6 Cuts Of Meat You Should Buy And 6 Cuts Of Meat You Should Avoid

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You're at a nice steakhouse, and there are what seems like a million different options to choose from on the menu. So many different cuts with such specific qualities ... whatever happened to a good old-fashioned steak? Well, knowing your steak game not only makes it seem like you know what you're doing the next time you go out to a fancy dinner — it also gives you the best chance of ordering a mouth-watering piece of meat that comes out just how you like it.

So, which are the best cuts available out there, and which should you stay away from? While it largely comes down to personal taste, we have some suggestions for which cuts you should definitely try and those you're better off avoiding. The trick here is to be adventurous and be open to trying new things. You never know when you're going to find your new favorite cut of meat. Here are the best and worst cuts you can choose the next time you're at a steakhouse or wandering the meat aisle looking for what to cook for dinner.

Buy: Brisket

You may not expect the humble brisket to end up at the top of any list, but that's just where it comes in for us. This is a cheaper cut of meat that often comes in one big hunk: It's usually between about eight and 20 pounds, so it can easily feed your whole family. That may not be what you typically go for when you're at the grocery store, but it never hurts to try something new. Lots of people won't go for this cut of meat because they've heard it's tough. While that's true, it doesn't mean that brisket isn't delicious ... if you know how to handle it, that is.

It all comes down to how you cook it. Are you going to sear it like a T-bone steak? Absolutely not. Rather, a brisket requires low and slow cooking. That's because of the way the fat is distributed on this kind of meat. It's not very well-marbled, which means that it needs plenty of time to break down and tenderize the rest of the leaner meat. But when you do cook it slowly, it turns out to be one of the tenderest, juiciest cuts you can find.

It's ideal for when you want to serve a lot of people all at once. Perhaps that's why it's featured prominently in Jewish cuisine for special events. Break out the slow cooker for this one, and get ready for a delicious dinner.

Buy: T-bone

When you want the best of both worlds, you have to go with a T-bone. That's because this well-known cut actually features two separate cuts in one: a strip steak and a sirloin. Considering that you'll get both these cuts, you know you're going to get a lot of meat when you order a T-bone — and if that's what you want, then it should be your go-to order. Plus, it just looks satisfying: It's essentially a symbol for a well-appointed meal. When you think of steak and potatoes, this is probably the kind of steak that comes to mind.

It's not just the size of this cut of meat that makes it a good option, though. You're certainly not going to have to sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to a T-bone. The fact that the bone is still in the meat means you get to hold onto a lot more of that flavor. It'll be harder to overcook your steak, and there's a greater chance that it'll come out juicy and flavorful.

There is one downside to ordering a T-bone, though, and that's the price. These are notoriously expensive cuts, so it's best to save them for special occasions and not your average weeknight meal.

Buy: Ribeye

This one is not going to be controversial. Many agree that ribeye is one of the best cuts of steak out there, and that's because it has so much to offer on the flavor front. It comes off of the rib of the cow, and it's so prized because of its beautiful marbling. This means that the fat is well-distributed throughout the piece of meat, allowing it to get juicy and tender quickly.

While there are other cuts that taste just as tender as this one, with the ribeye, you get an added benefit: It's a pretty big cut. Just think about it. When you order a filet mignon, you're not going to be getting all that much meat — you'll have to pig out on your sides instead. But if you have a healthy appetite for steak, you can get that tenderness and wonderful flavor you love in a bigger slab of beef.

Buy: Beef tongue

Beef tongue might not be at the top of your list now, but it could be in the future ... if you have an open mind about it, of course. When some people think about eating tongue, it freaks them out a little bit. But in reality, it's not that different than any other part of the animal, other than the fact that you may not be that used to eating it.

Here's the thing, though: Beef tongue tastes absolutely amazing. According to Evan LeRoy, pitmaster at LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue, it may just be the most underrated cut of meat out there. According to him, beef tongue is "just as fatty, beefy, and delicious as short ribs," but, "it's just hard to get regular people over the fact that they're eating tongue."

In the end, if you can get over the weird-out factor at first, you'll likely find that this is an especially tasty cut of meat. Our suggestion? Instead of cooking it for yourself the first time you try it, you should order it at a restaurant. That way, you can decide if you like it before you decide to do the gory part yourself.

Buy: Hanger steak

If you've gone to any trendy restaurant in a major city in the last five years or so, there's probably one cut of meat that you've seen on the menu over and over again: hanger steak. It's seemingly everywhere. But what's all the hype about?

Turns out, it's an especially delicious cut of meat, and if you haven't tried it yet, you definitely have to check it out. People love that it's so tender, and it seriously does melt in your mouth the second you eat it.

William DeMarco is the corporate executive chef at CRUSH and La Cave Wine & Food Hideaway, and he agrees that hanger steak is delicious. He told Thrillist that he likes it because it has "the tenderness of the filet and the flavor of the New York." He goes on to say that, "It's also known as the butcher steak because the butchers used to keep it for themselves rather than sell it."

Admittedly, some other chefs told Thrillist that hanger steak was overrated, and we can understand why they think that. When you see one type of food everywhere, it's easy to get bored of it. But when that food is as tasty as a hanger steak, we don't mind.

Buy: Denver steak

A lot of times, when you think of having a steak, you probably think of a fancy (and let's admit it, expensive) dinner. However, you can enjoy a cut of steak that's on the cheaper side and still get everything you love about a meaty meal. If you're looking for a good budget cut that certainly isn't lacking in taste, a Denver steak might be the right choice for you.

Hosea Rosenberg, who is the chef and owner of famed restaurant Blackbelly, explains why this is such a desirable cut of meat: "The Denver is a really amazing and affordable cut. It's found on the chuck, is well-marbled, and has no connective tissues or fat caps to negotiate. Just delicious, firm steak that can be grilled, roasted, or seared to a perfect medium-rare for about 25 percent of the cost of a 'premium' cut of steak."

There you have it. You don't have to settle for a chicken dinner when you really want steak just because you're pinching your pennies. Pick up some Denver steak, give it a quick sear on the grill, and you've got yourself a meal that tastes way fancier than it looks.

Avoid: Round steak

You don't have to spend a fortune to get a good cut of meat. In fact, there are plenty of less expensive options that will ensure that you have a delicious steak night. However, the round steak is not one of those options in the slightest. We don't want to say it's bad, but we did rate it as the worst option when it came to our ranking of different cuts of steak. Why? Well, mostly because it's super tough, without any of the tenderness you want.

Round steak comes from the rear rump of the cow, and you can find round steak that comes from the top, the tip, or the bottom. If you're going to give this cut a shot, try to find a top cut. It will be slightly more tender than your other options (but that's not saying a lot).

Generally, the only thing you'd do with this kind of meat is make a roast beef sandwich. If you slice it very thin, it may not be that bad. But would we serve it up as the main attraction? Probably not.

Avoid: Filet mignon

It might surprise you that we included filet mignon on our list of meats to avoid. But hear us out. You may have heard that filet mignon is the best cut to order, and that's certainly true if all you're looking for is tenderness. It is an incredibly tender cut of meat, which makes it a real joy to bite into. But because there's not that much fattiness there, you're not going to get much in the way of flavor. A truly good steak will have not just the ideal texture but also the ideal taste.

And here's another thing about filet mignon: It's going to set you back a pretty penny. This cut of meat is quite expensive, especially if you order it from a restaurant that knows how to cook it well. All things considered, there are better options out there that you won't have to pay as much for. So why wouldn't you try those instead? Filet mignon might have a lot of hype surrounding it, but you don't have to buy into it.

One thing we do love about a good filet mignon, though? Since it's low in fat, it's great for people on diets who are looking for a way to treat themselves, according to Tasting Table.

Avoid: Flank steak

While there are some valid applications for flank steak, we definitely think it's one of the cuts you should avoid. This is especially true if you're looking for the best cut of meat to cook yourself. That's because flank steak is easy to mess up. And if you do, you're in for a really tough piece of meat that's going to be difficult to even chew through.

According to Tasting Table, it tastes best when it's prepared medium rare. After you take it off the heat, you should cut it thinly, against the grain. That makes this tough piece of meat a lot easier to chew.

However, preparing it perfectly takes a lot of practice, so if you're not already an expert, you may want to pass up on it in favor of an easier steak to cook. One plus about the humble flank steak, though? Since you have to cut it so thin for it to be edible, you can serve it to a lot of people if you have guests over. But that's not so helpful if you're just cooking for yourself and for your family, which is probably the case most of the time.

Avoid: Tenderloin

Like the filet mignon, tenderloin gets a lot of good press. It's one of the most recognizable cuts of meat, and there's something about it that just sounds fancy, like it's something that you should want to order. But is it really the best item on the menu or hunk of meat in the grocery store? We'd argue it's not.

While the tenderloin is, as its name suggests, tender, that's about all it has to offer ravenous meat eaters. When asked about the most overrated cuts of meat out there, Peter Serpico, executive chef and owner at Serpico, admitted that for him, it was definitely beef tenderloin.

According to him, "It's not that there's anything wrong with it; it's just that it's generally too expensive for what it is. As an alternative, I always recommend a hanger steak. Just as soft but much more flavorful." And since you can, in fact, find hanger steak at a lot of restaurants now, it just seems like that's a better choice.

Maybe you're getting where we're coming from here, but in our opinion, it just doesn't make sense to pay more for a cut of meat simply because there's a lot of hype around it. The flavor is more important.

Avoid: Kobe beef

You already know that we're a big fan of the ribeye because of its texture, its price point, and its overall deliciousness. But you're probably already familiar with one of the most well-known types of ribeye: Kobe. This kind of meat only comes from one certain kind of cow called the Tajima, which is raised in Hyōgo, Japan.

When it comes to beef, this stuff really is the cream of the crop. The cows are super healthy and pampered, the marbling of the meat is impeccable, and the taste is completely out of this world. If you ever get a chance to try it, you definitely should. But here's the thing. Just because you order it off a menu doesn't mean you're getting real Kobe beef.

Restaurants often use the term "Kobe" as a marketing ploy for a lot of meat that's just, well ... not really Kobe. Real Kobe will be expensive, and it will likely be difficult to find outside of Japan. It's not the kind of thing you're going to come across at a chain restaurant or even in a gourmet burger.

You shouldn't pass up on the real thing, but you should be very hesitant to buy just anything with the label "Kobe" slapped on it.

Avoid: Strip steak

Strip steak may seem to be one of the most desirable steak options out there. It comes from the short loin of the animal, which is the same area that produces the porterhouse and T-bone steaks. That means you're getting some quality meat when you choose a strip steak.

However, since this cut is from a tasty part of the cow, you're going to pay more for it. And here's the thing: It's not that tender. It's also lacking the flavor you'd find from other nearby cuts, like a T-bone. That's largely because it's served without the bone, which helps retain flavor and prevents the meat from overcooking.

Our recommendation? Instead of choosing a strip steak, go with what's known as a club steak or a shell steak instead. It's the same cut of meat, but it's served with the bone attached. After all, if you're going to pay more for a cut of meat anyway, you should make sure it's packing as much flavor as possible, right?