Although we call it simply ‘a steak’, the actual cut of meat that makes this dish could be any of a number of varieties, which makes it more and more difficult to choose these days. Of course the type of cut you choose depends on a variety of factors such as your preference, how you like it cooked, what’s available and the cost. But what about the nutritional value? Of course different cuts of steak will differ in their nutritional value mainly due to the different ratios of fat to protein found in each cut and how they are usually cooked, but also vitamin and mineral contents may vary too. Here we take a look at 9 different cuts of steak and the nutritional value of each one.
Tenderloin Steak Cut
The tenderloin steak cut is one of the most prized cuts of steak because, as the name suggests, this cut is very tender and delicate. This is because it comes from the muscle that sits along the spine in the middle of the cow and does very little work. Tenderloin steak comes from the centre cut of the whole tenderloin, which is also the source of the filet mignon, which means ‘dainty fillet’ in French, signifying its tender and delicate nature.
The nutritional content of a tenderloin steak will depend on the grade of the meat and the amount of fat left on the cut, with the grade being the more important factor. Visually, with the ‘Prime’ grade cuts: an ounce of tenderloin steak with about 1/8 of an inch of fat yields 78 calories, an ounce of tenderloin with ¼ inch of fat will contain 80 calories and a cut of tenderloin with ½ inch of fat yields about 82 calories an ounce. So the amount of fat that is visible on the cut of meat does not change the calorie content significantly.
However, ‘Prime’ cuts of beef, the highest grade there is, contain significantly more calories per ounce than the lower ‘Lean’ grade of meat. This can be a difference in calories of up to 35 calories an ounce between ‘Prime’ and ‘Lean’ cuts. ‘Prime’ cuts contain significantly more marbling, which is the distribution of fat within the ‘protein’, or red, section of the meat. This extra fat is what increases the calories but it also gives prime cuts a more delicious flavor and the reason why they are considered more of premium in nature. We’ll discuss marbling in more detail further on.
T-Bone Steak Cut
The T bone steak cut is named as such due to the bone that intersects the steak, creating a T shape on both sides. This cut is also known as ‘porterhouse’ in relation to the Inns of yore where it was served alongside porter, ale and beer. The T-bone steak is another prized and valuable cut as it is sourced from one of the most tender sections of the beef: the section intersecting the short loin and the tenderloin. The T-bone cut is tasty, tender and flavorful, and a popular choice at restaurants.
One ounce of T-bone steak with the fat trimmed to ¼ inch contains 87 calories, slightly more than the tenderloin. Once again, the calorie content will vary between different grades of beef, and potentially what proportion of the steak is made up by the tenderloin and the short loin. A recommended portion of T-bone steak is 3 ounces, which contributes 262 calories, 20 grams of fat and 20 grams of protein to your daily intake.
The problem with T-bone steaks however is the usual serving size. A T-bone steak ordered at a steakhouse in the U.S. can contain 16-20 ounces of meat, which is 5-6 times the recommended serving size. These portions can pack a massive 120 grams of fat, even without sauces and sides, which won’t do your waistline any favors. So while T-Bone is a tasty and nutritious source of protein, keep the serving size to about the size of your palm to limit excess fat intake.
The Strip Steak Cut
The strip steak is another tender and tasty cut from the short loin. Because this area of the cow does little work, the meat is tender, however not as tender as the tenderloin or rib eye.
The strip steak cut also has the least fat of any loin cut, which is no doubt also the reason for its lower calorie content at only 55 calories per ounce. Strip steak packs a nice serving of protein with 18 g in a 3 ounce portion. However, once again this steak is served in very large portions in restaurants and steak houses. So if you’re craving a steak that’s easier on the waistline, choose a smaller size strip steak or split the serving with a partner.
Unlike the T-Bone, where the protein is 50% of the calories and fat is 50%, the strip steak is made up with 65% calories from protein and 35% from fat, making this steak a better choice for a tender cut with more protein and less saturated fat.
The Rib Eye Steak Cut
A rib eye steak is taken from the rib section and is another cut that’s prized for its tastiness and tenderness. As with other beef steaks, rib eye is a delicious meal that also contains a range of vital nutrients including zinc, complete protein, phosphorus, vitamin B12 and B6.
Prime cuts of rib eye are in high demand and are more expensive, due to the high degree of fat marbling within the meat. Fat marbling is indicated by the presence of white streaks through the red muscle part of the meat. During cooking, this fat melts throughout the tissue, imparting a superior level of tenderness, flavor and textured characteristic of prime meats.
Of course, this marbling does raise the fat content of the meat. As mentioned before, prime cuts generally have a higher calorie content per ounce than lean cuts. Prime rib eye steak has 83 calories per ounce and a 3 ounce serve has 18 grams of fat, making it comparable to T-bone steak in fat content.
Sirloin Steak Cut
Sirloin steak is another popular cut taken from the sirloin, which is in the middle part of the hindquarters. This steak has much less marbling than other varieties, meaning it is lower in fat and higher in protein but that means it doesn’t have the same buttery rich tenderness that some of the more marbled cuts have. Sirloin steak is still deep and flavorsome and is also more affordable, making it a steak of choice for many budget and health conscious diners.
One ounce of sirloin steak with ¼ inch of fat has about 73 calories. The high protein value of this steak can be noted by knowing that a 3 ounce serving has 24 grams of protein depending on the degree of fat marbling. A 3 ounce serving usually contains a more modest quantity of fat at around 13 grams, significantly less than some of the more marbled cuts such as the Rib eye steak.
Sirloin steak is a good source of lean red meat, meaning it is a great choice if you want to benefit from some of the excellent nutrients red meat can provide. This includes vital minerals such as zinc, iron and phosphorus that are difficult to get from non-meat sources.
The Rump Steak Cut
The rump cut is taken from the top part of the round steak cut, providing a flavorsome and hefty serving of beef. While it still makes a tasty steak, this cut is certainly not as tender as other cuts, although it still does well griddled or fried and has more flavor than sirloin with a better price as well. If the steak has been matured and cooked properly, it also tends to be less chewy and more tender.
Rump steak (from the round) has been called the best cut of steak for body building, due to its high protein content and low fat content. This has been visible in the protein content of the steak which is the highest we’ve seen yet, at 25 grams of protein in every 3 ounces. While it’s favored for its leanness, this steak can be a a good contender for being tender so it often benefits from long, slow, moist cooking.
One ounce of very lean rump steak has a low calorie count at 50, making this choice one of the best for those who are weight conscious, or looking for the highest protein/ lowest fat source of beef.
The Flank Steak Cut
The flank steak comes from the belly, or the abdominal muscles, but can also derive from the buttocks of the cow. This means the meat of this cut is lean and muscular, with less fat than some of the other cuts, yet not as little as the rump itself. As this cut has a tendency to lean towards toughness and dryness, it’s best served medium rare and sliced against the grain.
Nutritionally, the flank cut is a good choice, with 3 ounces providing 22 grams of protein and just 10 grams of fat. One ounce of flank steak contains a low calorie count of 64, making it perfect for the weight conscious.
The flank cut is used in a variety of Asian dishes and recipes and does well when cooked long and kept moist. However it’s important to take into account the calories, fat and sugar that may be added during the cooking process with the addition of oils, sauces and seasoning. Choose healthy recipes that keep the fat, sugar and calories down for healthy eating.
Hanger Steak Cut
Hanger steak gets its name from being the cut of meat that ‘hangs’ between the last rib and the loin of the cow, and it is actually part of the diaphragm as well. It’s a tender cut apart from the tough membrane that runs down the middle of the meat. It’s also naturally quite lean, while being packed with flavor, making it ideal for muscle gain and high protein diets. When trimmed of the chewy membrane, the two remaining pieces of hanger steak resemble a tenderloin cut and can be cooked in the same fashion.
Hanger steak provides a low count of 43 calories in every ounce, and in a 3 ounce serving it will provide 18 grams of protein and a very low count of fat in 6 grams. These nutrition statistics for hanger steak indicate a steak cut that is very low in fat and calories when compared to other steaks, but it is also lower in protein, perhaps suggesting a higher water content in this cut of meat. The density of the other nutrients in this steak, such as the vitamins and minerals, may be in slightly lower amounts. However, the low fat and calorie content means you can have slightly larger portions of this steak and get the same amount of nutrients.
Skirt Steak Cut
Skirt steak looks similar to flank steak, however it is a cut of beef from the plate, a particularly tough area of the cow. Skirt steak is prized much more for its flavor than for its tenderness. It is also favored by long, slow and moist cooking methods that will bring out the delicious flavor of the meat while tenderizing it as much as possible.
Skirt steak is interspersed with some fat bumping and the calorie count of this steak is up a little at 62 calories per ounce. The fat content is 10 grams in a 3 ounce serving, making it a lower fat choice than some of the richer steaks. The protein content sits at 22 grams in a 3 ounce serve making it a good choice for a high protein diet.
As with all cuts of beef steak, it also provides a range of essential vitamins and minerals that are a part of beef, including: Protein, Phosphorus, Selenium, Vitamin B12, Zinc, Iron, Niacin, Vitamin B6, and Riboflavin.
With this guide, we have covered most of the major cuts of steak and their attributes and nutritional values. Now you should be able to make a more informed decision next time you visit a steak house or have a weekend grill. Steak is a nutritious food that’s an important part of a healthy diet and can be consumed once or twice a week (when a lower fat, high protein cut is chosen in a moderate portion size). With these tips you can choose a better steak for your stomach’s needs as well as keeping your health in mind.