Newport steak, aka “the apartment steak,” is essentially part of a tri-tip steak, which hails from the bottom sirloin portion of the animal.
Tri-tip is usually butchered into larger sizes for people to use on the grill or in BBQ style smoker preparations. A single tri-tip cut can feed a few people. It has a definitive grain direction and can be very tender and flavorful if cooked, sliced and served properly. For a nice write-up on how to properly execute a tri-tip on the grill, check out this post from BBQ Pitstop.
If you like the flavor and texture of tri-tip, but only need to feed yourself, you can get a Newport steak, especially if you’re living in Manhattan. In New York City, Florence Meat Market in the west village has popularized the “Newport” cut, which is a single serving size of steak that has been butchered from the tri-tip.
It also has been called the “NYC Apartment Steak” by food blogger and recipe historian Kathryn McGowan. I think this is a fun reference to the small NYC apartments near the butcher shop in which it is nearly impossible to cook. She provides a recipe as well – check it out. Very simple to execute.
This cut is meant to be easy to cook, and small enough to fit into your small pans, set upon your small stove top in your small kitchen, within your small apartment for which you’re paying a large rent.
As a non-butcher, I’m sort of learning beef anatomy on my own. I recently purchased a 7lb hunk of top sirloin to dry-age at home in my SteakAger. Upon close inspection, I noticed that my cut had a strange, skinny, and somewhat triangular-shaped section of meat that was clearly separated by some connective tissue.
When inquiring about how to best prepare the top sirloin (either as a roast or as individual cuts of steak), I learned that this triangular piece of meat is in fact called the top sirloin cap.
“Time for a little anatomy lesson, with a subprimal cut of sirloin. 1. Tenderloin. 2. Top sirloin. 3. Top sirloin cap, also known as a Culotte steak.4. Tri-tip steak. 5. London Broil, also known as knuckle steak or outside round.”
So as you may have deduced, similar to how the rib eye has a cap, known as the spinalis dorsi, so too does top sirloin have a cap; it’s just more fancily known as the Culotte. It’s much bigger and more lean than the spinalis dorsi on a rib eye, but it has similar grain structure.
Check out this cool butchery video that mentions the Culotte:
So back to how I discovered this: A chef I’m acquainted with, Andre Lima de Luca, suggested that I cut the top sirloin cap off and prepare that separately from the rest of the top sirloin, so that’s exactly what I did after confirming that what I thought he was talking about was indeed the triangle of beef that I noticed at the outset. With the fat ridge still connected, this cut is essentially the same as picanha.
Below is a shot of my cap/Culotte, after being dry-aged for over a month and trimmed of any bark. Since my 7lb hunk was already cut down significantly from it’s original size, I wasn’t left with too much.
My first encounter with Culotte on a menu at a restaurant was at Bohemian, a secretive, dine-by-referral-only restaurant that’s nestled in the back of a high-end Japanese butcher shop called Japan Premium Beef.
The cut there is washu, another name for the wagyu cattle from Japan, so it is considerably more tender than most normal cuts of this stuff. The flavor and texture is similar to strip loin, but a bit less grainy and more buttery. I recommend cutting this into small pieces when you actually eat it, smaller than you would for, say, a filet mignon. The larger the piece, the more chewing you will have to do. More chewing means it will feel tougher, and that’s not good.
These cuts can be very simply prepared: sear in a pan with butter, salt, pepper and herbs. Cook to medium rare to preserve tenderness, as the meat grain will tighten up the more you cook it, making the beef tough. Also cut cross-grain to maximize tenderness.
You can see the grain here in this cut. When slicing for plating, you want to cut diagonal from top right to bottom left, against the grain.
Here’s a nice way to serve it after slicing:
Finishing salt flakes really make the flavors pop.
Check out this other butchery video for more detail on slicing methods, with some suggested preparations too:
The Bavette steak (France) is also known as flap steak (USA), vacio (Argentina) and sirloin tip (New England); it seems that different regions of the US and the world at large call it by different names. While the phrasing “flap steak” might sound revolting, I assure you that this cut is delicious when butchered and cooked properly. Anatomically close to the flank and skirt steaks, flap meat is technically found near the intersection of the bottom sirloin, short loin and flank parts of the animal, only it is more tender than both flank and skirt steaks due to being located on the inside portion of the diaphragm.
Here’s a video of it being butchered out:
It’s a slightly thicker cut than skirt or flank, which come from the plate and diaphragm areas nearby in the anatomy of the cow. The Bivette is more tender than both of them. It has less stringy, less chewy fat than skirt, as the striated muscle in Bivette cuts tend to have better quality marbling. It does have a direction or grain to the musculature, though, so cutting on the bias is the best technique.
Similar in texture and taste to a hanger steak, the Bavette is best prepared with high, dry heat and served medium rare. I’ve tried this great, wallet-friendly cut at Quality Eats in Greenwich Village. Here’s a pic from that meal:
As you can see, it has a great crust on the outside with a nice pink medium rare center.
This was cooked perfectly, and I highly recommend heading down there to give it a try if you haven’t done so already.
The Denver cut, or under blade steak (as opposed to the top blade or flatiron steak), is part of the chuck that is very tender and highly marbled. It’s also referred to as “zabuton” by people from space, in the future (aka Japan).
While not as tender as the teres major in the shoulder, this cut offers something unique in terms of texture.
The intense spider web marbling is perfect for long, low heat, slow cooking techniques that allow for the fat to melt and render, which thereby tenderizes the remaining muscle flesh. On the other hand, the meat is tender enough that you can also quickly sear it with high, dry heat in a pan and slice on the bias once it hits medium rare. Perfect for sliced and plated steak dishes, or even fajitas.
I’ve tried this cut at The Pines in Brooklyn, where they sous vide the steak for many hours to render out all that flecked marbling. Once it tenderizes, they sear it hot and hard to get a good crust on the outside. Finally, they slice it up and shave some horseradish on top.
I highly recommend trying this cut of beef if you see it in the grocery store or on a restaurant menu. The good thing is that it typically costs much less than other, more common cuts that you might see.
The Teres Major is a seldom-used muscle located in the chuck shoulder of the animal that is said to be bested in tenderness only by the tenderloin or Filet Mignon.
It’s also known as the “shoulder tender,” “petite tender” or “bistro filet” in some circles, but it’s rare because it’s a challenge to extract as far as butchery is concerned. Luckily, these are starting to become more popular, so you can sometimes find them at steakhouses that are offering some lesser known and more budget friendly cuts.
It’s mentioned and shown in the beginning of this video here:
This shows that is even has some anatomical similarities to the filet, like a silver skin membrane.
It’s similar in size and shape to a pork tenderloin and eats similar in texture to beef tenderloin, but with the bold flavor of a hanger steak. They vary from 8-12oz. Here’s a shot of the cut from Charlie Palmer Steak in midtown.
You can also find one at Pig Bleecker, called The 155 Steak.
I’m a steak connoisseur. I consider myself a meat master. But I have a confession to make: I don’t eat much picanha.
I really first came to know of picanha through some back-and-forth with a chef I met at Meatopia and later began to follow on Instagram. Chef Andre Lima De Luca has one of the most meat-centric and absolutely breathtaking feeds on all of Instagram. Seriously… Check it out HERE. I’ll be using some of his photos throughout this post as well, just to give you a “flavor” of how great the feed actually is. In fact, the main photo you see at the header of this article is one of his shots.
Okay so you may be asking: What kind of self-described “Carnivore Connoisseur” can go about his days in ignorance of this cut of meat, only having eaten it sporadically? Well, my response is threefold. Number one, it’s not very common in these parts, so that’s the biggest reason. Second, I don’t travel all that much to the southern hemisphere of the Americas, like Brazil, where it is much more commonly prepared. Last, I’m unaware of places in the area to get it myself to cook it, nor do I know of too many restaurants that serve it. I guess all three of those reasons are really all the same reason: lack of ample availability.
The cut itself, as you will learn below, is commonly butchered in a different manner here in the states. As such, you will need to get to a good butcher or specialty shop (perhaps Brazilian or Latin American) where they know how to slice and dice it just right.
Anyway, picanha has been coming up a lot lately in the meat world of NYC, both in food conversation and in photos of those that I follow and give a shit about. I have a feeling it will soon be here in a big way.
So let me tell you a little bit about this steak, about which I actually don’t know very much, as I have only ever tasted it a few times in its “picanha” format…
In the U.S., picanha is referred to as the rump cover, rump cap or coulotte. Others call it the top sirloin cap, as it is connected to a large cap of fat that sits on top of the meat. Here, the fat is almost always removed prior to cooking, and butchers usually split this up into cuts like the rump, the round and the loin. To see my discussion of that cut (basically picanha without the ridge of fat), click HERE.
However, in South America, particularly in Brazil, where picanha is a most prized cut of beef, the fat is left on while cooking, in order to lock in juiciness and impart additional flavor into the meat.
Here’s a look at a Brazilian beef chart, which shows the anatomy of the steak cut at #8 (top right, just above the asshole, by the tail).
As you can see from the US beef chart, things are vastly less nuanced in that area. In fact it is pretty fucking different all over the place.
TEXTURE AND FLAVOR
The texture and flavor is similar to that of your ordinary sirloin here in the US, only with more intense flavors from the rendering of fat during the cooking processes outlined below.
What I’ve seen most commonly done is that the meat is left in a large roast-sized slab, seared on the outside and then cooked low and slow over open flame with the fat side up, so that the fat melts down into the flesh of the sirloin. Here is a shot of two hunks with the fat side down:
After it comes up to rare, it is split out into slices. Then it kisses the grill for just a bit longer on it’s side to get to medium rare.
But let’s take some advice from Chef Andre Lima De Luca on how to best prepare this delicious hunk of flesh, directly from him:
“One friend was asking me about the best way to grill picanha. In my opinion there is not THE best way, but some. My favorite, the way that i’ve been doing for years, is sealing the whole piece , and slicing it in strips before grill it again until medium or medium rare. This shot was taken before the final grilling.”
Here it is on the cutting board, after final grilling. Some is ready for serving (left), and some is still post-hunk first-sliced (right).
And another close up of the final product:
That’s some pretty amazing looking beef!
As it turns out, my favorite piece of meat at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian churrascaria joint here in NYC, is picanha “top sirloin.” Here’s a shot of it from my last visit there:
Meat 201 is an advanced examination of the four major cuts of beef that you’re likely to see at a steakhouse. The four major cuts are Filet Mignon, Strip Steak, Porterhouse and Rib Eye. For more general information about these cuts, and for information about other cuts of beef, please see my MEAT 101 and MEAT 102 posts.
Etymology: There is some difference of opinion on the origin of the word “Porterhouse,” with several restaurants and cities claiming to have created the name. For example, Martin Morrison served large T-bones in his Pearl Street (Manhattan) “Porter House” around 1814.This history was popular in the late 1800’s, but some say a Cambridge, Massachusetts proprietor by the name of Zachariah B. Porter added his name to the steak. Still, others argue that the Porterhouse name stems from various 19th Century U.S. hotels or restaurants called Porter House, such as the Porter House Hotel in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Anatomy: The Porterhouse is a cut of steak from the short loin portion of the animal that contains both strip loin and tenderloin meats. See the highlighted portion in the diagram below:
It is cut from a lumbar vertebra that is sawed in half through the vertebral column.
The downward prong of the “T” is a transverse process of the vertebra, and the flesh that surrounds it (spinal muscles) makes up the meat of the Porterhouse.
Essentially, it is a large T-bone steak from the rear of the animal that has two different types of meat (tenderloin and strip loin), one on either side of the “T.” In the picture below, the strip loin or Strip Steak is on the right, and the tenderloin or Filet Mignon is on the left.
The small semicircle at the top of the ‘T’ is half of the vertebral foramen, which is the name of the hole that passes through each vertebra for housing and protecting the spinal cord. They run the whole way up the back, all the way up to the brain of the animal.
The anatomy of a Porterhouse differs from that of a T-bone only in that the Porterhouse contains a larger portion of tenderloin than its T-bone counterpart.
This is primarily due to the fact that Porterhouse steaks are cut from further in the rear of the animal, from lumbar vertebrae, where the tenderloin is much thicker. Experts differ, however, on how large the tenderloin must be to differentiate a Porterhouse from a T-bone. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications state that the tenderloin of a Porterhouse must be at least 1.25 inches thick at its widest, while that of a T-bone must be at least 0.5 inches.
Here is a shot of a short loin with multiple vertebrae still intact and not portioned out into individual Porterhouses and T-bones.
You can see on the left there is a good sized, thick portion of tenderloin. That thins down as you move the the right, and seems to disappear by time your eyes reach the far end of the cut.
Just to drive home the anatomy a little more, here is a great excerpt and image from Russ Cooks:
“Up close and personal, this is where the T-bone fits.
The black line across the top of the two T-bones pictured here is the outside (top of the back) of the steer. You can see the T-bone in the schematic illustration higher up on this page as the topmost part labelled Rib. Above the ribs, what you touch if you pat the steer’s back, is the New York strip. Beneath the ribs is the tenderloin from which a filet mignon is often cut. T-bone steaks cut closer to the shoulder are known as Porterhouse while those cut closer to the loin are just T-bones.”
Preparation: Most times, T-bones and Porterhouses are either grilled, seared in a pan, broiled or blasted with high heat in specialty steak ovens made for charring the outside of the meat without over-cooking the inside. Butter is essential, and heavy seasoning is important as well. Herbs and garlic help boost the flavor too.
Flavor: Since this cut contains both the Filet Mignon and the Strip Steak, I refer you to the flavor sections for those cuts below, with a notation that the bone being left in often adds a more robust flavor while helping to retain tenderness and juiciness. These are very popular items at steakhouses because they can be cut large enough to feed anywhere from two to four people. Additionally, with two different types of meat in one steak, one can vary the flavors that one experiences with each bite.
2. Filet Mignon
Etymology: Filet, in culinary terminology, means boneless. Mignon, in French, means dainty or small. As such, this is a steak ideally suited for chicks: small/dainty, and with no bone.
Occasionally on a steakhouse menu you will see a “bone-in filet.” Given what I just mentioned above, that phraseology is completely self-defeating and confusing, as it simultaneously means both “bone-in” and “boneless.” However, it seems this sort of language is becoming commonplace. If it were up to me, I would prefer “bone-in tenderloin” to be listed on menus instead. There is no wording conflict with that phrasing, and it is an accurate description of what is being presented. In other words: all Filet Mignon is tenderloin, but not all tenderloin is Filet Mignon.
Anatomy: Traditionally, a Filet Mignon was cut from the anterior end of the tenderloin. In the beef chart image below, you can see a portion of the tenderloin section highlighted in red.
That is where Filet Mignon was typically located, though most butchers label all steaks cut from the tenderloin as Filet Mignon (this allows for larger portions). The tenderloins run along both sides of the spine. They taper from thick, in the posterior of the animal, to thin in the front.
In their unbutchered form, they contain what’s called the “silver skin” still attached to the flesh. This is a thick connective tissue that is pretty much inedible. When butchering the full tenderloin, you will want to slice that off (it is NOT tender).
While this next photo is a repeat shot of a lamb vertebra Barnsley chop (the mutton chop from Keen’s), the anatomy is exactly the same for beef. This will illustrate exactly where the filet comes from. Essentially this is a double porterhouse, with a filet and a strip on each side. In addition to understanding the Filet Mignon, this image is useful in demonstrating the anatomy of the Strip and Porterhouse cuts as well, since they all come from the same place – the vertebrae of the animal:
Preparation: Preparations of this cut vary greatly. You may see this cut sliced thin and pounded flat, served raw for carpaccio. You may also see it finely chopped for tartare. A simple pan sear with butter and herbs, however, is probably the most common preparation.
Yet another style is Chateaubriand, which is a large section of the thick portion of the tenderloin that is roasted boneless, then sliced and served with a reduction sauce.
There is also Beef Wellington, which is a portion of tenderloin that has been coated with pate and then wrapped in puff pastry dough prior to cooking.
Flavor: Widely considered the most tender and least fatty cut of beef on the animal, the flavor should be uniform from one end to the other, with very tender and soft texture the whole way through. There is hardly any fat content in the standard cut of Filet Mignon. Some chefs will wrap the filet in caul fat (a lacy, fatty, web-like membrane that surrounds the stomach of an animal) before cooking. The webbing melts away during cooking and imparts a fat flavor into the meat. But it is more common to use things like butter, or to wrap a filet in bacon to add the fat flavor into the meat.
3. Strip Steak
Etymology: According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, this steak is marketed under various names, including Ambassador Steak, Club Steak, Hotel-Style Steak, Veiny Steak, Kansas City Steak and New York Strip Steak. Delmonico’s offered Strip as a signature dish way back in the early 1800’s. Due to the cut’s association with NYC, the New York Strip Steak name was born.
Anatomy: The Strip is cut from the other side of the tenderloin, across the vertebra on the T-bone or Porterhouse.
Also known as strip loin, the Strip Steak is cut from the short loin part of the animal, from a muscle that does little work, like the Filet Mignon. It is generally more tender than the similarly situated but more posterior-located sirloin section of the animal. While it is essentially the same kind of meat as sirloin, the muscles in the rear do a bit more work than the short loin, so can be a bit more tough.
Preparation: For me, the Strip is best at medium rare, to preserve the tenderness and reduce any mealy or grainy textures that can develop from overcooking. It is always best to get a really great quality cut for this chop, something prime+, as all the intra-muscular fat, or marbling, will become soft and the muscle will tenderize all over. You will often see it marinated or rubbed with spices, to impart additional flavors, but grilling and broiling in the traditional style is fantastic as well, especially with butter and herbs. It can be served bone-in or boneless. Leaving the bone in will impart more flavor and help with the cooking process, since the bone conveys heat into the center of the meat while locking in juices. At home, marinade this puppy in something like soy sauce and garlic, and slap it on the BBQ for a few minutes on each side and you will have the perfect home-cooked steak.
Flavor: This cut contains fat in levels that are somewhat in between the tenderloin (virtually none) and the Rib Eye (plenty of good, melty fat). Like the tenderloin, there is little variation throughout the cut, so the flavors and textures are more uniform for the Strip Steak, unlike the Rib Eye which has varying textures and flavors from one end of the cut to the other. The texture of a Strip can sometimes be a little bit grainy or mealy, and a bit more tight than a Filet Mignon or a Rib Eye – especially if it’s cooked too much.
4. Rib Eye
I’ve saved the best for last. The Rib Eye is the most ultimate of steaks, period. It is an awesome cut of beef.
Etymology: The etymology on this is pretty self-explanatory. The “rib” part of the name is because this cut of meat is connected to a rib bone. The “eye” part of the name is a reference to the circular, more centrally located portion of the cut that is more uniform than the outer portions of the cut. You will likely see the Rib Eye steak, or rib chop, called by many names.
For example, the Cowboy Rib Eye is a bone-in version of the cut:
There’s also the Tomahawk Rib Eye, which is so named for its resemblance to a Tomahawk-style hatchet. When butchered, a long “handle” of rib is cut clean to expose the bone (it is “Frenched,” as they say), and the steak meat is left at the end of the handle to form the hatchet blade:
Here’s a shot of my buddy; he’s about to get clobbered with a Tomahawk Rib Eye by Chef Josh Capon at Bowery Meat Company:
There’s also the Delmonico cut, otherwise known as a Scotch Filet. Applying what you’ve learned here, you can probably guess that this cut is boneless (filet means “boneless” in French). Delmonico’s claims this cut as their own because they named a house special boneless cut Rib Eye steak after their restaurant, way back in the early 1800’s when they first opened.
Anatomy: The rib section of beef spans from ribs six through twelve, and, obviously, hails from the rib section of the animal.
Rib Eye steaks are mainly composed of the Longissimus dorsi muscle (the “eye” portion of the steak) and the Spinalis dorsi muscle.
The more anterior your cut, the more Spinalis you’ll find in the steak. The Spinalis is the coveted cap of meat that wraps around the fatter end of the steak and usually has much more marbling than the rest of the Longissimus eye, or interior of the steak. That “fat cap” is also sometimes butchered away from the remaining eye.
Highly skilled butchers know how to remove it from its position across an entire standing rib roast section of ribs, so as to keep it all together as one giant cut. But then that ruins the rib chop, in my opinion, since you’re taking away the best part. Some steakhouses have taken to tying several Spinalis cuts together in a spiral formation to create an all-fat-cap steak. Bowery Meat Company has one such cut, which they call the Bowery Steak:
STK also offers one on special from time to time:
The Spinalis has a more intense marbling, and, thus, much more flavor and tenderness. If you are so bold, the next time you order a Rib Eye at a steakhouse, ask for an anterior “chuck side” cut that has more of this fantastic Spinalis muscle.
Preparation: There are a ton of ways to prepare a rib steak. The most comon forms are searing in a pan, grilling, or broiling. Another common method of preparing this kind of meat is roasting. A “standing rib roast” is a section of Rib Eye steaks that has not yet been portioned into individual steaks.
When this rack of ribs is roasted slow and low to a pink medium rare, the end product is called Prime Rib.
It then gets sliced out into portions for individual consumption. This is a mammoth cut that we got from Burger & Barrel:
I know what you’re wondering, and the answer is Yes: Prime Rib and Rib Eye steak are the same exact thing. They are just prepared differently, using different cooking methods.
Cheaper cuts of rib steaks are actually the most common type of beef found in Philly Cheesesteaks as well. The meat is cut super thin and then cooked on a flat top with cheese, onions and other toppings, then shoved into long sandwich bread (incase you’re an asshole who has no fucking clue was a cheesesteak is).
Side Bar: is a Philly Cheesesteak better than a Cheeseburger? I think so… Man… Now I’m hungry for both…
Flavor: This steak has a high fat content, and that makes it very important to have a quality cut of beef, or an aged cut of beef. In high quality and aged cuts, this fat will render out or melt away much easier during the cooking process. This will impart a tremendous amount of flavor into the steak, and it will leave the remaining flesh with a very tender and soft texture. Don’t be afraid of the fat. Fat is not the same as gristle. Fat is good. Fat is your friend. Any good butcher will get the gristle off and leave the good fat behind. And when that good fat is REALLY good, it’s like having a delicious beef jelly with each bite of steak.
As discussed above, the Rib Eye is really like having two steaks in one (The small Spinalis or fat cap, and the larger Longissimus eye). The Spinalis is soft, tender, has lots of fat flavor and sometimes develops a crisp during cooking. The eye is more dense, but still well marbled so that it retains intense flavor. The eye is more uniform than the Spinalis. So: two steaks in one, kind of like the Porterhouse. Plus, there’s a nice, meaty beef spare rib to gnaw on at the end, if you order a bone-in chop.
Since there is generally more fat and marbling in this cut across its entirety, you will get better flavors than with the tenderloin or Strip, in my opinion. Clearly, high fat content is not for everyone. If you want to avoid fats in your diet, then go with the tenderloin. I actually really enjoy the flavor of fat. Fat, now, is sometimes referred to as the sixth flavor sensation. There were always four: (1) savory, (2) sweet, (3) bitter and (4) sour. “Umami” claims to be the fifth, and is meant to encompass the earthy, funky, fermented flavor sensations that you experience with mushrooms, truffles, aged beef and blue cheese. I just dislike the word “umami,” so I use “earthy” instead. The sixth is “fat,” apparently, as decreed by various food people who get paid to sit around and do these things. I’m not sure how it works, but I seem to be able to recognize a distinct sensation on my tastebuds, along with a buttery flavor and slippery feel, whenever I eat shit like pork bone ramen or a Rib Eye steak. Maybe there’s something to it?
Anyway, I hope this was an informative and educational post for you meat minions out there. Knowing this shit, I think, is very important.