakhouse!  Find out if you are near a Shula’s location by visiting