Commentary: Choosing the best steak

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These days whenever I come across an online headline relating to food, especially beef, I cringe a little before reading it. Misinformation seems to be the norm, with articles regularly parroting advice against eating beef because it’s bad for you, bad for the environment and bad for the welfare of animals. Mainstream articles that concede to eating beef typically advise you limit your choices to natural, grass fed beef from small, local farms because it lessens the impacts noted above. All this of course, without any reference to credible evidence supporting their claims.

So it is refreshing to now and again see an Internet article about beef that is positive and mostly factual. This week such a piece titled “How to order the perfect steak” appeared on The article cites steak-house chefs and managers, and generally gets it right, although it includes a few overly broad generalizations.

The article’s sources suggest ordering a bone-in ribeye, cooked medium-rare. They say that cut’s marbling and the bone contribute to its beefy flavor and that medium-rare is the ideal degree of doneness. That’s good advice, although some consumers prefer other cuts or less –rare steaks. They also note calorie-conscious diners can pick a leaner filet.

The article recommends grain-finished beef over grass-finished based on marbling and flavor. Notably, the article points out U.S. grain-fed cattle spend time on grass before shifting to a grain-based diet, something often missed in these discussions. However, while it is true most North American consumers prefer grain-fed beef, some favor the taste of grass-fed. A recent study published in the Journal of Animal Science found that in blind taste tests, 24 percent of panelists preferred grass-fed beef overall. Consumers and the beef industry benefit from the wide variety of beef choices available today.

The article also suggests looking for well-aged steak and holding back on the steak sauce, all good advice in my opinion.

Finally it offers some tips on how to cook a great steak at home, suggesting warming the meat to room temperature, searing on a very hot cast-iron pan and allowing it to rest before cutting. Personally I prefer a hot charcoal grill, but a pan will do in a pinch.

So, what are your preferences for a mouth-watering steak?

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Wyo  |  March, 22, 2013 at 07:30 AM

Thanks John........for bringing this article to our attention.......much more positive than most you see. The best tip for choosing the best steak is to find one you like prepared as you like it and then go to the same source. The hardest part is finding a source of consistently great steaks.

IA  |  March, 22, 2013 at 09:43 AM

Great article John - Nice to hear that the mainstream finally gets it right on such an important topic as food quality and modern production practices. Nothing beats a well aged Ribeye!

March, 25, 2013 at 08:51 PM

I like my beef to taste like the beef I knew as a child. Grass-finished, homegrown, well-aged Hereford beef, from a steer or young cow grown out on a good quality mix of grasses, legumes and forbs. That's my favorite. Fixed my "bad" cholesterol numbers, too, after twenty-five years of eating grain-finished pork and beef sent them through the roof. The CLA and beta carotene begin to disappear almost immediately when cattle are taken off grass. It's a good thing that scientists stumbled across CLA in 1987 when looking for a link between cancer and red meat. What they found is a nutrient in grass-fed beef that actually reduces plaque build-up from bad fats in our arteries, fights cancer, helps reverse pre-diabetes, helps control appetite, and increases muscle mass with moderate amounts of exercise.

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