Steaks and a Rub

Since steaks are for a special occasion, you want to be sure to get the most quality and flavor possible. First, let’s consider the most popular cuts when considering steaks. The three cuts that come to mind when talking special occasion or splurging would be the tenderloin, rib eye or sirloin. There are a few cuts in the sirloin area including the New York, porterhouse and T-Bone, but I’ll just say sirloin for ease of reading.

For me, the rib eye is my ultimate steak. It is easier to find with good marbling.

The tenderloin is for some, the ultimate steak. As its name suggests, it is tender and will practically melt in your mouth even when well done. Many will tell you it is a sin to cook tenderloin to anything more than medium and that you might as well save your money and get something less costly. It is the most expensive cut of beef.

Tips for seasoning steak
Try a marinade instead of a rub
Top your steak with a herb butter

I have to admit I am a rare-to-medium-rare-type of guy and I like there to be plenty of red color and blood, but I also believe you should order what you want and cook it however you like it because it is, after all, you who is going to eat it.

The tenderloin is known as a lean piece of meat that makes it appealing to those who are watching their fat intake. Because there is not much fat or marbling, the flavor is much subtler than a rib eye or sirloin. You might find a little more marbling in tenderloin that is a prime grade of meat that will add to the flavor, but again, it is known for being lean.

This brings us to maybe the biggest factor in determining how tender and flavorful a piece of beef will be. There are eight grades of beef. The way they determine the grade is by how much marbling or fat is in the meat. Since we are talking about the big three cuts, I am only going to mention the top four grades. You can probably leave out the lower or standard grades, as well, but since you will see it on occasion in the supermarket, I’ll mention them.

The top two grades, prime and choice, also can be broken down into three classes: plus, neutral and minus. Again, this is due to the percentage of fat. The third grade is called select and, along with standard, can have either a plus or minus according to the fat content. In other words, a prime plus steak is at the top of the list followed by prime neutral, prime minus and then the choice grades and so on.

When buying a steak, I will once in a great while splurge and go for the prime since it is only a few dollars more per pound. However, I will often go with choice if I can find a piece with good marbling. I have to say, I rarely can afford a good steak so I won’t go below choice and I will go through the entire stock of choice to find some with a good fat content until I find something well marbled.

For me, the rib eye is my ultimate steak. It is easier to find with good marbling with a grade of choice, which is why I like it so much. It is reasonable as far as price goes, as well as awesome whether grilled or pan cooked. I find it to be tenderer than the sirloin and because of the marbling; it is packed with great flavor. Again, as a personal preference, it is the cut of beef that will provide the most flavor without your adding any sauces.

Rub for Steak
2 T Spanish paprika
1 ¼ T salt
1 T fresh ground black pepper
1 T granulated garlic
1 T sugar

Combine the ingredients and keep the leftovers along with your other dry spices. Take the meat out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Generously rub on some of the rub on both sides of the steak and cook to order. You also can apply the rub earlier and refrigerate the steak, but let it sit out to come to room temp before cooking.


Chef Smitty

Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.