Unveiling the Steak Tenderness Chart: Find Your Favorite Cut!

Steak tenderness chart

Are you tired of tough, chewy steaks that leave you feeling disappointed? Look no further than the steak tenderness chart. This helpful guide can assist you in choosing the most succulent cut for your next steak dinner.

In this article, I’ll explore the science behind steak tenderness and provide an in-depth look at the steak tenderness chart. We’ll also discuss how to measure and evaluate steak tenderness, as well as understanding the different levels of tenderness.

With this knowledge at your fingertips, you’ll be able to confidently choose the perfect steak for your preferences, ensuring a feast to remember.

Key Takeaways:

  • The steak tenderness chart can help you choose the most succulent cut of steak for your next meal.
  • Understanding the factors that contribute to steak tenderness is essential in making informed choices.
  • Different cuts of steak have varying levels of tenderness, from the most tender cuts to those that require more cooking time.
  • Doneness and cooking techniques can also impact steak tenderness.
  • Pairing your tender steak with flavorful accompaniments can enhance the overall dining experience.

Understanding Steak Tenderness and Its Importance

As a self-proclaimed steak lover, understanding steak tenderness is paramount to achieving perfect steak every time. Tender steak is the hallmark of a well-prepared dish, and it all comes down to evaluating steak tenderness. It’s not just about selecting the right cut of meat; factors like aging, cooking techniques, and doneness all contribute to the tenderness of your steak.

If you’re wondering what makes a steak tender, it’s the meat’s muscle fibers. Tenderness is determined by the length and thickness of these fibers, which are affected by different factors. Typically, the less a muscle is used, the more tender it will be. That’s why cuts like filet mignon, which come from less-used muscle areas, are more tender than cuts like flank steak, which come from highly active areas.

Another crucial factor in steak tenderness is marbling. Marbling refers to the thin threads of fat that run through the meat. The higher the marbling, the more tender, flavorful, and juicy the steak will be. This is why cuts like ribeye are well-loved among steak enthusiasts.

Evaluating Steak Tenderness

So, how do you evaluate steak tenderness? There are several methods, but one of the most common is the use of a meat tenderizing tool or mallet. These tools are used to break down the muscle fibers, making the steak more tender. However, this method can also reduce the flavor and juiciness of the meat, so it’s not always the best approach.

Another method is to use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the steak as it cooks. This method ensures that the steak is cooked to your desired level of doneness, and therefore, tenderness. Different levels of doneness (which we’ll explore further in section 6) correlate to different levels of tenderness. For instance, a rare steak will be more tender than a well-done steak.

Ultimately, evaluating steak tenderness is a combination of understanding the cut of meat, marbling, and cooking techniques. With practice and knowledge, you’ll be able to select and prepare the most tender, flavorful steaks for your next feast.

The Science Behind Tender Steak Cuts

When it comes to steak tenderness, we often hear about the marbling of fat as the primary factor. However, the science behind tender steak cuts is much more complex than that. To truly understand what makes a steak tender, we need to look at several factors.

The Role of Muscle

The muscle fibers in a steak play a significant role in its tenderness. Slow-twitch muscle fibers, also known as red fibers, are more resistant to fatigue and are found in muscles that have been worked more, such as the legs of the animal. These fibers require more cooking time to break down and can result in a tougher steak. In contrast, fast-twitch muscle fibers, or white fibers, are found in less worked muscles, such as the loin and rib, and require less cooking time to break down, resulting in a more tender steak.

Another factor to consider is the age of the animal. As the animal ages, the connective tissues in the meat become more rigid, resulting in a less tender steak.

Measuring Steak Tenderness

There are several methods used to measure steak tenderness. One of the most common methods is the Warner-Bratzler Shear force test. This test involves cutting a small sample of meat and measuring the force required to cut through it. The lower the force required, the more tender the steak.

Another method is the sensory evaluation test, where a panel of trained testers evaluates the steak’s tenderness based on factors such as juiciness, flavor, and texture.

Tender Steak Cuts

Now that we understand the science behind steak tenderness, let’s take a look at some of the most tender steak cuts:

Steak CutTenderness Rating
Filet Mignon5 out of 5
Ribeye4.5 out of 5
T-Bone4 out of 5
Sirloin3.5 out of 5

These cuts are typically located in the loin and rib area of the animal and have a high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers. However, it’s important to note that the tenderness of a steak can also be affected by other factors, such as cooking method and aging.

Now that we have a better understanding of the science behind tender steak cuts, let’s move on to decoding the steak tenderness chart in the next section.

Decoding the Steak Tenderness Chart

The steak tenderness chart is an essential tool for anyone looking to find the perfect cut of steak. It provides a comprehensive overview of the various levels of tenderness, allowing you to make an informed decision about which cut is best for you.

At its core, the steak tenderness chart is a scale that ranges from 1 to 5. The most tender cuts are at the top of the scale, while the lower end of the scale includes cuts that require more cooking time to achieve optimal tenderness. Let’s take a closer look:

Tenderness LevelDescriptionCuts
5Very tender with exceptional flavorFilet Mignon, Tenderloin, Rib-eye
4Tender with good flavorNew York Strip, T-Bone, Porterhouse
3Mildly tender with decent flavorTop Sirloin, Flank Steak, Eye of Round
2Tough with some chewSkirt Steak, Round Steak, Chuck Roast
1Very tough with minimal tendernessShoulder Steak, Brisket, Short Ribs

It’s important to note that the tenderness of a steak is not the only factor that determines its quality. Flavor, juiciness, and appearance also play a significant role in the overall dining experience. Use the steak tenderness chart as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different cuts to discover your personal favorite.

Exploring the Most Tender Cuts of Steak

When it comes to choosing the most tender steak, the cut of meat is essential. Here are some of my top picks:

Steak CutTenderness LevelBest Cooking Method
Filet MignonVery TenderGrill, Broil, or Sear
RibeyeTenderGrill or Broil
SirloinMedium TenderGrill or Broil

Note: Other cuts such as New York Strip, Tenderloin, Porterhouse, and T-Bone are also popular choices for their tenderness, but may require a slightly different cooking method.

What makes these cuts more tender than others? It comes down to the amount of marbling, or intramuscular fat, and the location of the muscle. Cuts that come from less-used muscles tend to be more tender, while those from more heavily worked muscles tend to be tougher.

Filet mignon is perhaps the most famous tender steak cut. It comes from the tenderloin, which is located in the least active part of the cow. This makes it incredibly tender, but also means it has less flavor than other cuts.

Ribeye, on the other hand, comes from a more active part of the cow, but still has a good amount of marbling, which contributes to its tenderness and flavor.

May I also suggest trying Wagyu beef? It’s known for its exceptional tenderness due to the high levels of marbling. However, it can be quite pricey, so it’s not an everyday indulgence.

Understanding the Doneness of Steak

Doneness refers to the level of cooking that your steak has undergone. It can be quite challenging to determine the degree of doneness you desire, but it all depends on your personal preferences. Here is a helpful steak doneness chart:

RareSeared on the outside and bright red in the center120-130°F
Medium RareSeared on the outside with a warm red center130-135°F
MediumA pink center with a seared exterior135-145°F
Medium WellA cooked but slightly pink center145-155°F
Well DoneCooked through with no pink160°F+

It’s worth noting that cooking a steak beyond medium can result in a less tender and flavorful piece of meat. Always aim to cook to the internal temperature that corresponds with your preferred doneness.

Factors Affecting Steak Tenderness

When it comes to evaluating steak tenderness, the cut of meat is only one factor to consider. Other factors, such as aging, cooking techniques, and even the breed of the animal, can all affect the tenderness of your steak.

Aging: One method to enhance steak tenderness is through aging. Dry-aging or wet-aging breaks down the muscle fibers, allowing for a more tender texture. Dry-aging takes more time, and some beef connoisseurs prefer its taste. Wet-aging is less time-consuming and more common in the food industry.

Cooking Techniques: How you cook your steak can also impact its tenderness. High-heat cooking methods like grilling or broiling can dry out your steak, making it tough and chewy. Slow-cooking methods like braising or sous vide, on the other hand, can break down the muscle fibers and result in a more tender steak.

Breed: The breed of cattle can also affect the tenderness of the resulting steak. Certain breeds, like Wagyu or Angus, are known for their tender meat due to the higher amount of marbling in the muscle tissue.

By understanding these additional factors, you can better evaluate steak tenderness and make informed choices when selecting and cooking your next steak.

Tips for Achieving Perfectly Tender Steak

As we explored the factors that affect steak tenderness, let’s now have a closer look at practical tips and techniques to ensure you achieve the perfect tender steak every time you cook.

Firstly, marinating the steak before cooking can have a significant impact on its tenderness. Marinating helps to break down the muscles and fibers, making the steak more tender and flavorful. A marinade can be as simple as olive oil, salt, and pepper, or you can get creative with different herbs and spices. Just make sure to marinate the steak for at least an hour before cooking.

Another way to ensure a tender steak is to use the right cooking method. Slow cooking methods such as braising or sous-vide cooking can break down the fibers in tougher cuts of meat and make them more tender. However, if you prefer to grill or pan-sear your steak, make sure to cook it at a lower temperature for a more extended period of time to achieve the desired tenderness.

It’s also crucial to let the steak rest after cooking. Cutting into a steak straight off the heat can cause all the juices to escape, resulting in a tough and dry piece of meat. As a general rule, let your steak rest for at least five minutes before slicing and serving. This allows the juices to redistribute and results in a more tender and juicy steak.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment with different cuts of steak and cooking methods. Each cut of meat has its unique characteristics and requires different cooking techniques to achieve the perfect tenderness. Keep in mind that even the most tender cuts can become tough if overcooked or not rested correctly.

By following these tips and techniques, you can ensure that every steak you cook is tender, juicy, and bursting with flavor.

Pairing Your Tender Steak with Flavorful Accompaniments

Now that you’ve selected the perfect cut of steak and cooked it to tender perfection, it’s time to pair it with equally delicious accompaniments. Here are some ideas for sides, sauces, and beverages that will enhance the flavors of your steak:


  • Roasted vegetables – Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and carrots are excellent options.
  • Grilled corn on the cob – Add some butter and herbs for extra flavor.
  • Garlic mashed potatoes – Creamy and flavorful.
  • Caesar salad – Classic and refreshing.


While a perfectly cooked steak can stand on its own, a delicious sauce can take it to the next level. Here are some sauce ideas:

  • Béarnaise sauce – A creamy sauce made with butter, egg yolks, and herbs.
  • Mushroom sauce – Made with sautéed mushrooms and red wine.
  • Chimichurri sauce – A fresh and zesty sauce made with parsley, garlic, and vinegar.
  • Red wine sauce – A classic sauce made with red wine, beef stock, and shallots.


The right beverage can elevate the flavors of your steak and enhance the dining experience. Here are some beverage ideas:

  • Red wine – Choose a full-bodied, fruity red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
  • Beer – A rich, malty beer like a porter or stout pairs well with steak.
  • Cocktails – A classic martini or Manhattan is a great choice to accompany steak.
  • Iced tea – For a non-alcoholic option, iced tea is a refreshing and flavorful choice.

Remember, the accompaniments you choose will depend on your personal taste and the flavors of your steak. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try new combinations!


Now that I’ve uncovered the secrets of the steak tenderness chart and explored the factors that contribute to the tenderness of different cuts, you’re ready to confidently choose the most tender steak for your next feast.

The steak tenderness chart is an excellent reference tool when you’re shopping for meat or planning your menu. Remember, the most tender cuts of steak are usually the most expensive, but there are plenty of options for every budget.

Understanding steak tenderness is a crucial step in creating a delicious and memorable meal. By selecting the best steak tenderness chart and paying attention to factors such as aging, cooking techniques, and doneness, you’ll be well on your way to achieving perfectly tender steak every time.

Happy Cooking and Enjoy Your Flavorful Journey Through the World of Steak!

And don’t forget to experiment with different seasonings, sauces, and side dishes to complement your tender steak. Whether you prefer a classic pairing or something more adventurous, the possibilities are endless. With a little practice and patience, you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with your culinary skills and your newfound understanding of steak tenderness.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your steak tenderness chart, head to your local butcher or grocery store, and start cooking up a storm. Your taste buds (and your stomach) will thank you for it!

Thank you for joining me on this journey of understanding steak tenderness. I hope this article has been helpful and informative. Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions, and feedback in the comments below.


How do I measure steak tenderness?

Steak tenderness can be measured using methods such as the Warner-Bratzler Shear Force test, which measures the force required to cut through a piece of meat. Another way to assess tenderness is through sensory evaluation, where experts rate the texture and juiciness of the steak.

What factors contribute to steak tenderness?

Several factors influence steak tenderness, including the cut of meat, the age of the animal, the amount of marbling (intramuscular fat), and the cooking method. Older animals tend to have tougher meat, while cuts from the loin or rib sections are generally more tender due to less connective tissue.

Are all steak cuts equally tender?

No, not all steak cuts are equally tender. Some cuts, like filet mignon and ribeye, are known for their tenderness, while others, such as flank or skirt steak, are more lean and require special cooking techniques to tenderize.

How can I make a less tender steak more tender?

To make a less tender steak more tender, you can try techniques such as marinating the meat to break down its fibers and adding moisture. Using a meat tenderizer or a marinade with acidic ingredients like vinegar or citrus can also help to tenderize the meat.

What is the ideal level of doneness for a tender steak?

The ideal level of doneness for a tender steak depends on personal preference. Some prefer a rare or medium-rare steak to retain maximum tenderness and juiciness, while others enjoy a medium or medium-well steak for a slightly firmer texture.

How can I achieve the perfect level of doneness for my steak?

To achieve the perfect level of doneness for your steak, you can use a meat thermometer to ensure accurate temperatures. For example, rare steak is typically cooked to an internal temperature of 125°F (52°C), medium-rare to 135°F (57°C), medium to 145°F (63°C), and well-done to 160°F (71°C).

Does aging steak affect its tenderness?

Yes, aging steak can affect its tenderness. Dry aging, a process where the meat is stored in a controlled environment for several weeks, allows enzymes to break down connective tissues and enhance the tenderness and flavor of the meat. Wet aging, where the meat is vacuum-sealed, also contributes to tenderness, although to a lesser extent.

Are there specific cooking methods that can enhance steak tenderness?

Yes, certain cooking methods can enhance steak tenderness. Techniques like sous vide, where the meat is vacuum-sealed and cooked at a precise low temperature, can result in a tender and evenly cooked steak. Slow cooking methods, such as braising or stewing, can also transform tougher cuts into tender and flavorful dishes.

What are some flavorful accompaniments for tender steak?

There are plenty of flavorful accompaniments that pair well with tender steak. Consider serving your steak with a delicious homemade sauce like peppercorn or chimichurri. Sides like garlic mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or a fresh salad can also complement the flavors of a tender steak. Don’t forget to pair it with your favorite red wine or a refreshing craft beer!

Check out some other posts...
Scroll to Top