When it comes to steak, filet mignon remains the best seller. Even so, the beef industry is subject to trends. Here are a few.
Barrel-cut: This pretty piece of meat is the choice part of a cut. If you’re eating a barrel-cut filet, it’s the section in the center that’s consistently tender with the same texture throughout. At 1776 in Rehoboth Beach, the barrel-cut refers to the center of a rib-eye. “I tell people that aesthetically it looks like a filet,” says owner Tom Holmes. But it has the rich flavor of a strip steak.
Kobe beef/Wagyu: Kobe beef, which gained steam toward the end of the last century, is highly marbled and buttery, which some say puts it above USDA Prime. Kobe comes from Japanese Wagyu cattle, a few of which were imported to the United States in the early 1990s. True Kobe meat is to beef what Champagne is to sparkling wine. To correctly use either name, the product must come from a precise geographical location. In Kobe beef’s case, it’s Kobe, Japan. Anything else should be called Wagyu or Kobe-style beef. It takes skill to handle, as anyone who’s tasted a dried-out Kobe burger with a big price tag can attest.
Bone-in: Whether it’s a filet or a rib-eye, leaving the bone in not only impacts the presentation but also affects the flavor, maintains Eric Huntley, executive chef of Redfire Grill & Steakhouse. “The marrow self-bastes the meat,” he explains.
Grass-fed: Meat from grass-fed cows is gaining ground at Brandywine Prime Seafood & Chops, which features a 16-ounce grass-fed New York strip. What’s the diff? It’s often lower in fat and cholesterol than meat from grain-fed cows. The taste, Huntley says, has a “little more earthiness” to it. Buyer beware: In some cases, the cow was fed grain a short time before slaughtering to promote marbling. If you’re a purist, ask if the animals received any grain at any point. The American Grassfed Association’s certification program insists on a lifetime diet of foraged material from pastures.
Inexpensive cuts with cache: Skirt steak, flank and hanger steak, often used for steak frites, are the bistro’s darling. These cuts are more affordable than many traditional steak house cuts, but with proper handling and preparation, they can still please your palate.