Seattle Meat Market, 1947

Cliff Tooley’s City Hall Meat Market, Seattle, Washington. Circa 1947. (Photo courtesy Tom Howell.)

Steak has come a long way since the days of caveman feasts. The art of butchery developing alongside man’s own evolution. From the Damascus blades of the Age of Steel to our modern fascination of all things “dry-aged “– the simple slice of beef has gone from basic nutrition, to status symbol, to nothing less than fetishistic obsession.

Today, steaks come in all shapes, sizes, and cuts – a mind-boggling array of cow-parts each with it’s own unique taste and texture.

Below, a modern history of steak- including some of the most recent discoveries in bovine butchery.

Porterhouse Steak or T-Bone – Originating sometime in the 1800’s as a regular dish at “Porterhouses” (raucous joints where beef and a good porter ale were often served), Porterhouse is also sometimes called “T-bone”. The T-bone is so named because of the “T” shaped bone, formed when this steak is crosscut, offering both the top loin and tenderloin. Two great tastes in one!

Chuck Steak – Cut from the shoulder, this steak is most likely named for the chuck wagons that fed hungry cowpokes running the great cattle drives at the Turn of the Century. Chuck is the humble on-a-budget cousin to Rib Eye, but wonderfully flavor-filled with fat, making it a perfect grind for burgers.

Skirt Steak – Another relatively recent discovery, skirt steak is a cut first made popular Mexican butchers, and local Texans who favored it for fajitas. “Fajita” itself a TexMex word that means “little strap” and references the distinctive shape of this flat, thin steak. A favorite of Mexican Vaqueros working Texas ranches during the 1950s, this delicious bit is cut from the diaphragm of the cow, and boasts a unique taste and texture.

Tri-Tip – Originating from California, this cut of steak is a triangular section of sirloin, cut for perfect grillability. This particular steak is a relatively recent discovery, a fortunate accident made by a Santa Maria, California butcher named Bob Schutz. In the late 1950s, running low on cuts, Schutz decided to throw this random hunk of beef on the grill where his store was already grilling top block sirloin, a traditional Santa Maria barbeque started by the Vaqueros’ and cowboys at the local ranches in the mid 1800’s. The result was a history-making BBQ discovery.

Rib Eye – Taken from the upper rib cage, this is one of the most desirable cuts – also known as “Delmonico” – so named for NYC the restaurant that made this cut famous in the early 19th Century. Super tender, with strong beefy flavor and beautiful ribbons of marbling muscle fat. Yum!

Tenderloin Steak – One of the oldest and most versatile of culinary cuts, the Tenderloin is taken from the short loin and is generally considered the crème de la crème of cow parts. Supremely tender, there are several different types of steaks are cut from this same area, such as the Filet Mignon, Châteaubriand, and Tournedos.

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One Comment

  1. Lisa
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 12:05 AM | Permalink

    mmm Delmonico – the ultimate BBQ steak cut!

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