All About Meat Cuts, Fat Content and Grilling
Summer is here, and people everywhere are firing up their grills with thoughts of great-tasting barbecue dishes. Most often, what comes to mind is the sight, sound, and aroma of a sizzling steak. But steak is far from the only option! With so many different cuts of meat, how do you know what works best for the grill? Which cut is the leanest?
Fat Content and Cooking Tips for Popular Meat Cuts
Popular Meat Cuts: % Total Calories From Fat / Chef Ted Reader‘s Cooking Notes
- Striploin (club steak, New York strip or Kansas City strip steak): 29% / Best grilled to medium rare
- Flank: 35% / Great cut for a steak salad or sandwich; a leaner cut so do not overcook
- Sirloin (top sirloin): 39% / A flavorful cut that needs a marinade to tenderize. Teriyaki is the most popular flavor used
- Tenderloin (beef medallions or filet mignon): 41% / One of the leaner cuts, so cook quickly
- Rib-eye: 51% / Best grilled to medium rare
- T-bone: 55% / Often served as a large steak that is best shared
- Porterhouse: 59% / Often served as a large steak that is best shared
*One serving of meat is 3 oz, which is roughly the size of a deck of cards. Most restaurant meals serve much bigger portions, so be aware that you’re getting multiple servings on your plate; it’s best to share bigger cuts among two or three people. The nutritional information assumes all visible fat is trimmed and not eaten (except for marbled cuts which have the fat incorporated within the meat, making it inseparable).
Health Concerns When Grilling Meats
Grilled meats contain two substances that are considered carcinogenic – HCA and PAH. To minimize your exposure to them, grill smaller cuts of meat (to shorten cooking time), and marinate your steaks (which has multiple benefits: it flavors the meat, tenderizes it, and reduces the build-up of HCA). And of course, common sense will tell you to cut and discard any charred bits.
Is It Done Yet?
If you are a barbecue rookie, you can check for doneness two ways: with a meat thermometer or using Chef Reader’s hand-touch method. Both are provided below. When using a meat thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat without touching any bones.
Level of Doneness: Meat Thermometer Reading / Hand-touch Method
- Blue rare: 130 F / Meat feels like the soft fleshy part of your hand (at the base of your thumb) when your hand is relaxed
- Rare: 130 to 140 F / Same as above
- Medium rare: 140 to 145 F / Meat texture feels like the base of your thumb when the thumb touches the forefinger
- Medium: 145 to 150 F / Meat texture feels like the base of your thumb when the thumb touches the middle finger
- Medium well: 150 to 160 F / Meat texture feels like the base of your thumb when the thumb touches the fourth finger
- Well done: 160 to 170 F / Meat texture feels like the base of your thumb when the thumb touches the pinky
Alumni: University of California, Berkeley – Sofia believes in bringing back fun and pleasure into everyday eating. She loves cooking, and is constantly experimenting with ingredients, creating recipes and trying them out on family and friends. Her latest interest lies in finding realistic and practical ways of environmentally-friendly food/eating habits.