All About Steak: Grades, Cuts and Temperature

| October 11, 2012

medium rare filet mignonA steakhouse regular can rattle off an order without hesitation. New York Strip medium rare, please. If you want to do the same, learn to order like a pro, and then use DexKnows restaurant listings to find the best steakhouses in your area.


First, know the top three grades of beef as designated by the United States Department of Agriculture and why one costs more or less than another:

  • Prime — This grade of beef has abundant marbling and makes the most tender, flavorful steaks. It will come with the highest price tag at a steakhouse.
  • Choice — Still high quality, a choice-grade steak will have less marbling than prime but will still be juicy and tender.
  • Select — This grade of beef is leaner than prime and choice, which means it will not have the same amount of juiciness and flavor.

What the restaurant serves may narrow your choices, but if you do have the opportunity — and the funds — to order a prime-grade steak, go for it.


The following cuts prove the most popular and will be found on most steakhouse menus:

  • Filet mignon — Because this cut comes from the tenderloin, a small internal muscle rarely used, it becomes a melt-in-your-mouth steak with mild flavor. Its small size also translates into high demand and price. Consider this a special occasion steak if on a budget.
  • New York strip or Kansas City strip — Moderate marbling and tenderness, as well as abundant flavor, come with this often-ordered short loin cut. It’s called New York if boneless and a Kansas City with the bone.
  • T-bone and porterhouse — A T-bone is a strip and tenderloin with the bone left in to create a more generous portion. Same goes for the porterhouse, but it comes from farther up on the loin, resulting in a larger size.
  • Rib eye — Taken from the rib, this cut has the most fat, which makes it tender, juicy and flavorful. It serves as many a steak aficionado’s favorite. In certain steakhouses, it also may be listed as a Cowboy Steak.
  • Sirloin — This cut, from between the short loin and rump, may be the least tender of those listed here, but it packs the most flavor and typically proves the most affordable. A top sirloin will be more tender than a bottom.

You may see additional cuts on a steakhouse menu, as well as certain roasts listed with the steaks. New cuts have even come on the market recently, such as the Vegas strip steak, comparable to a New York strip.


Five levels of doneness prove the norm at most steak restaurants:

  • Rare — Cold on the inside
  • Medium rare — Cool throughout with a bright red center
  • Medium — Warm throughout with a red center
  • Medium well — Thin line of pink in the middle
  • Well — Brown throughout

Rare steak, or well for that matter, may make you shudder, but consider taking the advice of the restaurant’s chef as to temperature. The server will know what the chef recommends as to which cut tastes best at which temperature.

No matter how you like your steak graded, cut and cooked, DexKnows restaurant listings can help you find the right steakhouse for your taste.

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Category: Food & Dining, Steakhouses

About the Author ()

Pamela Mitchell spent more than 15 years at daily newspapers such as the Hartford Courant and Houston Chronicle before becoming a full-time freelancer. She now writes about a variety of topics, from dining and entertainment to pets and travel.