The Rib and Loin sections of beef produce some of the best steaks. They also produce the most expensive cuts of meat. To get the most for your money I suggest you take a step up and take a serious look at the chuck. The chuck primal sits above the rib primal and includes the shoulder. There are a number of intersecting muscles in the that can make chuck steaks tough and causes the grain of the meat to change several times in a single cut. Being mindful of this will help select and carve these cuts.
Selecting a Chuck Steak: There are several great chuck steaks, but you need to know which is which to get the best one, and the best deal. Talk to a butcher if there are any questions. Frequently, retailers label steaks with nonstandard names. The price of a steak (per pound) is going to be determined largely by the quality of the cut so the better the steak the more you pay. Also remember that the more you grill a steak the tougher it will be so try to stay at medium or medium rare to get the tenderness of a great steak.
- Chuck Eye Steak: This steak is cut from right next to the rib eye steak. It is the best, in my opinion, of the chuck steaks and a great deal when compared to the rib eye. This is a perfect steak for grilling and can go from the package to the grill with just a little salt and pepper.
- Shoulder Top Blade: Also known as the Flat Iron Steak, this is a perfect steak for the grill. The characteristic marbling gives this steak plenty of flavor. It is also a tender steak.
- Shoulder Center or Ranch Steak is a thin, tender. It generally has less fat than other chuck steaks so the flavor might be a little light. I suggest brushing this steak with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and adding some basic herbs like oregano to bring out the flavor a little more. This is a thinner steak so watch it closely to prevent overcooking it.
- Shoulder Petite Tender or Mock Tender Steak comes from point of the chuck primal next to the Top Blade. While generally a flavorful little steak, this cut definitely needs a good marinade if you intend to grill it.
- Chuck Steak is cut from next to the Chuck Eye Steak but lacks the tenderness of the chuck eye. This steak needs to be marinated before you cook it to get it tender. While still a flavorful cut of meat this isn't one of the best steaks for the grill.
- Shoulder Steak: Like the Chuck Steak this is a tougher cut of meat and should be marinated before grilling. This steak is better used when you plan to cut up the meat for dishes like fajitas.
Chuck steaks require a little more care than more expensive cuts, but the value makes them worth the effort. Make sure you know how to properly grill a steak and if you need to get a chuck steak a little more tender I have many marinade recipes for you to choose from.