From Top to Tip: Where Does Steak Come From?

June 30, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Steak can come from any part of the cow.

One of my earlier tasks in culinary school was identifying where the different cuts of meat came from and what beef cuts they gave way to. So, I can easily answer your question about where does steak come from.

In this post, I will give you a better idea of what beefsteaks are and give you a rundown of where each type of steak comes from. Let's begin!

Where Does Steak Come From

What Animal is Steak From?

If you are like most people, then you will typically use the word steak to refer to meat from a cow. However, this term can actually be used to describe large cuts of meat from everything from large fish to chicken.

As such, you can find fish steaks, venison steaks, pork steak, and pork shoulder steaks among beef steaks.

The word steak originates from the Old Norse word steikja or steik. This word means meat over a stick. It describes the way that the Norse people used to prepare their meat - staked on a stick and roasted over a fire.

It is assumed that the name became inextricably linked to cattle and beef in Old England.

Today, if someone uses the term steak with no other identifying terms, then they are probably referring to a beefsteak typically.

Does Steak Come From Cows or Bulls?

OK, so as you are aware, beef steaks come from bovines. However, do they come from the female or the male of the animal?

Well, first, let's clarify some terms - bulls, steers, cows, and heifers.

Bulls are male cattle that are typically used for breeding and not meat. Steer, on the other hand, are castrated male beef cattle and are used for beef.

Steak and French Fries on Gray Plate

Cows are female beef cattle, but they are commonly referred to as such when they are mature and have half had at least one calf. They are more likely to be used for breeding and dairy but can be used for meat as well.

Finally, there are heifers - young females that can be used for either meat or breeding and dairy. Once a heifer gives birth, she is then known as a cow.

Does Steak Come From Female Cows or Steer More Often?

Naturally, every farm will have a specific female and male population of cattle. More often than not, however, steers are used more for meat - and steak.

This is because pound for pound, they tend to have more flesh. As such, they bring in a higher profit.

What Part of Cow is Steak?

You have probably eaten quite a bit of steak in your life, but it is only when you start to cook the steak yourself that you begin to think about questions like:

Which part of the cow does steak come from?

Well, there is no straightforward answer here as a steak comes from various parts of the cow or steer. As such, you can get all types of steak.

To begin with, though, let's talk about the different cuts of beef. See, beef is divided into large sections that are known as primal beef cuts. The main sections are the forequarters and hindquarters.

These areas are then broken down into sub-primal cuts such as chuck, brisket, rib, plate, short loin, flank, sirloin, tenderloin, top sirloin, bottom sirloin, and round. These sections, in turn, are where steaks are cut from.

Now, let's dive into the various categories as well as how you can prepare each cut of meat!

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Types of Steak

Here are the different types of beefsteak you should know about:

Filet Mignon

This refers to a steak that is cut from the beef tenderloin. The tenderloin muscle is a long, cylindrical muscle that can be found along the spine. This is a more expensive cut because it is incredibly tender - this muscle doesn't get much exercise.

This steak has very little fat, so it is key to avoid overcooking it. You will also not need to use any marinades with it. Instead, a flavorful sauce or even just butter is enough. You can season it with salt, pepper, and a few herbs.

It is typically cooked in a cast-iron skillet to a rare or medium-rare level of doneness.

Ribeye Steak

This steak is known for being one of the juiciest options and has plenty of marbling on it. It is cut from the center of the rib area and can be sold as either a bone-in or boneless steak. While the ribeye is a more flavorful cut than filet mignon, it does have a chewier texture.

This is a good choice for novices as even if it is overcooked slightly, it will still be quite juicy. When choosing this meat look for lots of marbling and a thick fat cap on top. The prime rib is also a good cut, also taken from the rib section.

Due to its high fat content, you don't have to marinate the steak - a simple rub will do as you don't want to overpower that natural beefy flavor. This teak needs to be cooked over dry heat in a cast iron pan or grill.

Strip Steak

This is also known as the New York strip and it is taken from the short loin. It doesn't have as much fat as a ribeye, but it has more flavor than tenderloin. The strip steak is usually sold as a boneless cut.

Once again, this steak should be flavored with a simple rub and cooked over dry heat. It works best as a medium-rare or medium level of doneness.

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Sirloin Steak

As the name suggests, this meat cut comes from the sirloin section. Now, this isn't the most popular of all steak cuts. Many people don't appreciate its mild flavor or the fact that it isn't very tender. It is, however, quite affordable.

As long as you know how to prepare this steak, you are good to go. First, a delicious dry rub will do wonders for this cut of beef. I would also advise you to cook it to no more than medium-rare as there isn't much fat on this steak, to begin with.

T-Bone or Porterhouse Steak

These are essentially the same steak. They are taken from the short loin and always have the bone in. The only difference is that the porterhouse is cut from the back of the loin and contains a larger portion of filet mignon. This makes it a more tender cut.

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Grilled meat on black fine porcelain

Cook these steaks over dry heat. As they tend to be thick cuts, it is important to make sure that the middle is cooked all the way through.

Tomahawk Steak

This is essentially a ribeye steak as it was also taken from the rib primal, except the rib bone wasn't cut out. They are usually at least two inches thick and have been known to feed several people at a time.

Now, due to their size, these steaks can be pretty intimidating to cook, but it is all about knowing the right technique. First, sear them in a skillet on a stove and then transfer them into an oven. Alternatively, you can cook on a grill, on the side with indirect heat.

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Skirt Steak

This cut is taken from a long, thin muscle from the plate section of the belly. As it has a lot of connective tissue, it can be pretty tough. Cook it just right, though, and it turns out tender and juicy.

I would advise you to marinate skirt steaks in an acidic marinade. Do this for about half an hour before you cook it. Then, flash sear it over high heat and serve it medium. Always cut against the grain when serving.

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Flank Steak

This cut of meat is also taken from the belly, but from the flank section, closer to the rear. The flank steak is tender and wide and when it is cooked, it can be nice and juicy.

Once again, you should marinate in flavorful ingredients and then cook it over high heat. Cut against the grain before serving.

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Hanger Steak

This is an incredibly flavorful cut of meat and to make it better, it is quite affordable as well. It comes from the plate or belly section. It is important to ask your butcher to remove the membrane sections, particularly if you are buying an entire hanger steak.

Soak it in a strongly acidic marinade and quickly cook over high heat. Cut against the grain before serving.

Rump Steak

Can't afford a ribeye? Well, this is the next best thing! It is also sometimes referred to as round steak. It should be noted that this can be a tougher cut of meat, though.

This can be overcome by marinating the meat for several hours before cooking. It is also best cooked over medium heat, in a cast iron pan to a medium level of doneness.

The steaks mentioned here are just the most popular options around. However, from trip teaks steak to top round, there is plenty more for you to discover.

Now, that you have a rough idea of steak and where it comes from, though, you can now begin your journey of discovery on the right foot. Off you go!

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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