Steak: What exactly is it?
A steak is a cut of beef. It’s usually served with sides and a sauce, and often cooked on a grill or in a frying pan. It’s a popular dish worldwide, but there are many different types of steak. So, let’s look at what a steak is and how it’s prepared.
The word steak comes from the Old Norse word “steik” which means “roast.” Today, steak is a popular dish worldwide, but there are many different types of steak. So, let’s look at what a steak is and how it’s prepared. Plus, some fun steak facts!
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What Exactly is Steak?
- 2 The Journey of Steak: From Cow to Plate
- 3 The Best Cuts of Steak to Satisfy Your Taste Buds
- 4 Why Eating Steak is Good for Your Health
- 5 How to Judge the Quality of a Steak Before Buying It
- 6 Where in the World Can You Find the Best Steaks?
- 7 Steak Cooking 101: How to Cook the Perfect Steak
- 8 Everything You Need to Know About Steak Cuts and Cooking
- 9 Conclusion
What Exactly is Steak?
Steak is a type of meat that is usually cut from beef, but can also come from pork or other animals. There are plenty of different types of steak, each with their own unique flavor and texture. Some of the most popular cuts of steak include:
- Filet Mignon
- New York Strip
Steak is typically prepared by grilling or pan-searing, and is usually served sliced and cooked to the diner’s preferred level of doneness. Depending on the cut and the desired level of doneness, cooking times can vary greatly. It’s important to remember not to overcook your steak, as this can make it tough and chewy. Some tips for achieving the perfect steak include:
- Knowing the difference between rare, medium-rare, medium, and well-done
- Resting the steak for a few minutes before slicing
- Slicing against the grain to ensure tenderness
- Making sure to season the steak with salt and pepper before cooking
- Using high-quality ingredients and a hot pan or grill
Benefits and Considerations
Steak is a staple in many diets and is considered an essential source of protein. It is also loaded with important nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. However, it is important to remember that steak can be high in fat content, so it should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Some other things to consider when eating steak include:
- The cost- steak can be an expensive choice, especially if you are looking for a high-quality cut
- The size- some cuts of steak can be pretty large, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before ordering
- The location- some areas are known for their superior steak, so if you’re a steak lover, it’s worth trying some of the famous restaurants in those areas
- The type of meat- beef is generally considered the best type of meat for steak, but pork can also be a decent choice depending on the cut and how it’s prepared
The Journey of Steak: From Cow to Plate
When we think of steak, we often picture a juicy, perfectly cooked piece of meat on our plates. But have you ever wondered where that delicious cut of beef actually comes from? Here are some key points to consider:
- Steak is a type of meat that comes from cows, specifically the muscle tissue of the animal.
- Different cuts of beef offer different types of steak. The most commonly known cuts are the tenderloin, sirloin, and ribeye.
- The cow is typically divided into different sections by the butcher, and each section offers a variety of cuts of meat.
- The area of the cow where the steak comes from can affect its tenderness and flavor. For example, the tenderloin is known for being incredibly tender, while the sirloin tends to be a bit tougher.
- The presence of fat in the meat can also affect the flavor and tenderness of the steak. Some people prefer a little more fat, while others prefer leaner cuts.
- Contrary to popular misconception, the term “steak” doesn’t actually refer to a specific type of meat. Rather, it describes a particular way of preparing and cooking meat.
Preparing and Cooking Steak
Preparing and cooking steak requires a bit of work, but the end result is well worth it. Here are some tips to follow:
- When buying steak, look for cuts that are bright red in color and have a good amount of marbling (fat) throughout.
- Before cooking, bring the steak to room temperature by letting it sit out for a little while.
- Season the steak with salt and pepper before cooking, and consider adding other herbs and spices to enhance the flavor.
- Cook the steak on a hot grill or in a hot pan for a short amount of time to ensure it stays tender and juicy.
- Let the steak rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
The Best Cuts of Steak to Satisfy Your Taste Buds
Choosing the perfect cut of steak can be a personal preference, but there are some tricks to help you pick the best one for your occasion:
- Look for marbling: The more marbling, or fat, a steak has, the more flavorful and tender it will be.
- Check the surface: The surface of the steak should be dry and firm to the touch. If it feels slimy or sticky, it may not be fresh.
- Consider the occasion: Different cuts of steak are better suited for different occasions. For example, a filet mignon may be more appropriate for a romantic dinner, while a ribeye may be better for a backyard barbecue.
- Ask the butcher: If you’re unsure which cut of steak to choose, ask the butcher for their personal recommendation.
How to Prepare the Perfect Steak
Once you’ve picked the perfect cut of steak, it’s time to prepare it. Here are some tips for cooking the perfect steak:
- Let it come to room temperature: Take the steak out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking.
- Season generously: Season the steak with salt and pepper or your preferred seasoning blend.
- Use a high cooking method: Depending on the cut of steak, use a high cooking method such as grilling, broiling, or pan-searing.
- Let it rest: After cooking, let the steak rest for a few minutes before slicing into it. This allows the juices to redistribute and keeps the steak tender.
Why Eating Steak is Good for Your Health
Steak is an excellent source of protein, which is critical for building and maintaining muscle mass. It is also loaded with energy, making it an ideal food for active people who need to feel their best.
Steak is rich in essential nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. These include iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, which are critical for the production of red blood cells, the prevention of anemia, and the support of a healthy immune system.
Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that moderate consumption of beef does not significantly increase the risk of heart disease. In fact, certain parts of the beef, such as the fatty acids found in grass-fed beef, can actually help lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart attacks.
Control Glucose Levels
Steak is a low glycemic index food, meaning it does not cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels. This makes it an ideal food for people who need to control their glucose levels, such as those with diabetes.
Positive Impact on Mood
Steak is rich in amino acids, which are critical for the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood. Eating steak can help improve your mood and make you feel more positive and energetic.
Contrary to popular belief, the compound found in steak that has been linked to cancer is not harmful to our bodies. In fact, research has shown that this compound is neutral and unlikely to cause any damage.
Abundance of Nutrients
Steak is loaded with an abundance of nutrients that are critical for our bodies. These include vitamins, minerals, and complex molecules that are essential for our overall health and well-being.
In my opinion, steak is a wonder food that provides numerous benefits to our bodies. It is a rich source of protein, energy, and essential nutrients, and it supports heart health, glucose control, and mood regulation. So, don’t hesitate to include steak in your diets and enjoy its ultimate benefits!
How to Judge the Quality of a Steak Before Buying It
When shopping for a good quality steak, the first thing you need to do is to examine its appearance. Here are some things to look out for:
- The color of the meat should be a deep red or burgundy color. If it’s grey or brown, it’s probably not fresh.
- The fat should be creamy white or slightly yellow. If it’s grey or has a slick of oil on it, it’s not a good sign.
- The meat should be well-marbled, which means there should be thin streaks of fat running through the meat. This is a sign that the steak will be tender and delicious.
- The cut of the steak should be even and not too thin. A decent piece of steak needs to be at least 1 inch thick to cook perfectly.
- If you’re on a budget, you can go for a leaner cut of meat, but make sure it’s not completely devoid of fat. Fat adds flavor and moisture to the meat.
Different countries have different grading systems for beef, but in the US, the most common grades are:
- Prime: The highest grade of beef, with the most marbling. This is the most expensive and is usually found in high-end restaurants.
- Choice: The second-highest grade, with less marbling than prime. This is a good choice for discerning shoppers who want a good quality steak without breaking the bank.
- Select: The lowest grade, with the least amount of marbling. This is the most reasonable option for those on a budget, but the steak may not be as tender or flavorful.
Smell and Touch
Once you’ve found a steak that looks good, give it a sniff. It should smell slightly sweet and meaty. If it smells funky or sour, it’s not fresh. You can also touch the meat to see if it feels firm and springy. If it feels mushy or slimy, it’s not a good sign.
Learn from Experience
The best way to learn how to judge the quality of a steak is to try different products and find out what you like. Over time, you’ll develop an eye for what a good quality steak looks like and what it should taste like. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different cuts and grades of meat to find the right one for your next delicious meal.
Where in the World Can You Find the Best Steaks?
When it comes to producing high-quality beef, some countries stand out from the rest. Here are the top countries for beef production:
- United States: The US is the world’s largest producer of beef, with over 19 million tons produced annually. The country is known for its high-quality beef, with cuts like ribeye and sirloin being particularly popular.
- Brazil: Brazil is the second-largest producer of beef in the world, with over 10 million tons produced annually. The country is known for its unique cuts, such as picanha, and for producing some of the world’s best grass-fed beef.
- Argentina: Argentina is famous for its traditional beef dishes, such as asado, and for producing some of the world’s best grass-fed beef. The country produces around 3 million tons of beef annually.
- Australia: Australia is known for producing high-quality, lean beef. The country produces around 2 million tons of beef annually and is particularly famous for its Wagyu beef.
- India: India is the world’s largest consumer of beef, but due to religious and cultural reasons, the country does not export beef. However, the country still produces around 3 million tons of beef annually.
Types of Beef Cuts Produced in Different Countries
Different countries produce different types of beef cuts, depending on factors such as the breed of cattle, the farming practices, and the local cuisine. Here are some examples:
- United States: The US produces a wide variety of beef cuts, including ribeye, sirloin, T-bone, and filet mignon. The country is also known for producing high-quality beef from specific regions, such as Kobe beef from Japan and Black Angus beef from Scotland.
- Argentina: Argentina is known for its traditional beef cuts, such as asado, which is a type of short rib. The country also produces unique cuts, such as vacío, which is a flank steak.
- Brazil: Brazil is known for its picanha cut, which comes from the top sirloin and is considered one of the country’s best cuts. The country also produces other unique cuts, such as fraldinha, which is a type of skirt steak.
- Australia: Australia is known for producing lean beef cuts, such as eye fillet and sirloin. The country is also famous for its Wagyu beef, which is highly marbled and considered a luxury item.
- Japan: Japan produces some of the world’s most expensive beef, such as Kobe beef and Matsusaka beef. These cuts are highly marbled and are known for their rich flavor and tenderness.
Factors That Affect the Quality of Beef Produced in Different Countries
The quality of beef produced in different countries can differ based on a variety of factors, including:
- Farming practices: The way cattle are raised can have a big impact on the quality of the meat. For example, grass-fed beef is often considered to be of higher quality than grain-fed beef.
- Breed of cattle: Different breeds of cattle have different characteristics that can affect the quality of the meat. For example, Wagyu cattle are known for their highly marbled beef.
- Degree of marbling: The amount of fat in the meat can affect its flavor and tenderness. Highly marbled beef is often considered to be of higher quality than lean beef.
- Internal temperature: The internal temperature of the meat when it is cooked can affect its tenderness and juiciness. Different cuts of beef require different cooking temperatures to achieve the perfect result.
- Cutting techniques: The way the meat is cut can affect its tenderness and texture. For example, cutting against the grain can make the meat more tender.
How Different Countries Prepare and Serve Their Steaks
The way steaks are prepared and served can differ from country to country, depending on local traditions and cuisine. Here are some examples:
- United States: Americans tend to prefer their steaks cooked to a medium-rare or medium degree of doneness. Steaks are often served with sides such as mashed potatoes and green beans.
- Argentina: In Argentina, steaks are often cooked over an open flame and served with chimichurri sauce. The meat is typically cooked to a medium or medium-rare degree of doneness.
- Brazil: In Brazil, steaks are often seasoned with rock salt and cooked over an open flame. They are typically served with sides such as rice and beans.
- Japan: In Japan, steaks are often served in small portions as part of a larger dish, such as sukiyaki or shabu-shabu. The meat is typically cooked to a rare or medium-rare degree of doneness.
Steak Cooking 101: How to Cook the Perfect Steak
The key to cooking the perfect steak is choosing the right cut of meat. Different types of steak require different cooking methods, so it’s important to know what you’re working with. Here are some popular cuts of steak and the best way to cook them:
- Ribeye: This cut is known for its marbling, which means it’s full of flavor. It’s best cooked on a hot grill or in a cast-iron pan.
- Filet Mignon: This cut is lean and tender, making it perfect for those who prefer a milder flavor. It’s best cooked on high heat for a short amount of time.
- New York Strip: This cut is a bit leaner than a ribeye but still has plenty of flavor. It’s best cooked on a hot grill or in a cast-iron pan.
Preparing the Steak
Once you’ve chosen your steak, it’s time to prepare it for cooking. Here are some steps to follow:
- Take the steak out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Pat the steak dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.
- Season the steak with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can also add any other desired seasonings at this point.
Everything You Need to Know About Steak Cuts and Cooking
Steak can be composed of different parts of the cow, depending on the section of the animal the cut is taken from. Here are some of the most popular cuts of steak:
- Ribeye: flavorful and tender, with a lot of fat running through it.
- Sirloin: lean and easy to cook, with a great beef flavor.
- Rump: a tougher cut, but still delicious when cooked properly.
- Skirt: a fleshy and flavorful cut, often used in Mexican cuisine.
- Flank: a tougher cut that can be delicious when marinated and cooked correctly.
- Loin: a tender and lean cut, often used for filet mignon.
- Rib: a flavorful cut with a lot of fat, often used for prime rib.
Is Steak a Healthy Food?
Steak provides a lot of iron and protein, making it a great addition to a healthy diet. However, it is important to remember to choose lean cuts of meat and to not overcook the steak, as this can add unnecessary fat and reduce the nutritional value. Additionally, it is important to ensure food safety when cooking steak, as undercooked meat can lead to foodborne illnesses.
What Are Some Related Foods to Steak?
Steak is a versatile food that can be paired with a variety of sides and sauces. Here are some related foods to steak:
- Potatoes: mashed, roasted, or fried, potatoes are a classic side dish for steak.
- Grilled vegetables: add some color and nutrition to your meal with grilled vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, or bell peppers.
- Red wine: a bold red wine pairs well with a flavorful steak.
- Chimichurri sauce: a tangy and herbaceous sauce that is commonly served with steak in Argentina.
- Salad: a light salad can add some freshness to your meal and balance out the richness of the steak.
What Are Some Tips to Ensure a Great Steak?
Here are some additional tips to ensure a great steak:
- Choose a high-quality cut of meat.
- Let the steak rest before cutting into it.
- Don’t overcook the steak- aim for medium-rare or rare.
- Serve the steak with a company of sides and sauces.
- Get inspired by different cooking methods and flavors to add variety to your meals.
- Opt for healthier cooking methods like grilling or pan-searing instead of deep-frying.
So there you have it- the history, types, and cooking of steak.
Be sure to enjoy it with some delicious sides, and don’t forget the salt and pepper! So go ahead and indulge in this delicious treat!
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.