Cow Town

The Best Cuts of Beef in the Bayou City

Four cuts, four butchers, and four restaurants you need to know about.

By Mai Pham October 22, 2018 Published in the November 2018 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The bone-in filet at Vic & Anthony's

Image: Melissa Byone

The Cut: Bone-In Filet

This is a filet mignon with the bone attached, cut from the short loin of the steer—specifically, half a porterhouse or T-bone—known for being tender and lean, but with a richer flavor profile than the boneless version. A single animal yields only two bone-in filets, which is why it’s an expensive luxury cut.

Mike Cruz of Pete's Fine Meats

Get It Raw: Pete's Fine Meats

“Bone-in filets are more popular up north in New York, Boston, and Washington, but we can get them in anytime,” says Mike Cruz, whose father, Pete, founded the butcher shop in 1962. He stocks the highest-quality USDA Prime Yield 1 (as distinguished from lower-grade Prime Yield 2) ribeye, strips, and filets, sourced from the Chicago stockyards; Dodge City, Kansas; and, closer to home, Marble Ranch. Bonus: Pete’s also has a retail deli area, known for its Philly cheesesteaks packed with shaved whole ribeye, and his mom’s cookies.

Get It Cooked: Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse

The restaurant’s bone-in filets are cooked in the broiler for a beautiful outer sear, then finished with butter. “People like to order it for special occasions,” says executive chef Michael O’Connor. “The tendons and ligaments melt during the cooking process to lend bone-marrow-like richness to the meat.”

The Cut: Ribeye

This steak is traditionally boneless, with a fine-grained eye surrounded by a looser-grained, extra-tender cap. Prized for its rich marbling and buttery flavor, it’s insanely popular. The bone-in version is called a cowboy steak; those with long, Flintstone-style bones are called tomahawks.

The 44 Farms ribeye at Revival Market

Get It Raw: Revival Market

The market/eatery sources its cuts from vendors including 44 Farms in Cameron and Marble Ranch in Iola. “We always have strip, ribeye, bone-in ribeye, hanger, sirloin, and tenderloin,” says Vincent Huynh, culinary director of Revival’s parent company, Agricole Hospitality. Specialty cuts can be requested with a couple days’ notice, and Houstonians interested in butchery can attend demos several times a year. Special occasion? Huynh recommends the ultra-marbled wagyu ribeye from Marble Ranch.

Get It Cooked: Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

The most flavorful, succulent cut on offer at this Houston institution is the ribeye. Whether you order the boneless, bone-in, or off-menu tomahawk steak, it won’t be cut until your order is placed. Simply seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper, the meat is seared, grilled, then left to rest before receiving a healthy brush of butter.

The Cut: Skirt Steak

There are two kinds of skirt—outer and inner, both sinewy and inexpensive cuts from the diaphragm muscle of the steer. Inner skirt is the preferred cut for fajitas. It benefits from long marinades and should be cooked under high heat; slicing it against the grain is critical.

Sam Abadie of Farmer's Fresh Meat

Get It Raw: Farmer's Fresh Meat

“We’re an old-school butcher shop and meat market,” says Sam Abadie, head butcher at the market, which offers Prime-grade, 13-month yearlings. “We get the hanging beef and process it from top to bottom.” Abadie says customers often request their inner skirt be butterflied before wrapping so it’s as thin as possible. You can also get it pre-marinated.

Get It Cooked: The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

To make the restaurant’s famous fajitas, executive chef Alex Padilla uses fresh inner skirt steak sourced from the Midwest. “We use American beef that is grass-fed for nine months and corn-fed for the remaining three months,” says Padilla. The fajitas, which account for approximately half of the restaurant’s sales, are cooked on a wood-burning grill over a blend of white and red oak. What makes them so delicious? Padilla’s answer might surprise you. “We never pre-marinate,” he tells us. “We marinate it as it goes on the grill. When it cooks, the fat runs into the salt and pepper. We add a little bit of garlic, and some light soy, and that’s it.”

Tri-tip from Ranch 2 Kitchen

The Cut: Tri-Tip

A triangular-shaped cut taken from the bottom of the sirloin, tri-tip is often overlooked in favor of popular cuts like ribeye and New York strip. But that’s a mistake.

Get It Raw: Ranch 2 Kitchen Home Delivery

R2K, a division of locally owned Black Hill Meats, takes pre-orders for standard or specialty cuts online and by phone. Meats are sourced from a network of local ranchers called Texas Ranchers Network, who pasture-raise their cattle on a grass-fed diet, without the addition of hormones or antibiotics. Regular cuts are available for pickup within 15 minutes. Less frequently ordered cuts, like tri-tip, are available by request. Home delivery is also on offer; minimum order, $150.

Image: Julie Soefer

Get It Cooked: Indianola

Executive chef Paul Lewis loves this unusual cut. “It’s a very unique and versatile piece of meat that’s great for cooking whole or cutting into portions,” he says. “It’s mild and takes well to marinating with different styles.” At his new restaurant, on the verge of opening as of press time, Lewis will be using tri-tip sourced from nearby 44 Farms. He'll marinate it overnight and cook it over a charcoal grill, then slice it against the grain and top it with a medley of quick-pickled tomatillo, cilantro, red onion, serrano peppers, and lime juice. We can't wait to try it.

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