Everyone loves to talk about steak, but few seem to know the best way to pick and cook their favorite cut of meat.
First and foremost, let’s begin with a simple definition: Steak refers to any slab of meat listed as a “fast-cooking” cut, meaning it has few enough connective tissue that it doesn’t need to be cooked as long as a so-called “slow-cook” cut would. The ultimate difference between a steak and a roast is size, though it’s possible to cut down a roast into separate steaks.
Cheaper cuts, such as a sirloin or skirt, have become more popular as of late, though what really qualifies as sirloin? That term can actually refer to one of several kinds of steak cuts, each of which vary in terms of cost and taste; that is, some are certainly better tasting and easier to chew than others.
For this reason, it’s important to know the kind of cut you’re looking for. Some butchers may foist a lesser quality sirloin cut upon a customer with less knowledge of the subject. This is why you shouldn’t simply order a “sirloin steak” rather than be specific about it.
All sirloin steaks are cut from the sirloin, IMPS/NAMP 181. The first four on the list refer to bone-in steaks whereas the remainder are boneless:
- Pin bone, first anterior cut
- Flat bone, second anterior cut
- Round bone, third anterior cut
- Wedge bone, fourth anterior cut
- Top sirloin butt steak
- Top sirloin cap steak, or Coulotte
- Top sirloin baseball cut steak
- Bottom sirloin butt flap steak
- Bottom sirloin butt ball tip steak
- Bottom sirloin butt tri-tip steak
Nutritional Value of Steak
Chances are you’ve heard the old thought to limit your red meat intake to once per week while also picking the leanest possible cut. Not only does the media say it, but doctors do too. Unfortunately, this is a line of thought that ties in with the misconception of high cholesterol and weight gain associated with fattier cuts.
In truth, fattier steaks provide a superior source of zinc, B vitamins, protein, iron and several fatty acids. While you don’t generally want to eat corn-fed compared to grass-fed, you’ll only do yourself a disservice by limiting your red meat intake to the occasional super-lean cut.
Be sure to pick up grass-fed sirloin whenever possible. Grouping corn-fed with grass-fed beef and assuming the two have similar nutrition is just like assuming hot dogs have the same amount of protein as wild salmon. Not only that, but grass-fed beef also tends to come with greater omega-3 fatty acids.
Quality sirloin steak also includes vitamin E, beta-carotene and linoleic acid, an antioxidant.
How to Prepare the Steak
Before getting started broiling a sirloin steak in an electric oven, you’ll need to gather a few simple ingredients and tools. Ultimately, the seasonings you choose can vary depending on your preference, but a suggestion is offered below if you’re brand new in the kitchen and want to experience something succulent and delicious.
- 8-ounce sirloin steak, at least an inch thick
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Oven grill rack
- Dripping pan
- Meat thermometer
- Paper towels
- Aluminum foil
A typical home broiler only has so much power, especially when compared to a industrial broilers common in restaurants. Think 550F instead of the 2200F from your local steakhouse. Because the steak is forced to cook at a lower temperature, it won’t keep tender inside as easily while trying to brown the surface.
To combat this heat problem, a thick steak is used directly from the fridge, instead of allowing it to warm up to room temperature. By using these two simple tricks, the sirloin will take more time to relax before beginning to cook, which offers more time for the broiler to apply a nice browning to the surface.
Step 1: Preheat the Broiler
The broiler needs some time to warm up before you can get started cooking. Put some aluminum foil on the drip pan and place it on the lowest oven rack. Leave the oven door partially ajar to prevent the inside from becoming too steamy an environment.
Step 2: Season the Steak
While the broiler warms up, there’s just enough time to pull the sirloin from the fridge and apply seasoning. Use the paper towels to pat it dry, soaking up the excess water; too much water in the steak turns it into a steamed piece of meat instead. Apply a generous amount of salt on the top surface only, and then place the steak on the grill rack. If you’re going to use pepper, wait to apply it.
Step 3: Broil the Steak
Once the broiler has warmed up, you can put the grill in the oven. Be sure to keep the meat as close to the broiler as you can; the objective is to get that surface cooking. Depending on the thickness, you may need to wait five to seven minutes for each side to cook. When the browning is consistent across the steak, you’re ready to move on.
Step 4: Season and Check
Using the tongs, flip the steak and apply salt on the currently unseasoned side. If desired, you can also apply pepper at this point. Use the meat thermometer to check whether the sirloin is medium rare; the steak will be 130 degrees Fahrenheit if so. If not, place it back into the oven and allow it to broil some more.
Step 5: Rest and Cut Steak
Once the steak is at the correct temperature, transfer it to a cutting board and turn off the broiler. Cover it up with the aluminum foil for five minutes so that the juices complete cooking the meat inside. They’ll also stay within the steak after cutting it up as long as it’s given enough time to rest. After the five minutes have passed, you can cut the beef across the grain and serve it.
How to Buy Sirloin
As previously stated, it’s best to know the specific kind of sirloin steak you want when you’re out shopping for the best cut. Because there are so many kinds of sirloin cuts, there are different things to look out for when buying the best possible sirloin at the store or butcher. Aside from the cut, grading is the other major aspect to consider.
Top sirloin is a rather commonly purchase kind of boneless beef steak. It’s usually the big favorite for trendy restaurants, and it’s even the most commonly kind of grilled steak for those early summer barbecues. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys picking up some top sirloin from the butcher, you have great taste, even if it’s a common cut!
Another great cut choice is the boneless beef top sirloin, cut from the subprimal just behind the lion primal. It tends to sell for a lower cost due to having medium tenderness compared to other cuts. However, those who just enjoy the great taste of steak will love saving money with this cut.
Coming from the bottom sirloin, the boneless beef trip-tip is another common choice that is worth picking up when buying sirloin steak. Specifically, this steak cut comes from the bottom area of the rib cage where the stomach of the animal meets up with the bones. It doesn’t have much fat, but it’s greatly tender and boasts plenty of flavor.
In most cases, a government agency or a third-party organization will grade sirloin and other kinds of beef. An example of such an agency is the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, within the United States. The grade of the meat will inform the buyer of the age, marbling and other aspects of the cut.
All beef is graded whole, so it is common to note different cuts of beef featuring different grades. The United States uses the following grades from bets to worst: prime, choice and select. Of course, calling select the “worst” grade isn’t entirely accurate; while this is the lowest possible grade of whole sirloin you can purchase, the truly worst graded meats end up as meat by-products and do not become available for sale to the general population.
The best kind, prime grade beef, accounts for only 2 percent of beef acquired within the United States. In fact, most of this beef tends to be sold to fine restaurants or exported to better restaurants. That means most of what you’ll find on store shelves tends to be select or choice. It’s harder to find a good prime cut for a suitable price, which makes it a good idea to simply purchase choice meat.
When considering the grade of beef, remember to keep in mind that such designations are formulated such that it works for the beef industry. Plenty of thought goes into the marketing and brands that end up on the label, so it’s a good idea to read it all carefully to ensure that you’re getting exactly what you want.
When buying a steak, marbling is another consideration to keep in mind. Check the texture of the meat to get a visual idea of a steak’s marbling. If there is no fat on the meat, then you are not going to see much marbling, if any at all. However, the leaner and tender cuts do not tend to have as much flavor; meat with little streaks of fat running throughout it will feature better flavor. Because of this, you’ll want to examine the marbling to achieve a good balance between flavor and tenderness.
To get the best of both worlds, you’ll want steak with thin streaks of marbling. Thicker lines suggest tough connective tissue that’s hard to cut and chew. The meat itself should also be bright red to indicate good quality, whereas the fat should be a creamy white color.
Top Ways to Serve Sirloin
Steak needs a worthy mate on its plate. It’s a versatile meal that can accommodate all kinds of sidekicks, so the following is just a short list of foods that can all enhance the hero in this beefy meal:
- Salt-baked potatoes
- Roasted broccoli
- Charred cauliflower
- House rolls
A great red meat like steak deserves an equally great red wine to complement it. With a broiled steak, it’s a good idea to pick a wine that sports smoky-sweet flavors from oak barrels that that properly accommodate the browned surface of the sirloin. Here are just a few examples:
Washington and California Cabernet Blends: What’s more classic a pairing than a Napa Valley Cabernet with a grilled or broiled steak? Cabernet blends that come from lesser-known regions can help make the enhanced meal a little more interesting. Some examples include Washington State’s Walla Walla or Paso Roble in California.
Bordeaux: If instead you’re looking for something with a European finish to it, you’ll want to dive right into red Bordeaux. It’s made using a blend of Merlot and Cabernet, along with other grapes. These structured wines feature more tannins and acid than you’d find an a California wine, making it great to pair with a buttery, richly savory sauce. Herb condiments can also work well against the savory flavor in the Bordeaux. Wines from Graves and Haut Médoc in particular can be easily affordable.
Malbec: Ask any Argentinian, and they’ll probably tell you how much they love steak–just like any American could tell you how great burgers are. It’s equally common to find Malbec for lunch in Argentina thanks to its reputation as a great Cabernet alternative. It features an earthy red flavor that can even include a pleasantly beefy aroma.
Zinfandel: From California, this berry-rich wine is the perfect sidekick for a sirloin steak broiled with sweet spices. It’s a red wine low on tannin that is still plenty rich to include with any steak meal.
If you want to broil a great steak, you’re going to have to buy a great steak. With this guide in hand, you have all the tools you need to buy the best possible sirloin steak, cook it to perfection and serve it with the most appetizing and complementary sides and wine! If you would like to try the best steak in NYC, come visit Atlas Steakhouse! You will not be disappointed.