Steak is delicious, there’s no denying that. It can also get confusing fast. There are so many different cuts and some of these have multiple names. It’s easy to assume that the most expensive cuts of steak are the best, but that’s not entirely accurate.
Instead, each type of steak has its own features and nuances. For example, expensive steak is often very tender, but you can still end up with a chewy and dry steak if you cook it poorly.
What makes the steak pricey is the balance of supply and demand. Expensive cuts generally come from an area on the top of the animal. This part of the animal doesn’t get much exercise and there isn’t much connective tissue either, making it perfect for cooking.
Such cuts only make up a small portion of the total meat from the animal, so supply is always limited. Not surprisingly, then, these cuts end up more expensive than most others. They’re worth it though, as these steaks can be incredibly tender and packed with flavor.
What’s more recognizable than a T-bone steak? This cut has a distinctive T-shaped bone that divides two different cuts of meat. You end up with a small section of tenderloin, plus a larger piece of strip steak.
Both cuts of steak are marbled, giving you a delicious and tender meal. A T-bone also provides an interesting contrast in texture and flavor between the two cuts.
T-bones tend to be expensive. This isn’t surprising, as they contain meat from two of the most valuable cuts of meat – and there’s only a tiny amount of T-bone per animal. The quality of the meat combined with the balance of supply and demand keeps the price high.
Delicious as they can be, T-bone steaks are also tricky to prepare. Because the cuts of steak have different fat contents, they cook at different speeds. You’ll need to keep an eye on both sides of the steak to make sure both sides cook well, without either drying out.
Positioning the steak well in your pan helps. Try to get the tenderloin section further away from the heat source than the strip steak.
The porterhouse is very similar to the T-bone. So similar, in fact, that the terms are often used interchangeably.
Both cuts feature the same T-shaped bone dividing tenderloin and strip steak. The big difference is the size. In particular, the tenderloin fillet on the porterhouse needs to be at least 1.25 inches in thickness. Less than this and it’s a T-bone steak, not a porterhouse.
The size of this steak and the decent serving of tenderloin means this is often an even pricier cut, especially if you order it at a steakhouse.
Because porterhouse steak tends to be larger, it’s best to not pan fry it (although, you can, if you really want). Either broiling or grilling is easier and gives you a more predictable outcome.
Filet mignon is a fascinating cut of steak. For one thing, it’s tiny, often cut to roughly an inch and a half. It’s also incredibly tender (when cooked well you can even use a fork to cut it).
The tenderness comes from how the muscle gets very little work.
Most of the time, filet mignon isn’t served on its own. It’s often wrapped in bacon instead, as the meat has very little flavor.
Filet mignon is more expensive than most other steak cuts, partly because it is so tender, but also because there isn’t much of the muscle per animal. However, the subtle flavor and high price tag means that many steak lovers turn to other cuts instead.
While ribeye isn’t as expensive as filet mignon, this is still an expensive cut of steak. It contains a decent amount of marbling, along with small pockets of fat.
A notable feature is that the texture differs across the steak, where the central eye of the ribeye has a finer grain than the outer section. This creates delicious variation when you’re eating the meat.
The fat content also makes the ribeye a forgiving and versatile cut of meat. It can easily be cooked in a pan or on the grill, even if you haven’t cooked steak very often previously.
The tomahawk steak is most well-known for its appearance. The long bone really does make it look like a weapon of some kind, which is pretty cool.
The cut itself is actually a ribeye with the bone still attached. As such, it is still a richly marbled cut that cooks easily and tastes delicious.
The bone may even provide extra flavor. If nothing else, it acts as a handle and can make the steak quite fun to eat.
The filet mignon comes from the tenderloin, so it’s not surprising that other cuts from this same region are expensive too. Such cuts are sometimes known as filet steak.
As with filet mignon, we’re talking about a lean cut of steak that’s still incredibly tender.
Because the tenderloin itself is narrow, tenderloin steaks are often cut to be quite thick. Combining direct heat and indirect heat often works well as a way to cook them. This way the middle reaches the desired temperature without overcooking the exterior.
There are plenty of different tenderloin forms and variations, like peeled versus unpeeled, or cases where the steak has been peeled and has its silver skin removed, while the side fat is still present. You’ll also see cuts from different parts of the tenderloin, including the center and the butt.
The price you pay will depend on the specific cut you choose, where you buy the tenderloin from, and the current market trends. Regardless, tenderloin will never be cheap.
Despite being a very expensive cut of steak, ribeye cap often skips under the radar. It’s an amazing piece of steak though, as it is very well marbled and packed with flavor.
This is much better than ribeye steak itself, which is still delicious and popular, but isn’t as tender as you might have hoped for. If you can find (and afford!) ribeye cap, then it really is the steak of kings.
It’s worth trying for yourself at least once. Be careful though, you might find that this cut of steak spoils you for any others.
Where To Buy Your Steak
It’s easiest to buy steak locally. You might even focus on large stores, like Costco, as these help to keep the price down.
The convenience factor can’t be ignored, but still, such stores often have poor quality steak. This is concerning if you’re looking for expensive cuts. Paying through the nose for mediocre steak is beyond frustrating.
Butcher’s shops are much better, especially if you have a good one in your area. You’ll often be able to request specific cuts and have much more say in what you end up with.
Or, why not order online? There are some amazing steak of the month clubs out there. These clubs have access to some of the best steak on the market and ship it straight to your door. You often get fresher meat than anything you’d find in a local store.
How To Cook Expensive Steak
The next question is how you cook your steak. After all, the pieces on this list have a hefty price tag. The last thing you want to do is ruin it.
First, you’ll need to think about the cut of steak and your preferred level of doneness.
Some steaks, like ribeye and tenderloin, are perfect when cooked in the frypan (particularly a cast iron frypan), while thicker steaks and those with bones require some extra finesse.
Also, if you prefer well done steaks, then you’ll need a cut with plenty of marbling. The fat is crucial, as it makes sure your steak remains tender and moist. Ribeye, T-bone, and porterhouse steaks can all be cooked well done without a problem.
There are also a few approaches that can help your steak turn out perfectly every time.
Use A Meat Thermometer
Most of us start by judging steak doneness by color or by using the hand test. These approaches work well enough, but they’ve very subjective.
Sometimes you’ll make a mistake and your steak won’t be nearly as good as you hoped for. That’s not such a big deal with a cheap cut, but it’s incredibly frustrating with an expensive one.
A meat thermometer gives you an objective way to measure your steak’s doneness. A rare steak has an internal temperature of around 120°F, a medium steak is closer to 140°, while a well done one is 160°F or above.
Using a meat thermometer has another advantage too – consistency. If you use the same cut and cooking method each time, you should soon be able to get your steak exactly right every time.
Research The Cut First
Also, take the time to understand your steak cut before you start trying to cook it. For example, can you pan fry the steak or should it go on the grill?
How long is it likely to take for the doneness you want? This will give you a guideline for what to expect and help you avoid overcooking the steak.
Try The Reverse Sear Technique
Steak can still be tricky, even with a meat thermometer. It’s easy to overdo to the outside, while the interior doesn’t reach the temperatures you want.
The reverse sear technique makes everything easier. This begins by cooking the steak slowly at a low temperature. An oven works perfectly for this task or you can use indirect heat on your grill. Then, once the steak gets close to the internal temperature you want, you finish it off over high heat so it is still crispy and delicious.
Reverse searing is particularly important for thick steak cuts. These are the hardest to get right with straight grilling or pan frying.
Bring The Steak To Room Temperature
Steak should always be cooked from room temperature. This involves getting the meat out of the fridge at least 10 minutes before you cook. Some chefs even suggest leaving the steak out for an hour or more.
While this step can be frustrating, it shouldn’t be skipped. Cold steak cooks unevenly, giving you inconsistent and poor quality results.