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All About Meat – Steak Basic Quality Factors

Ready for the barbecue or just want to know more about steaks? Check out the basics for the tastiest makes!

Steak Thickness

Steak thickness plays a crucial role in achieving the desired contrast between a flavorful crust and a juicy interior. Thin steaks are prone to overcooking before developing a desirable crust, even at high temperatures. This can result in a steak that is dry throughout.

Benefits of Thicker Steaks

  • Improved Cooking Control
    Steaks with a minimum thickness of 1.5 to 2 inches allow for greater control over the internal temperature during cooking. This facilitates achieving a well-seared exterior while maintaining a juicy, tender center.
  • Portion Control
    While thicker steaks may appear substantial, cooking a single large steak for multiple people can be a more efficient approach compared to cooking multiple smaller cuts.

Pre-Cut vs. Whole Cuts

Benefits of Whole Cuts

  • Potential Cost Savings
    Purchasing whole cuts, like a strip loin, may offer a more economical option compared to pre-cut steaks, particularly for higher quality grades.
  • Portion Control
    When butchering a whole cut, individuals have greater control over the final steak thickness, which can facilitate portion management.
  • Fat Management
    Whole cuts allow for trimming the fat cap to a desired level, potentially reducing overall fat content in the final steak.

Considerations for Whole Cuts

  • Skill Level
    Butchering whole cuts requires some basic knife skills and knowledge.
  • Equipment
    A sharp chef’s knife or boning knife may be necessary for safe and effective butchering.
  • Storage Space
    Whole cuts necessitate more storage space compared to pre-cut steaks.

Bone-In vs. Boneless Steaks

The decision between bone-in and boneless steaks can influence cooking characteristics and potentially impact overall meat consumption.

Bone and Flavor Transfer

While some believe bone imparts significant flavor, scientific evidence suggests limited flavor migration from bone to muscle during cooking. Marinades, for example, typically penetrate only a few millimeters into the meat.

Moisture Retention and Cooking

The presence of bone can act as an insulator, potentially reducing moisture loss and preventing overcooking in the area surrounding the bone. However, this effect may be minimal.

Bone Consumption and Portion Control

Bone-in cuts include the weight of the inedible bone, potentially increasing overall serving size. Selecting boneless cuts may be a strategy for those aiming to manage portion control.


Dry-aging is a technique for storing meat in a controlled environment for extended periods. This process can influence both the flavor profile and potential meat consumption.

The Science of Dry-Aging

  • Tenderization
    Enzymes naturally present in the meat break down tough muscle fibers, leading to increased tenderness.
  • Flavor Development
    Enzymatic and bacterial activity contribute to the development of deeper, nutty, and slightly cheesy aromas in dry-aged meat. Additionally, fat oxidation enhances flavor complexity.

Moisture Content and Consumption

  • Limited Moisture Loss
    Research suggests significant moisture loss primarily occurs on the exterior of the meat, which is typically trimmed before cooking. The consumed portion likely retains similar moisture content to fresh steak.
  • Portion Control Considerations
    Dry-aged cuts often command a premium price. Individuals focused on mindful consumption may consider this factor when making a selection.

Comparison to Wet-Aging

Wet-aging involves storing vacuum-sealed meat for shorter durations. While it can improve tenderness slightly, it does not typically affect flavor significantly. Some may perceive a “serumy” taste in wet-aged meat.

Choosing Dry-Aged Beef

The decision to incorporate dry-aged beef is a personal one.

  • Flavor Profile
    Dry-aged beef develops a “funky, blue cheese” flavor that intensifies with longer aging periods. Some prefer the “cleaner” taste of fresh meat.
  • Cost
    Dry-aged beef typically carries a 20-25% price premium.

Home Dry-Aging Beef

While dry-aging whole cuts of beef at home is possible with specialized equipment, it is not effective for single steaks. Wrapping a steak in cheesecloth for a short period may enhance browning but will not significantly improve tenderness or flavor.


  • Steak thickness is key for a good steak.
    Thicker steaks (>1.5″ / 3cm) cook more evenly, allowing for a flavorful crust and juicy center.
  • Whole cuts offer advantages.
    They can be cheaper, allow for portion control, and fat trimming. But whole cuts require butchering skills and storage space.
  • Bone-in vs boneless
    Bone might add flavor but minimal impact on cooking. Bone-in steaks have more weight but less edible meat.
  • Dry-aged beef
    Extra tender and flavorful but expensive. Moisture loss is on the outside (trimmed) so you get similar moisture content as fresh steak