Steak has, and will always have, an iconic status amongst home cooks and hardy restaurateurs alike. A staple in many cuisines, a good well-cooked steak is the pinnacle of fine dining whilst also holding the flavour of the everyday man or woman.
Indeed, a good steak can go a long way. However, how do you know how to pick the right cut of meat for the dish you are preparing? How do you confidently cook a steak to a required doneness, and what are some recipes that have secured steak’s iconic status?
Find out everything you need to know about every variety of steak with Tom Hixson - a butcher based in Smithfield since 1963 and an expert in steak.
Steak - What to Know Before You Buy
There are 2 main considerations when buying a steak, price and purpose.
The best steak is the steak on your plate. Whilst steak enjoys its popularity at the higher end of the culinary spectrum, you should always try to get a cut which best works for the dish you are preparing.
Whilst steak tacos would be amazing with any cut of meat, we think that it might be unwise to use an expensive, highly marbled cut, only to cover it in salsa verde or chimichurri. Finding the best steak for your own purposes is key, to a price point that fits your means.
With this in mind, let’s take a comprehensive look at the most popular cuts of steak available at Tom Hixson to see how you can best prepare an exquisite meal from home.
Types of Steak Cuts
The following are the most sought-out steak cuts available in the UK market today.
Ribeye Steak (Delmonico, Entrecôte, Spencer)
The Ribeye is a classic cut of steak that is served the world over. Ribeye has more marbling than other primal cuts, such as sirloin or fillet, which means that the cut will be bursting with flavour and juices once cooked. It also means that it takes to a very hot pan exceptionally well, and therefore excels if cooked blue to medium rare.
The cut is taken from the rib, just behind the shoulder of the animal.
Find our extensive selection of Ribeye Steaks and order online today with Tom Hixson
Sirloin (American Short Loin)
In British butchery, the sirloin steak is cut from the large back muscle that is attached to the spine of the cow, which sits opposite the long and thin fillet steak. This cut of meat is incredibly versatile and can take to many cuisines well.
More flavoursome than the fillet, however, the sirloin steak is one of the ‘beefiest’ cuts of steak available and works well with charred shallots or beers with roasted malts.
Skin-on fries add an earthy note to this cut, which compliments the depth of flavour found with every good sirloin cut.
View our extensive selection of Sirloin Steaks online and order to your door with Tom Hixson.
Fillet Steak (American Filet Mignon)
The fillet steak, or filet mignon as it’s known over western shores, is a cut of meat taken from the tenderloin that runs along both sides of the cow's spine. This particular muscle isn’t used too much by the animal. It, therefore, doesn’t naturally have much marbling or fat. For these reasons, it is often used for carpaccio - thin slices of raw steak.
Due to the little marbling seen on fillet steaks, cooking it to medium-rare at a maximum is encouraged. We suggest 1-2 minutes of pan searing on each side and end to seal in the juices, then allow it to rest for between 5 and 10 minutes, allowing the juices the time to migrate back into the seared parts of the cut.
For exquisite fillet steaks, check out our varied selection, available to order online, from Tom Hixson of Smithfields.
The Tomahawk Steak, sometimes known as a Rib Steak, comes with a rib attached giving it the appearance of a Native American tomahawk.
The cut itself differs very little from a Ribeye cut, and in some cases, a tomahawk may be sold as a ribeye with the rib still attached. So, what's the difference? The bone adds a primal look to the steak (whilst also operating as a makeshift handle), which adds an undeniable ‘wow’ factor. These cuts should be savoured for special occasions with friends and family.
We recommend reverse-searing this cut. This means that you oven-cook the meat first, then proceed to sear once it has cooked for about 35 minutes. 200 degrees Celsius should be perfect.
To see every variety of Tomahawk Steak available with us here at Tom Hixson of Smithfields, look no further than our dedicated page.
Rump (Round Steak or American Sirloin)
The Rump or Round Steak is a staple of British Cuisine. Hailing from the hard-working rear of the cow, the rump has sealed its place on restaurant menus the world over by being brilliantly lean, whilst being abundant with flavour and texture.
Usually aged for 4 weeks, this steak has a thick layer of fat on its topside adding to the rich ‘beefy’ flavour, making it perfect for evenings in with close ones.
We recommend a good side of chips or fried potatoes with a side salad and a squeeze of lemon. For something a little fancier, why not try our Sauce For Rump Steak Recipe?
Find more Rump Steaks by following this link.
What Is Steak Marbling and Why Does It Matter?
Steak marbling is simply the streaks and specks of fat found within the tissue of steak. It gets its name from the resemblance to actual marble stone, whose swirls and patterns are seen as desirable, and valuable.
Like actual marble, steak cuts are also graded on their marbling, as better marbling is seen to add more flavour and texture to the meat once cooked. A steak with good marbling, therefore, is seen as more desirable than a steak without much marbling.
What Causes Marbling?
Marbling is caused by moderating the diets of the cattle that produce the meat. Since cows naturally live off grass, it was noted that adding grains to the cattle feed would plump them up, allowing excess fats to grow within the soft tissue fibres of the cow's muscle.
As grain-fed cattle produce more fat, they are more likely to be certified as ‘Prime’ due to this fattening effect. No grass-fed cow has ever reached ‘Prime’ designation due to its low-fat diet (despite grass-fed beef being more expensive than grain-fed, on average).
But what do all these designations mean?
How is Steak Graded?
To differentiate between top-quality and lower-quality cuts of beef, there are 3 universal classifications that can advise butchers and consumers alike on a steak. These classifications are:
- USDA Classification
- Marbling Score Guide
- Beef Marbling Score
Let’s address these each to see how they delineate the quality of steaks available for purchase from us here at Tom Hixson.
Steak is graded to 8 specifications based on factors such as marbling and condition, ageing, texture and colour. The 8 classifications are:
Prime is the top classification, which means that any cut of beef that is certified ‘Prime’ is of the highest quality, according to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). You wouldn’t expect to see anything available for sale as a steak below Select Classification. Here at Tom Hixson, we don’t offer anything below USDA ‘Choice’ certification steak.
For steaks with USDA certification with Tom Hixson, please see our dedicated page.
Marbling Score Guide
The Marbling Score Guide (MSG) is a universal score given to certain cuts and varieties of steak, such as Wagyu, with reference to the marbling contained within the intermuscular tissue fibres of the cut of beef.
To grade this culinary feature, a score from 0-100 is given to each individual steak, where 0 is no marbling and 100 is abundant marbling.
Beef Marbling Standard and A5 Designation
Similar to the MSG, the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) is used for classifying Wagyu Steaks and ranges from a low score of 0 to an exquisite score of 12. However, Wagyu isn’t often found to have less than a BMS of 3, which translates to around 21% intermuscular fat.
Wagyu beef, once it has been graded with a 1-12 on the BMS, has its rating converted to a consumer-friendly 1-5 rating, and it has a letter designated to it. This letter lets consumers know how much of the carcass was used for food purposes. To get an A5 classification, over 72% of the carcass has to have been used.
Steak Doneness - How To Cook The Perfect Steak
A topic often debated between steak lovers is the appropriate time and temperature at which to cook their steaks. These two factors affect the ‘doneness’ of the steak, changing the texture, chewiness and flavour of the finished item.
When cooking (or ordering) your steak, you will have the following options to choose from:
Cooking Time (200g)
Blue is seared on the outside, but still very pink or even purple in the middle. Blue steaks should be spongey and moist.
1 ½ minutes on each side
One up from blue, a rare cooked steak will have a pink interior with a small amount of cooked, coloured meat around the exterior.
2 minutes and 15 seconds on each side
Pink interior with some juices remaining.
3 minutes and 15 seconds on each side
Pale pink interior with hardly any juice. The meat should be springy to the touch.
4 minutes 30 on each side
Pinkness should be barely visible, and the meat should contain very little juice.
5 minutes 30 on each side
There should be no pink remaining and the meat should contain little to no juice.
6 minutes plus each side
How to Cook the Perfect Steak - The Basics
Cooking a good steak is easy if you follow the steps below and be strict with your timing. We’ve prepared a cooking method that is guaranteed to enhance any cut or variety of steak that you wish.
- 200g of steak
- Rock Salt
- Black Pepper
- One Tablespoon of oil
- 1 Tablespoon of good, salted butter
- 1 Clove of garlic
- 1 Sprig of thyme
- First, season each steak with rock salt and black pepper. Make sure to lightly rub these seasonings into the tissue of the steak.
- Next, brine these steaks in the refrigerator for between 2 and 6 hours, paying close attention to not over-brine the meat.
- Then, heat a large frying pan over high heat with the oil until smoke appears. Then, add the knob of butter and the garlic.
- Once the butter has melted, add the steak.
- (Note: Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. This means using a pan that is too small or adding too much to the pan itself. This will cause the heat to be lower than desired and your steak may not cook correctly).
- Now, turn your pan slightly over the heat, pooling the butter and oil solution to a point at which it can be spooned onto the steak easily. If this means that you have to take the steak off the heat, then make sure to reapply the heat regularly. Add your sprig of thyme to this solution and continue until the butter browns or your steak is cooked.
- Once cooked, allow the steak to rest for 5-10 minutes prior to serving. This allows the juices the time to migrate from the centre to the drier exteriors. This also prevents juices from pooling on the plate.
Essential Steak Recipes
Here are some of our favourite Steak Recipes and Sauce Recipes that would be sure to shine at any dinner party or gathering. These recipes would be ideal for barbecues or cooking on the stove. However, you can also see our favourite recipes for Frying, Grilling, Slow-Cooking or Roasting.
Order Your Steaks Online with Tom Hixson
For everything else steak related, consider ordering online from Tom Hixson of Smithfield to get the finest cuts of meat delivered straight to your door.
Our delivery process guarantees freshness to nearly everywhere in Britain, and same-day delivery is also available for parts of London.
Our Steak Club also offers great value as part of a subscription. Sign up today and receive a FREE Tom Hixson Chopping Board and Tote Bag worth £35!