Historically, cowboy grub has been heavy on carbs and protein—that’s what it takes to fuel a body through long days on the ranch or range. We break down six cuts of beef for you, with suggestions on how to prepare and pair them. Get ready to fire up the grill, and pour yourself a tall one!
A cowboy’s favorite cut, tri-tip is a juicy steak that comes from the sirloin, or primal loin section. This cut tastes best when seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Grill, slice, and pile it onto a soft French roll (barbecue sauce optional), and serve with a gutsy domestic whiskey. We like Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey and Bulleit Rye.
This succulent, well-marbled cut is expensive for a reason: it’s a thick, flavorful, high-fat steak with a relatively low yield per animal. That said, a rib eye is easily shared between two if there are fixin’s to go with it. Our favorite way to prepare it is to sear both sides in a smoking-hot cast-iron skillet. Remove from heat and season both sides, then place the steak back in the pan and finish under the broiler to desired doneness. A piece of meat this savory calls for a full-bodied red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon.
Flank steak tastes best when it’s been marinated—at least three hours and preferably overnight—in order to break down the proteins of this lean, working muscle. Because of its long muscle fibers, flank steak should be thinly sliced on the bias after cooking (grilling is ideal). Use this cut in sandwiches, stir-fry, or tacos. Pair it with a citrusy Mexican brew, such as Pacifico.
This toothsome-but-tender muscle comes from the diaphragm and is usually sold coiled into a pinwheel. When you’re ready to cook it, simply cut the pinwheel into more manageable pieces. Hanger steak is a favorite of butchers, who prize its rich, beefy flavor. Toss on the grill or pan sear, making sure you don’t cook this lean cut past medium rare. A full-flavored steak like this calls for a drink with a bit of gumption, like traditional bock beer or Scotch ale.
Flat iron steak
Although this cut comes from the shoulder, it’s surprisingly tender and is best pan seared because it’s so thin. Slice on the bias and serve atop lightly dressed greens. This cut is also ideal for sandwiches, or as part of a hearty steak-n-eggs breakfast. We suggest trying a light Pilsner with this meat.
This lean shoulder cut is best when ground for hamburgers, or used in wet cooking methods like braising. If you’re making burgers, try combining ground sirloin, which has a higher fat content, with ground chuck, or add a whole egg and some breadcrumbs to your chuck grind. For braising or stewing, water will do, but a bottle of dry red or a good lager makes for a more flavorful dish. When it comes to pairing, it’s hard to beat beer with burgers! Ideally, pair stews and braises with the same alcohol you’re cooking them in.