Ranking The Best Cuts Of Steak For Taco Night, From Worst To Best

Hungry people in the United States chow down on more than 4.5 billion tacos a year, according to the South Florida Reporter. While you can always go to your local fast food joint and grab one, not many things can top taco night at home. Whether it's Tuesday or any other day of the week, chopping the toppings, mixing up a batch of margaritas, and getting the gang together is all part of the fun.

And then there's the protein. Beef lovers will be delighted to know that there is a myriad of beef options that work well in tacos, and one of the standouts is steak. When thinking of traditional taco toppings like onions, hot sauces, and cilantro, steak is the right texture and flavor to withstand bold additions. So if you've ever wanted to know which cuts to choose and which to steer clear of, we've rounded up the best cuts of steak for taco night, ranked from worst to best.

18. Porterhouse and T-bone steak

T-bone steak is delicious when thrown on a grill and seared to perfection. For the sake of this article, we grouped T-bone and porterhouse since they're similar cuts of meat. The main difference, explains Rube's Steaks, is that T-bone is the smaller version of the porterhouse cut.

It's hard to mistake a T-bone steak once you know what to look out for. This cut gets its name from the T-shaped bone that runs through it and comes from the short loin area of the cow, according to Omaha Steaks. This is a popular cut of meat because it combines two types of meat: a filet mignon and a New York strip. While it's a delicious two-for-one, it is enjoyable enough on its own and definitely shouldn't be hidden in a taco. And while it's not as prestigious of a cut as a true filet mignon, it's considered a splurge for many. This cut is commonly used in Mexico, according to Food Network, but if you don't have high-quality knives to separate the meat, it might prove to be more difficult than it's worth for your at-home preparation. The meat is tender, but unless you want to mask the beautiful flavors that you'll find in a T-bone, skip it for your taco night.

17. Short ribs

Short ribs are a cut of meat that is known for its melt-in-your-mouth qualities after a long period of braising. As the name suggests, they derive from the rib of the cow. Web Restaurant Store explains that they are a tougher cut with more muscle and fat and require a long cook time because they come from a part of the cow that is used vigorously. Because they're too short to be considered regular ribs, they're sold under a different name, and they're often sold as small chunks of meat with a bone running through the center.

Boneless short ribs do exist, but we're referring to the cut that comes bone-in. And while darn delicious, it's a lot for the average home chef to braise and then pull the meat off the bones for tacos. Also, short ribs work so well on their own, as a stew or the main protein over rice, that we don't think you should mask the texture and flavor by putting them in a taco. This might ruffle some feathers, but unless you're a seasoned chef, you probably want to skip short rib as your taco meat.

16. Denver steak

It's not often you come across a cut of steak that is named after a U.S. city. New York might be the only other one we can think of. So that already sets this cut, called the Denver, apart from others on the list. It's cut from under the shoulder blade area of the cow, explains Crowd Cow, and results in a tender cut, as it's an area of the cow that doesn't see much movement. It often has beautiful marbling, which imparts a nice flavor and texture to the meat. So with all the good being said about Denver cut, which is consider to be one of the best cheap steaks you can buy, it would make sense that this would go well in a taco. And while you can certainly use this as taco meat, it's pretty perfect on its own once it's developed a nice sear from some time in a hot cast iron skillet.

It's also a cut that already has a nice, rich flavor, so it's not as neutral as some cuts. It doesn't need marinades and toppings, and it certainly doesn't need to be wrapped in a tortilla. We love the Denver cut, but you'd be better off just letting this steak shine on its own. It's a more affordable cut of meat, so you won't feel too guilty if you decide to cave and use this for tacos — we just think you'll enjoy it more on its own.

15. Coulotte steak

The coulotte cut, also sometimes called the sirloin cap, is a pretty versatile cut. It comes with a fat cap, which you can leave on to melt down into your meat as part of a roast or you can cut the fat cap off (which is what you'd probably do when eating it as a steak). Coulotte steaks come from the top sirloin butt, explains Chophouse Steaks, which is towards the top back end of the cow. Because it often doesn't top "best steak" lists, the coulotte cut is pretty affordable. And because of its great beef flavor, it only needs some salt and pepper for its flavor to pop. It's not the beefiest-tasting cut of meat, so you won't mind enjoying this carne asada style and topping this with some onions, peppers, guacamole, and lime.

But here's where it falls short: This steak comes in the form of a roast, so unless you have good knives, you may find that cutting down a giant piece of meat into steaks, isn't the easiest task. Or you can roast it and shred it, but then that wouldn't really count as a steak taco, but rather a shredded meat taco. So because we're breaking this list down by technicalities, we're ranking the coulotte high in flavor and all-around deliciousness, but low for practicality in a steak taco.

14. Hanger steak

Hanger steak has a unique reputation as a cut of steak with a richer taste and a beefier flavor than some other cuts. It's cut from below the rib of the cow and actually hangs from an area of the front of the cow near the diaphragm. There's only one hanger steak per cow, so it's not a cut that is easy to come across unless you have a great relationship with your butcher. Barbecue FAQ even notes that this cut sometimes goes by the name Butcher's Steak because this cut was often set aside for the butchers to take home. You might be shocked by how tender this cut is. And since you can find it in the cow's abdominal cavity, it has very subtle iron-like notes, much like the flavor of liver.

Although hanger steak is a delicious cut, we didn't rank it any higher because the supply for this cut is low, while demand is high. Since there's only one hanger steak per cow, it's not very sustainable. It's up to you to decide if you opt for hanger steak, but with so many tasty steak options for your next taco night, you may want to opt for a different cut of steak instead.

13. Tomahawk steak

Chances are, you can recognize a tomahawk steak from its image alone. It's a slab of beef attached to a curved bone and looks much like a well ... a tomahawk. This cut of beef is from the top midsection of the cow's rib, explains Great British Meat Company.

While this is a delicious cut of meat, the bone-in presentation is what makes it so striking. Ruth's Chris Steakhouse suggests throwing a tomahawk steak on the grill and letting it barbecue to a perfect medium-rare level of doneness. So we wouldn't dare ask you to cut it out to use it in tacos. It also has a buttery, rich texture with a level of marbling that adds even more moisture to an already near-perfect cut of meat. Grab your knife and fork (or your hands, we won't judge) and dig into a tomahawk. You'll be missing part of this cut's appeal if you slice it off and add it to steak tacos.

12. Tenderloin and filet mignon

Filet mignon has an air of sophistication surrounding it. Often one of the most expensive and impressive cuts of meat you can order at a steakhouse or your nearby butcher, this cut is known for its melt-in-your-mouth texture. It's cut from the loin of the cow, near the top midsection, as Beef It's What For Dinner explains. As part of the loin, it's long and narrow until its end is sliced off, creating the much-loved filet mignon.

You might have noticed the high price tag of filet mignon. True Beef Organic explains that the part of the cow from which this cut comes only makes up 1% of the animal. It's likely not something the average person can eat every day, though with its silky texture, you just might want to. 

Now you're more than welcome to use filet mignon in steak tacos. You will end up with a pure beef flavor and a silky tenderness. But the rare qualities of filet mignon lend it to a simpler presentation: seared on both sides, seasoned with salt and pepper, and enjoyed with a carb and a vegetable. It's a fantastic cut of meat, so there's no way we could put it at the bottom of our list. But this is a famous cut of steak for a reason, and drowning out the flavor by putting it into steak tacos might do this cut a disservice.

11. Beef shank

If this was any other list, this might be a love letter to beef shanks. But because this is all about steak tacos, we have to be transparent and say that beef shank simply doesn't rank high. To start with the positive, when cooked properly beef shank reveals a true depth of flavor unlike many other cuts of beef. However, it's tough. There is a lot of connective tissue and this is not a piece of steak that you throw on the grill and eat seven minutes later. But where beef shake excels is with long and slow cooks like braises and smokes. It's cut from the legs of the cow just above the knee, according to The Online Grill. It gets a lot of workout and is, therefore, a tougher piece of meat.

You could cook it down and shred it, eating it in tacos that way, but that doesn't seem worth it, especially when other cuts can be seared and sliced to perfection for your steak taco. Needless to say, it's not a top choice for steak tacos.

10. Flat iron steak

We love flat iron steak because it's got the quality of a more expensive cut of meat without the price tag. Omaha Steaks even refers to it as second in tenderness, only trailing closely behind filet mignon.

Flat iron steak packs bigger beefy flavors, as well as some supple tenderness, because it's cut from the cow's top muscle blade towards the front of the animal. It gets some workout and has some marbling. It's often compared to sirloin for its versatility and price range, but because it's still growing in popularity, it might not be possible to find everywhere. You'll also get the best quality from your butcher, so it's not the kind of meat that you can grab on your way home from work. Taco night isn't just about flavor. It's also about sourcing ingredients that are accessible to you and true to the flavors you're aiming for. And because planning taco night with flat iron steak may require a bit more preparation, we couldn't rank it any higher.

9. Rump steak

If you're tasked with making the protein for a large taco night crowd, may we suggest you look no further than rump steak? This cut, which comes from the cow's rear, is where flavor and value collide. Rump steak is lean but still provides nice beefy flavors without being as overpowering as some other cuts. Great British Chefs also shares that it's often half the price of other similar cuts like sirloin.

We do think rump is great for making tacos if you've got the patience and know how to cook a larger piece of meat. You also might need to break out the sharp knives and trim some of the muscle and tough pieces off of a rump steak. We've placed it in the middle of our list of best steaks for taco night because, while it's easier to manage for an experienced home cook, it might be slightly more difficult to work with for novices. If you do want to try your hand at flat iron steak tacos, why not try our recipe for chimichurri steak tacos?

8. London broil

Unlike some of the other cuts of steak on this list, London broil does not come from one specific part of the cow. The trick behind London broil lies, as Steak Revolution puts it, in the preparation and cut of this steak. It is marinated and broiled before it's thinly cut.

London broil is most commonly flank steak or top round steak, but the great news is that those are both perfect types of steak to use in a taco. We love London broil in tacos because it takes to marinade and results in tender meat. And for steak tacos, there isn't much more you could ask for. We recommend taking some liberties and using unexpected flavors for your London broil steak tacos. Despite all the positives, we decided not to rank London broil any higher because, though it's delicious, it's not technically a type of steak.

7. Strip steak

Steak and tacos are a perfect pairing. The history of meat in tacos dates back to the 1500s, explains Taste Atlas, when it was sliced thinly before cooking over hot coals. We're still enjoying iterations of this meal today. The very authentic preparation of a corn tortilla, beef, onions, guacamole, chili, and lime allows each of the quality ingredients to shine without drowning one another out.

Keep that in mind if you do decide to use strip steak in your tacos. This cut, also called a New York strip, is from the cow's loin, which is the muscle at the top of the cow under its spine. Allen Brothers explains that it's not a muscle that sees much movement so it doesn't develop much toughness. It is a prized cut and one that you can easily find at the finest steakhouses. It's got all the telltale signs of a quality cut, such as marbling, tender texture, and a pure, beefy taste. And we love that it works just as well seared and sliced for your next taco night as it does alone.

6. Tri-tip steak

At first glance, it's clear where tri-tip steak gets its name. This piece of sirloin has three points or tips. Steak School even refers to it as a hidden gem in the steak world, as it has lots of flavor without the recognition of some other cuts. Tri-tip steak is popular in California, and although it's not brisket, the two share some profile similarities and are often cooked in the same way. Tri-tip comes from the front of the cow and does well with rubs, either wet or dry. Because it's a larger steak, you'll need more time for this to break down and become more tender, so cook time for smoking preparations is often around 45 minutes. But tri-tip does work for tacos. It's just that compared to other cuts of steak, you'll need a bit more know-how and time.

We love this cut for its affordability and versatility. You can roast it or grill it, and it's sold in a larger roast format or as steaks. However, tri-tip is utter perfection on the grill. If you have a bit more time and enough space for an outdoor grill, then this is a great pick for taco night. But if you're looking for something that can be quickly seared and sliced, tri-tip is probably not the taco steak for you. For that reason, we've put it in the top half of our list.

5. Ribeye steak

Ribeye might be one of the most popular cuts of steak and for very good reason. If you're looking for a steak that ranks high on flavor and tenderness, you may have hit the jackpot with ribeye. It's cut from the rib of the cow and has stunning marbling, which makes it juicy when cooked. Ribeye and prime rib are similar in flavor and texture since they're cut from the same part of the cow, explains My Chicago Steak. But we love that if you happen to have some leftovers from a larger prime rib roast, you can just cut it into smaller pieces for your tacos and still get a similar texture to ribeye.

If you're using ribeye for your steak tacos, keep in mind that you'll want to opt for the boneless option. That makes this cut slightly more expensive than some of the others on this list, but it's a sacrifice that is more than worth it. Once you take a bite of a freshly made taco with carefully chosen tacos wrapped in a warm tortilla, you'll wonder why you didn't go with ribeye all along. We didn't rank ribeye any higher because the boneless version can get pricey, making it unattainable for some. But if you have a few extra bucks to splurge on taco night and want to wow your friends, or just make a nice meal for yourself, ribeye steak tacos are a great option.

4. Flank steak

It's almost impossible to mention steak tacos without bringing up flank steak. This popular cut of meat ranks high on our list for many reasons. The cut comes from the area near the cow's belly or lower chest and is full of flavor. It's often also one of the more affordable cuts of steak you can find because it doesn't have much fat or marbling. This means it'll quickly get tough if you overcook it, even for a minute. Smoker Grill Girl recommends serving this cut no more than medium rare unless you want to chew on your steak for an eternity. You'll also want to remember to rest your steak, as you want all the juices to distribute evenly post-cooking. Another trick to tackle toughness is to marinate your steak the night before cooking. This allows it to become more tender, resulting in a supple steak for your tacos.

But while it may be ever so slightly more finicky than some fattier, richer cuts, it's got a pure beef flavor that is powerful enough to make a bold impression, even under a tower of taco toppings. You can use flank steak for a lot of recipes like stir-fry dishes, but when you give it a few minutes on the grill with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, you'll find that it may result in one of the best tacos you've ever experienced.

3. Sirloin steak

We love sirloin because it packs so much flavor! You're probably already familiar with this cut because it's what is most often the primary cut found in ground beef. You can find this cut towards the rear of the cow, explains Food Fire Friends, which is a part of the animal that gets plenty of movement. Because of this, it's a tougher piece of meat without much fat, and it can quickly go from rare and tender to overcooked and chewy. We're not snobs, but that's not what you want in your tacos.

But there aren't many other downsides to choosing this cut for taco night. It's a moderately priced cut of steak that delivers more than enough flavor. You can marinate sirloin, but you can't go wrong with a sprinkling of salt and pepper during cooking. Your taco toppings will only enhance the flavor of this beautiful cut of steak.

2. Flap steak

Flap steak is one of the most authentic cuts of steak you can use to tackle taco-making at home. According to MasterClass, it is the most commonly used cut of steak for carne asada because it's the perfect vehicle for delicious sauces and marinades to accompany your taco. If you find that skirt steak is a little too pricey for taco night with friends, this is your next best option. It's almost as delicious, at a fraction of the price.

This is often prepared as carne asada or grilled meat, which is common in Latin American countries. The meat is cut from the bottom part of the sirloin, which is towards the cow's hind legs, explains Silver Fern Farms. To get the perfect texture on this cut, you'll want to ensure that you slice it thinly and serve it at medium rare. This cut of meat embodies taco night because it's stunning when sliced thinly and it's juicy ... just don't overcook it!

1. Skirt steak

If you want to tackle authentic tacos at home, you can't go wrong using skirt steak. This cut of steak is from the underside of the cow towards its two front legs near its ribs, also known as the beef primal plate, according to Steak Revolution. It is one of the most versatile cuts of meat out there. You can slice it thin and marinate it for stir-fry or get your tools out and thinly slice this for Philly cheese steaks. But we're here for the tacos, and that's where skirt steak shines. It is lean and, if not cooked correctly, can be pretty tough. The connective tissue needs to be broken down, so a marinade will take your skirt steak tacos to new heights.

There are two important things to remember when preparing skirt steak for your steak tacos: slice against the grain and don't overcook it. Everything else is up to you!