Are You Grilling the Right Cut of Steak for Your Recipe?

If you're in a grilling rut, it's time to switch things up. Check out our favorite steaks to toss on the grill (and a few we'd rather avoid).

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in a grilling rut. Week after week, I’m grilling up the same top sirloin steak, a round of burgers and vegetable skewers. Well, it’s time to break out of that routine! There’s a whole world of meats you didn’t know you could ask for at the butcher counter.
 
But sometimes it’s hard to make changes—how do you know which is the best steak for grilling and which should be saved for other cooking methods?
 
As a former restaurant chef, I know all about the different cuts of beef. There are many steaks well-marbled and tender enough to simply toss on the grill, and there are a few that benefit from some marinade. And then, there are a few cuts I’d avoid completely when it comes to the grill. Let’s take a peek at which steaks fall into which category.

Steaks You Can Simply Season and Grill

You’ll probably recognize most of these steaks by name, and they’re popular for good reason. They’re the perfect combination of a tender muscle with a well-marbled character. These top-cut steaks only need a few short minutes on the hot side of the grill to produce a super flavorful dinner. This category includes:

  • Tenderloin (aka filet mignon)
  • New York strip steak
  • Ribeye
  • Top sirloin
  • T-bone
  • Porterhouse

You can season them up with salt and pepper and call it all good! If you’re someone who wants it all, look for the last two on the list. This monster cut combines the strip and the filet, so you get the best of both worlds. Just make sure you read up on how to grill a thick steak, first!

Steaks That Need Some Doctoring

Top-cut steaks have always been the most prized (and expensive) cuts, but there’s a new game in town. These former butcher’s cuts have become more well-known over the past few years, thanks in large part to innovative chefs taking advantage of their lower prices. Because these cuts often come from more-worked muscles, they’re naturally tough and could benefit from marinades or tenderizers. Look for:

  • Hanger steak (my personal favorite)
  • Flank
  • Flat iron
  • Tri-tip
  • Skirt

Since a marinade tenderizes and infuses them with flavor, these cuts tend to make the best tacos (but they’re excellent on summery salads, too). To ensure you’re getting the most tender bite on these steaks, be sure to slice across the grain (after resting, of course).

Steaks to Avoid

Finally, there are a few extra-tough cuts of beef that really shouldn’t go near the grill. These steaks do well in low-and-slow cooking methods, and even indirect-heat grilling won’t get the trick done. So, put away the grill and turn to your favorite Dutch oven or slow cooker instead. Unless you like chewing on tough meat for hours, keep these steaks away from the grill:

  • Brisket
  • Short ribs
  • Chuck roast
  • Rump roast

If you’re dead-set on cooking these cuts outside, you can reach for your smoker. If you don’t have a smoker—never fear! Turn your grill into a smoker with these quick and easy steps.

Now that you’ve chosen the best steak for grilling, check out our guide for how to grill steak like a pro.

Unexpected Ways to Grill Steak
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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.