How to cook steak depends on what cut you’re dealing with. And when it comes to picking a choice piece of steak, you’ve got plenty of options — and just as many questions to answer.

Which is the most tender piece of meat? How marbled should it be? Which is the leanest cut? What if I don’t have a grill?

Here’s a handy guide of what you need to know if you want to carnivore like a pro, covering 10 of the best steak cuts from an affordable flat iron to a splurge-worthy filet.

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Jeff Wasserman/Stocksy United

Also known as tenderloin, filet mignon is the most tender cut you can find (and the most expensive!). Not attached to a bone, this lean and tender steak offers a mild and almost buttery flavor. Although smaller than most other cuts of steak, tenderloins are cut thicker than most (2 to 3 inches).

Our recommendation

The key to sealing in all the flavor and juicy goodness is to cook this cut quickly. We recommend:

  • searing the outside until browned (2 to 4 minutes each side)
  • finishing it in the oven (5 to 10 minutes, depending on your preference)

Their fine texture means they’re not particularly suited for marinades, but you can always add a bold sauce like a port wine reduction.

Recipe ideas

Cut and sold bone-in, the T-bone (porterhouse) is named for the distinctive T-shaped bone separating two halves of meat. Cut from the front end of the steer’s back, the T-bone is half tenderloin and half New York strip (surrounding vertebrae that separate them).

It offers the best of both worlds: the juicy beefiness of a strip steak paired with the succulence of tenderloin. (Porterhouses are similar, but cut from further back).

Point of fact: In order to be classified as a porterhouse, per USDA regulations, the tenderloin portion must be 1.25 inches wide. That’s more than double the tenderloin you’ll find in a T-bone (only half an inch wide).

Our recommendation

For this cut, we recommend searing each side quickly in a cast-iron skillet with a generous amount of olive oil and finishing it on the grill.

Remember to keep the tenderloin side further from the heat source, as it will cook more quickly than the strip side. You’ll know you’ve nailed it when you take a bite of this mouth-wateringly marbled, medium-rare masterpiece.

Recipe ideas

The measure of any good steakhouse can be taken by how well they prepare a New York strip steak. Also known as Kansas City strip, Manhattan, shell steak, strip loin, and club steak, the New York strip is characterized by the perfectly-balanced marbling that gives it its beefy full-flavor.

Our recommendations

This cut is often enjoyed rare or blue to showcase its natural tender texture, and it’s a great candidate for broiling, although you can certainly grill or pan-fry it, too.

Recipe ideas

Tender and moist, the rib-eye has long been a steak lover’s favorite.

Also known as the Delmonico, the scotch fillet, and the Spencer (to name a few), the rib-eye has heaps of fat marbling throughout. The central eye of the meat has a finer grain, with a looser and fattier outer layer. All that generous, fatty marbling gives the rib-eye a particularly gamey flavor that serious meat eaters enjoy.

While a rib-eye cut is boneless, its close cousin, the rib steak, is cut with the bone attached.

Our recommendations

It’s best to cook rib-eye steak to a minimum or medium-rare. It’s not a lean steak, which means that it should see enough heat to render the fat and introduce its flavor. You can baste the rib-eye in butter, garlic, and thyme (or butter and other herbs) for extra flavor.

Also, let your steak sit for about 5 minutes after cooking, which lets the meat reabsorb the fluid.

Recipe ideas

Cut from the bottom sirloin, sitting adjacent to the flap (aka, the sirloin tip), tri-tip steak sometimes goes under the names Newport steak, Santa Maria steak, triangle roast, or bottom sirloin. But you can always spot it by its uneven triangular shape (proportioned sort of like an elf hat), and size. Sirloins are generally 1.5 to 2.5 pounds.

Our recommendations

Most commonly cooked in the style of Santa Maria barbecue (dry-rubbed and grilled over oak chips on the central coast of California), tri-tip also takes well to most marinades and can be roasted or braised if you don’t want to grill.

Recipe ideas

Flank steaks, from the hardworking abdominal area, need high heat and a thin slice to stay tender.

Our recommendations

By butterflying flank steaks, you cut them across the grain, solving the need to slice in one fell swoop. The resultant curtain of meat is perfect for stuffing and rolling up.

So, grab a good marinade and start packing!

Recipe ideas

Cheap steak doesn’t have to mean bad steak, as long as you cook it properly. This cut is one of the most affordable, and not too tricky to prepare. Also known as a top blade steak, a flat iron, as its name implies, is a uniformly thick, rectangular cut taken from the shoulder.

Our recommendations

Cook it too long or over too low heat, and this cut can be hard to chew. But put it over a high flame for a quick sear on the grill, and you’ll wind up with a beefy, tender delight. It also takes well to marinades. (Sensing a theme?)

Recipe ideas

Another affordable cut of beef, thin, long, and ropy hanger steak comes from a part of a cow’s belly that literally hangs low, hence the name.

Our recommendations

It’s similar to flank steak in texture and stays tender (as long as you don’t overcook it). Go fast and high, either on the grill or in a skillet, and marinate the meat for extra flavor.

Recipe ideas

Skirt steak, a long cut from the diaphragm, has a big beefy flavor and a very loose grain (even looser than the flank) that sucks marinades right up.

Our recommendations

It can be on the tough side, so you’ll need to slice it thin or otherwise risk gnawing your way through it. Hot and fast does it for skirt steak, too — and you might want to try drying the surface before searing, as it’ll make for a firmer crust.

Recipe ideas

The sirloin is the name for the general lower back area of a steer. There are a few different cuts that come from here, although most steak sold under the sirloin banner is taken from the bottom area, which is a bit on the tough side and moderately flavored.

Our recommendations

They’re fine as whole steaks. But sirloin can be better when you cut it into smaller pieces and marinate it for use in kebabs and the like.

Recipe ideas