Steak is a slice off a larger piece of meat, usually beef.
Besides cattle, steaks are also often cut from other grazing animals, including bison, camel, goat, horse, kangaroo, sheep, ostrich, pigs, reindeer, turkey, deer, and zebu, as well as various types of fish, especially salmon and large fish such as swordfish, shark, and marlin.
For some meats, such as pork, lamb and mutton, chevon, and veal, these cuts are often referred to as chops.
Steak is generally sliced across the muscle fibers, potentially including a bone.
Different cuts will deliver different levels of tenderness and flavour:
• Sirloin: Considered to be a prime steak, like fillet, but with more flavour. Best served medium-rare.
• T-bone: To make sure everything cooks evenly, it’s best finished in the oven. Great for sharing.
• Bavette and flank steak: Cheap cut that’s best served no more than medium and is great for barbecuing.
• Fillet: Prized as the most tender cut, it’s also the most expensive. It has little fat, and is best served as rare as you like.
• Rib-eye and tomahawk: There are two cuts to note: rib-eye, boneless and usually serves one, and rib on the bone, also known as côte de boeuf.
• Flat-iron: This steak is cut from the shoulderblade, and is great value and neatly shaped, but it needs to be cooked no more than medium or it will be tough.
• Onglet: Also called hanger steak, this rope-shaped piece of meat has lots of flavour but will be tough if cooked beyond rare.
• Rump steak: The least expensive of prime steaks, it will be tough if cooked anything beyond medium.
It is often grilled in an attempt to replicate the flavor of steak cooked over the glowing coals of an open fire.
Meat that is cooked less will appear to be more tender and soft. The usual degrees of cooking for steaks are:
• Raw/Uncooked – for example in tartare.
• Rare – cooked very quickly, mostly red inside.
• Medium Rare – cooked quickly, mostly pink inside with some red.
• Medium – moderately cooked, mostly pink inside, but no red.
• Medium-Well – Mostly cooked, with some pink remaining inside.
• Well-done– thoroughly cooked. No pink remains inside, may be blackened on the outside.
Steak has become a popular dish in many places around the world, cooked in domestic and professional kitchens, and is often a primary ingredient in a menu.
A well-known side dish to steak is prawns or a cooked lobster tail. This combination is often called surf and turf or reef and beef (the words “surf” and “reef” refer to the seafood and “turf” and “beef” refer to the steak).
Other common side dishes are baked potatoes, dinner rolls, salad, and corn on the cob.
Often, steaks are served with a special sauce called “steak sauce”, but sometimes steaks are served with a spicy sauce called horseradish.
Special steak knives are used to cut steak. A steak knife is sharper than most table knives and is usually serrated.
A restaurant that mainly makes steaks is known as a steakhouse, steak house, or chophouse.
Chophouses started in London in the 1690s, and served individual portions of meat, known as chops. The houses were normally only open for men – for example, women were only admitted to Stone’s Chop House in 1921. Accounts of travellers in 19th-century London refer to their “dining off mutton chop, rump steak and a ‘weal’ cutlet”, as well as hams and sirloins.
Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City, which opened in 1827 and stayed open for almost 100 years, has been described as “the most famous steak restaurant in American history”. Delmonico steak refers to a method of preparation from one of several cuts of beef (typically the rib cut) prepared Delmonico style, originally from the mid-19th century.
Hundreds of restaurants continue to specialize in serving steak, describing themselves as “steakhouses”, competing for culinary awards and aiming for culinary excellence.
Beef Wellington is an English pie made of fillet steak coated with pâté (often pâté de foie gras) and duxelles, which is then wrapped in Parma ham and puff pastry, then baked. Some recipes include wrapping the coated meat in a crêpe to retain the moisture and prevent it from making the pastry soggy.
Beef Manhattan is a dish consisting of roast beef and gravy. It is often served with mashed potatoes either on top of the steak or on the side of the plate.
A cheesesteak is a sandwich made from thinly sliced pieces of beefsteak and melted cheese in a long hoagie roll.
Steak tartare is a French dish made from finely chopped or ground (minced) raw meat (often beef). More accurately, it is scraped so as not to let even the slightest of the sinew fat get into the scraped meat. It is often served with onions, capers, seasonings such as fresh ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes raw egg yolk.
The word “steak” originates from the mid-15th century Scandinavian word steik, or stickna’ in the Middle English dialect, along with the Old Norse word steikja.
The Oxford English Dictionary’s first reference is to “a thick slice of meat cut for roasting or grilling or frying, sometimes used in a pie or pudding – especially a piece cut from the hind-quarters of the animal.” Subsequent parts of the entry, however, refer to “steak fish”, which referred to “cod of a size suitable for cutting into steaks”, and also “steak-raid”, which was a custom among Scottish Highlanders of giving some cattle being driven through a gentleman’s land to the owner. An early written usage of the word “stekys” comes from a 15th-century cookbook, and makes reference to both beef or venison steaks.
The largest steak commercially available is a 200 oz. (about 5.7 kilograms) (pre-cooked weight) rump steak from The Kestrel Inn, Hatton, Derbyshire, UK.
Jean-Yves Renard (France) and a group of butchers produced the longest steak ever measuring 27.68 m (90.81 ft) long at Evron, France on 14 May 2002. It was shown on L’émission des records on 5 July 2002.