The Most Tender Cut of Steak (Ranked From Most Tender to Least)

June 30, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

Of the several varieties of steaks that come from a cow, the filet mignon (also known as a tenderloin or chateaubriand) is the most tender of all.

Other supremely tender cuts of steak include flat iron, strip, rib-eye, short ribs, t-bone, and porterhouse.  These succulent cuts of beef come from high up on the cow.

For many people, myself included, firing up a grill and cooking a steak is their idea of the perfect weekend meal. I’m a sucker for a giant slab of beef, so I’ve grilled hundreds of steaks, in every cut imaginable. I’ll fill you in on my tenderness rankings.

Ready to discover all the cuts of steak, from the most tender to the toughest?

Most Tender Cut of Steak

Which Steak is the Most Tender?

The most tender steak cut is, hands down, the tenderloin. No wonder it’s one of the most expensive steaks.

The tenderloin is true to its name – it is as tender as butter and practically melts in your mouth whether you fry it in a pan or grill it. 

Make sure you coat your pan in plenty of butter, as the tenderloin doesn’t have much fat, and benefits from the added flavor. Or, top the tenderloin with compound butter after grilling.

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Is Filet Mignon Part of the Tenderloin?

Yes. The filet mignon is a small cut from the narrow tip of the filet/tenderloin. This area is very narrow, and the cut only weighs around 8 ounces. It’s located around or just after the ribs and is not an active part of the cow.

Why is Tenderloin So Expensive? 

If you look at the whole beef, the tenderloin is only a narrow, tube-like strip. Two strips, weighing 6-8 pounds each, are harvested per cow. Since the cut is so small and the demand for it is so high, tenderloin is a pricy hunk of beef. 

It is an incredibly tender, lean cut of meat with a mild beefy flavor. The tenderness and versatility of this cut of beef make it sell like a hot cake. Because it is so lean, tenderloin contains less marbling than other popular steaks like the ribeye or New York strip.

grilled steak on a iron skillet

How is Tenderloin Best Prepared?

What’s the best way to cook supremely tender filet mignon? Pan-fry or grill it. Cook it fast over a scorching hot grill or stove, and don’t overcook it. For medium-rare, aim for 125°F internal temperature. 

Due to its leanness, you have to be careful not to overcook it, because this piece of meat can quickly cooked through. 

You can sear the meat directly on each side for about 2 to 3 minutes at high temperatures (500°). 

To get the desired temperature, I recommend checking repeatedly with an instant-read thermometer.

I cook my tenderloin to medium rare, or 125°F. For medium, take it to 135°F. Cook it any further, and it will dry out quickly.

If you’re resting your tenderloin, let it sit for around 5 minutes before slicing the steak. The juices will be redistributed as the tenderloin rests. Or, you can dig in right away, and dredge the meat through the plate juices as you it eat.

I like to throw a pat of compound butter on top of my filets. The cut is lean, so adding fat makes the flavors pop.

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Close up of a tender cooked steak

What is the Second Most Tender Steak?

Flat Iron Steak, the tender surprise from the shoulder of beef, is the most tender steak after the tenderloin. Flat iron is a less known cut of steak from the chuck primal cut, a much-moved muscle area. 

An old theory held that a good steak was always cut from the parts of the beef that weren’t moved much. It was thought that meat with fewer muscle fibers is more tender and chewable. 

However, the theory has since been challenged. Tender steaks like the flat iron and the rib eye steak come from areas the cow frequently moves. 

Many cooks find that the steak is as tender as a filet and flavorful as a rib eye.

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How is the Flat Iron Different From Other Types of Steak?

The steak is shaped like an iron. Since it is released below the tendon, it is very flat and wide. However, you will also notice other differences with the flat iron steak. 

On one hand, it has a delicate texture. At the same time, it has a pronounced marbling from the muscular area in the shoulder, which moves a lot. 

This widens towards the tip and provides fat that makes the meat juicy and flavorful. 

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What’s the Best Way to Cook a Flat Iron Steak?

It is great for steak lovers who like pan frying and grilling. It ends up tender when cooked over high heat, and has a mouth-watering aroma.

Pan searing is a terrific way to get it tender and juicy. But I’m a griller at heart. If I grab some flat iron steaks from my butcher, they’ve got a date with a hot (500°F) grill.

Bonus! Flat iron steaks are cheaper than other cuts of beef. Flavorful, tender, and affordable? Yes, please!

Since the steak has an robust flavor, not many spices are necessary. I stick to salt and freshly ground black pepper.

What is the Third Most Tender Steak?

For me, the rib-eye is the third most tender cut of beef. It’s also bursting with beefy flavor. If I’m grilling a steak at home, chances are it’s a rib-eye. 

Butchers take rib-eye from the prime rib roast, which is one of the most tender parts of the cow. The ribeye steak is a well-marbled and flavorful cut of steak.

The rib-eye cap steak is also quite tender and juicy. The ribeye cap steak has all the flavor from the rib-eye with the tenderloin’s tenderness.

How is a Rib-Eye Cooked?

Rib-eye is perfect for grilling over high temperatures (500°F or higher). Alternatively, you can smoke it (at 225°) then reverse-sear it on a screaming hot grill. For best results, don’t overcook your rib-eye steak. It’s best to shoot for a medium-rare (125°F) or medium (135°F) internal temperature. I like mine cooked to medium-rare.

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raw tenderloin steak

Other Popular Steaks According to Their Tenderness

Strip Steak 

The strip steak is also one of the most tender steak cuts of beef. Very tender and delicious, this is another cut that’s great for grilling. 

Strip steak comes from the loin and is referred to as the New York strip loin, top sirloin, or Kansas City strip.

I like my strip steaks at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. There’s no need to marinate a strip steak. Just season liberally with salt and pepper before grilling.

Short Ribs

Have you ever heard of fall-off-the-bone ribs? This is used to describe how tender and juicy ribs get when they’re smoked. The ribs are meltingly soft and delicious. 

I get the best out of these pieces of meat on the grill and the oven using a low and slow 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 method, such as the Johnny Triggs Style. This way, the steak gets tender and come off the bone, to the delight of any pitmaster. 

Porterhouse Steak and T-bone Steak

The porterhouse and T-bone steaks house some of the most tender steak cuts of beef. Why do I say that? Well, both the tenderloin and strip steaks are found in T-bone and porterhouse steaks.

So they’re excellent options for a steak lover who likes bone-in cuts of beef. There’s not a lot of difference between a T-bone steak and a porterhouse. The porterhouse steak is a slightly more tender and juicy steak as it houses a larger chunk of tenderloin.

Hanger Steak

Also called the butcher’s steak or a hanging tenderloin steak, the hanger steak is a cut of steak that’s highly prized for its flavor. It’s taken from the plate, just under the front belly of the cow. Hanger steak is my favorite butcher’s cut. Cook it to medium-rare (125°F) or medium (135°F).

The Flank Steak

The flank steak is another fairly tender steak. And it’s perfect for the grill – cook it hot and fast and revel in it’s beefy juiciness. Slice it against the grain to maximize tenderness.

Just don’t cook it too long. Flank steak is thin, so sear the meat for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until the internal temperature reads 125°F. 

The Skirt Steak

Typically, the skirt steak is not particularly tender.

However, if you slice the skirt steak thinly and cook it to medium (135°F) you can have a tender bite of meat. Skirt steak is also one of the more flavorful cuts of beef.

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Smoked steak on a plate

How Long Can Steaks Be Refrigerated?

Like any meat, steaks should always be stored well-chilled if you are not going to cook it immediately.

At refrigeration temperatures of 40°F or lower, the meat can be kept for about 3 to 4 days after purchasing. For longer storage, it must be frozen.   

A Note About Beef Cuts

The names of beef cuts can vary by region. One person’s Strip steak is another’s New York Strip, and another’s top sirloin. When in doubt about the cut of beef you’re looking at, consult your butcher.

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I’ve shown you some of the most tender steak cuts of beef in the market. If your teeth can’t take tougher, chewier steaks, go for the tenderloin or the flat iron steak.

Whatever cut you select, be careful not to overcook it. The further you go past medium-rare, the toothier your beef will be. Let your meat rest, and never slice a steak along the grain

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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