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  • VOL 08, ISSUE 01 • WINTER 2020
The Steak Spectrum

The Steak Spectrum

Runs the Gamut from Flat Iron Cut to Chateaubriand

When well-heeled New Yorkers sat down to a steak at Delmonico’s a century ago, little thought was given to how that slab of beefsteak arrived on their plates. There was no “farm-to-table” movement. Perhaps some curious captains of industry reflected on their investments in the cattle ranches “way out West,” and the cowboys who drove their herds along the Chisholm Trail to railroad terminals for the journey to the stockyards in Chicago. Today’s steak lovers are more source-centric, interested in sustainability and knowledgeable about the cut of beef they are ordering.

Cuts of beef begin with sections. Each section is divided into distinctive cuts, each with its own flavor profile and best methods of prep. Successful steakhouses across the nation are very exacting about the types and cuts of beef they procure, ensuring the best ROI while delighting their customers’ palates. Luckily, there is a cut for every application.

 steak spectrum diagram

Flat Iron

This cut is taken from the chuck section of the steer, yet is flavorful, juicy and well-marbled. It is the second most tender beef muscle. The flat iron cut is a good value, should be cooked using dry heat, and in addition to steak, is perfect for fajitas, stir-fry and kabobs.

File Mignon

Cut from the most tender muscle section, hence the name Tenderloin, Filet Mignon is truly a premium cut. It is the most flexible cut on the carcass. Best prepared with dry heat cooking methods.

Top Sirloin

One of the most versatile cuts, top sirloin steak provides a quality dining experience at a moderate price. From the loin section, sirloin steak is best prepared with dry heat. Recommended for Philly cheese steak sandwiches, London broil, fajitas and stir-fry.

Prime Rib, Standing Rib Roast & Ribeye

These mouthwatering cuts from the rib section cross over into pricier, special occasion beef. Rib Roast is the standout at brunch buffets and special occasions. Boneless and Bone-In Ribeye are very popular with diners. The trendy Tomahawk steak is a large ribeye with a long frenched bone that resembles a tomahawk. Its impressive shape elicits a lot of attention in the dining room. Best prepared with dry heat methods.

T-bone, Porterhouse & Strip Steak

These three tender and flavorful workhorses appear on almost every steakhouse menu. The first cuts starting at the rib end of the short loin are the bone-in strip steaks. The steaks cut from the center are the T-Bones, and the Porterhouse steaks are cut from the portion closest to the sirloin. If the Tenderloin is removed, there can be no T-Bones and Porterhouses. Best prepared with dry heat cooking methods.


Cut from the center of the Tenderloin – the most tender and prized spot of all. This impressive cut is served primarily at high-end restaurants. Best prepared with dry heat cooking methods.

Much of this information was provided courtesy of the Beef Checkoff and BeefFoodservice.com.
This illustration represents the sections in a side of beef. Each section is divided into cuts.
Courtesy of the Beef Checkoff and BeefFoodservice.com