Some cuts are much leaner than others

As we’ve been told time and time again, “fat is flavor.” Nowhere is this more applicable than in steaks, where the fat-to-meat ratio can mean the difference between a tough, chewy steak and a tender and delicious one. Below are 11 different steaks according to fat content, starting with the leanest and finishing with the fattiest.

On a steak, fat appears in two places. The first is extra-muscular fat, or fat trim, which can be found on the outside of the muscle and is easily trimmed off. It’s also generally not eaten, as it’s basically just gristle. Intramuscular fat, on the other hand, is a whole other story. Commonly referred to as “marbling,” it’s the fat that weaves its way through the steak itself, melting as it’s cooked and making the steak tender, juicy, and decadent.

Different steaks have plenty of different uses, largely dependent on the intramuscular fat content. A nice New York strip has excellent marbling, and is best when simply fried in a pan or broiled. Chuck steak, on the other hand, has nearly no marbling and will result in a tough piece of meat if simply grilled, so it’s best when braised and allowed to get fall-apart tender, which can take a couple hours.

It’s also good to know the fat content of steaks when you’re in a steakhouse. If you’re not a fan of fatty meat, for example, then you probably shouldn’t order a rib-eye, which will leave you hacking for pieces of fat-free meat. A filet mignon, on the other hand, while nowhere near fat-free, is usually entirely edible with no visible gristle.

Kobe beef (and its cousin, Wagyu), have been all the rage lately, and the primary reason behind that is marbling. To produce these varieties of beef, cows are granted a life of luxury, and as they fatten up more and more fat works its way into the muscles. Therefore, if you ever spring for a Kobe or Wagyu steak, you can expect the results to be super-marbled. These steaks should never be cooked more than medium-rare, and it’s so tender it’ll melt in your mouth.

But for today’s purposes, we’re talking about the everyday steaks that you’ll find in the butcher counter or at your favorite steakhouse. Read on to learn which steaks have the most fat, and which steaks have the least. Nutritional facts are from Calorie Count, and are based on a six-ounce cut.

11) Sirloin Tip Side Steak
This steak has little to no marbling, but is still flavorful. We wouldn’t recommend cooking it up like a standard steak, but it’s perfect for slow-cooking.

Fat: 5.4 grams
Calories: 206
Saturated Fat: 2 grams

10) Eye of Round
The rear leg of the cow is called the round, so any cuts with the word “round” in it come from this cut. This cut looks similar to the filet mignon, but it’s not taken from the tenderloin so it’s a lot tougher and less juicy. These are best used for eye of round roasts, prepared like prime rib and sliced as thinly as possible.

Fat: 7 grams
Calories: 276
Saturated Fat: 2.4 grams

9) Top Round
Also called London Broil, top round is a lean, tough cut, so it’s best when braised. It’s also a good choice for jerky.

Fat: 7.6 grams
Calories: 240
Saturated Fat: 3 grams

8) Top Sirloin
The top sirloin is an entirely different cut of meat from the sirloin (it’s located on the other side of the tenderloin), but it looks similar and can be cooked in a similar way as well: hot and fast. You don’t want to cook it any more than medium rare; however, because there’s still only a small amount of marbling on it.

Fat: 10.6 grams
Calories: 316
Saturated Fat: 4 grams

7) Bottom Round
The third and final cut of meat from the round, bottom round is also lean and best when braised, but it has a slightly higher level of marbling so can be eaten as a steak if tenderized. Just make sure it’s cooked no further than medium rare.

Fat: 11 grams
Calories: 300
Saturated Fat: 3.8 grams

6) Sirloin Flap
The flap is sometimes confused with the hanger steak (which looks similar and has a comparable fat content), but it’s an entirely different cut, coming from the bottom sirloin primal, near where the tri-tip comes from. Sometimes called the sirloin tip or faux hanger, it’s inexpensive and extremely versatile: you can marinate and grill it then slice it thinly, cube and skewer it, or braise it and let it fall apart into shreds. Eat it medium-rare or medium; any less and it’ll be mushy.

Fat: 12 grams
Calories: 240
Saturated Fat: 3.8 grams

5) Filet Mignon
Cut from the thicker end of the tenderloin, the filet mignon is quite possibly the most tender cut on a steer, simply because the muscle really has nothing to do. Of all the high-end steaks, this is also the one with the least amount of fat.

Fat: 16 grams
Calories: 348
Saturated Fat: 6 grams

4) Porterhouse/ T-Bone
The steak of choice at many top steakhouses including Peter Luger, the porterhouse is actually a composite of two steaks, the tenderloin and the short loin. Porterhouse steaks are cut from farther back on the steer so there’s a nice size piece of tenderloin on it, and t-bones are generally cut from further up, resulting in less tenderloin. It’s a great all-around steak as well; you get the filet and the New York strip all in one.

Fat: 16.4 grams
Calories: 346
Saturated Fat: 6.6 grams

3) Skirt Steak
The skirt steak comes from the plate section of the steer, down by the belly. While it contains a similar amount of fat as flank steak, which is located further back, it’s a completely different muscle. It’s best cooked hot and fat,sliced thinly, and it holds onto marinades well.

Fat: 17.2 grams
Calories: 348
Saturated Fat: 6.6 grams

2) New York Strip
The New York strip; also called a club steak, shell steak, or Kansas City strip, comes from the short loin primal and is another steakhouse favorite. It’s well-marbled, dry-ages well, and is an all-around favorite even though it’s not the most tender cut.

Fat: 18 grams
Calories: 360
Saturated Fat: 6 grams

1) Rib-Eye
The top of the heap, the rib-eye is the most prized, expensive, and well-marbled cut you’ll find on a cow. Cut from the rib section, it’ll sometimes be served with the rib still attached and called a cowboy rib-eye. It’s quite fatty and is incredibly versatile; it can be seared in a hot pan or roasted whole low and slow, resulting in a prime rib. The fat content makes it a special occasion steak, but you won’t find many people eating a rib-eye multiple nights a week, anyway.

Fat: 37.6 grams
Calories: 466
Saturated Fat: 15 grams

Hope this helps with decision making! TDM