Grilling the perfect steak starts long before you head outside. There are so many steak options at the grocery store, and not all of them will result in that charred crust and tender texture you’re after. If you’re going to grill a steak, you want to know it’s the right cut.
Here at America’s Test Kitchen, we’ve been developing grilled steak recipes for more than two decades. Here's a list of our favorite steaks to grill, including alternate names and price level so you have all the information you need when you hit the meat counter.
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A rib eye is essentially a boneless prime rib with a similar pronounced beefy taste, heavy marbling, and narrow strip of meat curving over one end. (There's also the bone-in "cowboy-cut" rib eye, which is double the thickness of the boneless version.) Grill over a hot fire, flipping every 2 minutes, for an incredibly flavorful, buttery, crisp-crusted steak. Serve it up with charred summer squash for a stellar 30-minute weeknight meal.
Cost: $$$$ | Alternate name: Delmonico steak
Boneless Beef Short Ribs
Boneless beef short ribs are ribboned with fat and grill up as juicy as can be, with a satisfying chew similar to that of a more expensive cut such as skirt steak. Despite its name, the boneless short rib isn’t cut from the rib of a cow. Instead, it’s cut from the area above the ribs closest to the chuck, or shoulder, of the animal, where most of the meat is made up of heavily marbled muscle. Our Grilled Boneless Beef Short Ribs are as satisfying as steaks that are twice as expensive.
Cut from the shell muscle that runs along the middle of the steer’s back, strip steaks are well marbled, with a tight grain, pleasantly chewy texture, and big, beefy flavor. That beefy flavor balances the tangy, vegetal notes of parsley and cilantro in our recipe for Gas-Grilled Argentine Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce. And since strip steaks produce fewer flare-ups than fattier cuts like rib-eye, they were our top choice for our Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks recipe.
Cost: $$$$ | Alternate names: Top loin, sirloin strip, New York strip
The filet is cut from the narrow end of the tenderloin. Sliced into 1- to 2-inch-thick medallions, these buttery cuts are known for their mild flavor. They’re meltingly tender and surprisingly lean, so we recommend serving them with a compound butter for extra flavor. To make sure the filets cook evenly on the grill, we use butcher's twine to shape them into uniform pieces. Filet mignon is expensive, so use a trusted recipe. We have versions for both gas grills and charcoal grills.
Top Sirloin Steak
These economical cuts of meat are lean but still tender with a pleasant chew. They lack the distinctive marbling and fatty cap of other cuts but can be cubed for delicious Gas-Grilled Beef Kebabs or punched up with glutamate-heavy ingredients to make an $8 cut taste like it cost $18. (After testing several other economical cuts, we named the shell sirloin steak the best inexpensive steak to grill.)
Cost: $$$$ | Alternate names: Shell steak, shell sirloin steak
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The T-bone is named for the T-shaped bone that runs through the meat. It’s often compared to the porterhouse, but it’s cut further back on the short loin, so it’s slightly smaller and contains less of the tenderloin. The strip on the larger strip side has a noticeable grain compared to the buttery tenderloin. It’s fatty and beefy (in a good way). Enjoy maximum flavor and the best of the tender texture in this simple recipe for Grilled T-Bone Steaks with Lemon-Garlic Spinach.
This massive steak can be considered a larger T-bone, cut from the front of the short loin, which captures a larger part of the tenderloin (hence the bigger price tag). The USDA requires a steak’s tenderloin to be greater than or equal to 1¼ inches to achieve porterhouse classification. A porterhouse provides a great balance of pleasant chew on the sirloin side, and a buttery fine-grained tenderloin with a dark crust in our recipe for Charcoal-Grilled Porterhouse or T-Bone Steaks.
This thin steak from the underside of the cow has an especially beefy flavor. Skirt steaks come from two different muscles and are sometimes labeled as inside skirt steak or outside skirt steak. Opt for the outside skirt steak. Avoid the inside skirt steak, as it is very chewy. If you’ve never grilled skirt steak before, our Grilled Mojo-Marinated Skirt Steak recipe is a good one to start with. (Learn more about shopping for a cooking skirt steak.)