Whether you’re going out to a great steakhouse or taking a stab at preparing meat yourself, when it comes to picking a choice piece of steak, you’ve got options. Which is the most tender piece of meat? How marbled should it be? Which is the leanest cut? What if I don’t have a grill?

Here’s a handy guide of what you need to know if you want to carnivore like a pro.

FILET MIGNON

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Also known as tenderloin, filet mignon is the most tender cut you can find (and the most expensive!). Not attached to a bone, this lean and tender steak offers a mild and almost buttery flavor. Although smaller than most other cuts of steak, tenderloins are cut thicker than most (two to three inches).

The key to sealing in all the flavor and juicy goodness is to cook this cut quickly. We recommend searing the outside until browned (2-4 minutes each side) and then finishing it in the oven (5-10 minutes, depending on your preference). For an even richer indulgence, get our Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Butter recipe.

T-BONES and PORTERHOUSE STEAKS

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Cut and sold bone-in, the T-Bone (porterhouse) is named for the distinctive T-shaped bone separating two halves of meat. Half tenderloin and half NY Strip, the T-bone offers the best of both worlds: the juicy beefiness of a strip steak paired with the succulence of tenderloin.

Point of fact: in order to be classified as a porterhouse, per USDA regulations, the tenderloin portion must be 1.25 inches wide. That’s more than double the tenderloin you’ll find in a T-bone (only half an inch wide).

For this cut, we recommend searing each side quickly in a cast iron skillet with a generous amount of olive oil, and finishing it on the grill. Remember to keep the tenderloin side further from the heat source as it will cook more quickly than the strip side. You’ll know you’ve nailed  it when you take a bite of this mouth-wateringly marbled, medium rare masterpiece. Try this deliciously simple Porterhouse Steak recipe or our Bistecca Fiorentina recipe.

NY STRIP

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The measure of any good steakhouse can be taken by how well they prepare a New York strip steak. Also known as Kansas City strip, Manhattan, shell steak, strip loin, and club steak, the New York strip is characterized by the perfectly-balanced marbling that gives it its beefy full-flavor. This cut is often enjoyed rare or blue to showcase its natural tender texture. Get our New York Strip Steak with Caramelized Shallots recipe.

RIB-EYE

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Tender and moist, the rib-eye has long been a steak lover’s favorite. Also known as the Delmonico, the Scotch fillet, and the Spencer (to name a few), the rib-eye has heaps of fat marbling throughout. The central eye of the meat has a finer grain, with a looser and fattier outer layer. All that generous, fatty marbling gives the rib-eye a particularly gamey flavor that serious meat eaters enjoy.

While a rib-eye cut is boneless, its close cousin, the rib steak, is cut with the bone attached.

Does a little spice sound nice? If so, get our Akudjura-Crusted Ribeye Steak recipe or our Steak au Poivre recipe.

— Head photo: Chowhound.

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