These comments about choosing a good steak are a combination of my own experience buying steaks at my local supermarket ever since I’ve been married and the wisdom of my father, Harold, who cut a steak or two in his day.
The first thing my father taught me (I just listened when he spoke) was that the best steak is a Porterhouse. Now, if you go into your local supermarket or restaurant you are not going to see this name on the label or on the menu as this steak is simply called a T-bone. That’s all right, let other people buy the T-bones – I’m going to choose the T-bone that is a Porterhouse cut every time. In the image you’ll see two steaks exactly as I found them cello-packed on their styrofoam tray. I drew in black line approximately where the one steak ended and the other began. The steak at the top of the image has it’s rather large bone at the top, while the steak at the bottom of my image has its bone toward the bottom
What is a Porterhouse steak? It is a steak from the hindquarter of the beef, from the loin that has the T-shaped bone but the vertical part of the T is much shorter than the true T-bones and the horizontal part of the T is quite large. But the best way of identifying is not so much the bone, but the tenderloin. The vertical part of the T separates the tenderloin portion from the – well, the rest of the steak. If the T-bone had no tenderloin at all and no bone we’d call it a strip loin – that is the tenderloin has been stripped off – to be sold plus cher as filet mignon. Going back to identifying the Porterhouse steak among the T-bones. The Porterhouse has a much higher percentage of tenderloin than the T-bone does. In my image the steak at the top has its tenderloin on the right while the steak on the bottom has its tenderloin on the left. I’d estimate that the steak at the top has about 40% tenderloin while the steak at the bottom of the image has about 35% tenderloin (which is a higher percentage than your average T-bone steak). A sure way of determining which side is the tenderloin side and which is not is that the side that is NOT tenderloin will have some fat on the outside while the tenderloin side will never have fat on the outside. That fat on the outside makes the non-tenderloin side (a strip loin steak) pretty enjoyable too – I know my dad would never despise some nicely seasoned fat on the outside of a steak or roast and I, well, I am my father’s son in that respect.
The tenderloin part of the steak is the most tender. You can take your fork and easily pull it apart without needing to cut it with a knife. When you are placing your Porterhouse on your barbecue – put the tenderloin side away from the heat as it doesn’t need to be cooked as much as the not-tenderloin part of the start.
When choosing your steak try to optimize the amount of tenderloin and then look for fat marbling in the steak – that is where there is a pocket of fat surrounded by lean meat or sometimes a line or streak of fat between the lean. Fat helps tenderize meat (which is why that round steak needs some marinating as that cut of beef will never have fat marbled through it) and, when barbecuing the fat drops on the hot coal or metal and the smoke produced gives it that barbecued flavour.
You know, recently I’ve become quite dissatisfied with the lack of flavour in the steaks that I am buying at the supermarket. I don’t believe that they age the beef at all. A week hanging in a cooler before being cut would help it a lot. Maybe I need to go on a quest to find a butcher who will sell me steak that tastes like something more than my Montreal steak spice.
I will start my find- an-alternative-to-the-supermarket for steak tonight as that is what is on our menu for this Friday night.
I have MUCH more to pass on about steak that I learned by virtue of being a butcher’s son. Enough for more blogs in the future, I’m sure.