An expert on rare cuts of beef, all things sausage and the decadence of dry-aged dogs and burgers, protein professor James Peisker, a co-founder of Nashville meat purveyor Porter Road has some advice when it comes to steak: just try the tip.
That, of course, would be the steak tip, a cut that is as prevalent at summer cookouts in Massachusetts and other parts of New England as children named Brady but doesn’t seem to have the same sort of popularity nationwide. Sometimes called sirloin tips and not to be confused with the tri-tip, steak tips are the chunky trimmings that are leftover when cuts like sirloin, tenderloin or ribeyes are sliced down to size. In many locales those tender trimmings are just ground up into hamburger, but Bay State butchers put ’em to the side so they can be marinated (and therefore tenderized) into melt-in-your-mouth pieces of meat.
A St. Louis native who cooked and served steak tips when he worked at a local country club, Peisker hadn’t thought about the cut for years until one day when he took notice of all the bits and pieces of odd-shaped meat that were being left behind by Porter Road’s butchers. In a response that involved a trip down memory lane, Peisker took some of his own advice and added steak tips sourced from dry-aged ribeyes, New York strips, sirloin slices and Picanha pieces to Porter Road’s online offerings.
“If you look to the steak tip, you’re getting something for half or one-third of the price that has the same quality of an entire steak,” Peisker tells InsideHook. “If cooked correctly, and there’s a big asterisk right there, you could have an even better eating experience than with the larger format version of those steaks. You’ll have a little bit of intermuscular fat, but the majority of it is just pure lean meat.”
The reason for that according to Peisker, again with the caveat that the cooking is done correctly, is that the size of steak tips maximizes the amount of marinated meat that’s undergone the Maillard reaction in each mouthful. (The Maillard reaction is many small, simultaneous chemical reactions that produce new flavors aromas, and colors which occurs when proteins and sugars in food are transformed by heat.)
“During the searing process, a good marinade that’s high in sugar starts to caramelize whether it’s in a skillet or on the grill. It’s gonna become crunchy as it becomes less molten and you can get a lot more of that Maillard reaction and caramelization per bite,” Peisker says. “That char is the flavor we crave and if you give yourself the ability to be able to get more of it, it’s just gonna be a better eating experience overall. The reason why we all don’t eat boiled steaks is because of that Maillard reaction.” (Perhaps not all of us.)
What Peisker can’t explain is the reason steak tips aren’t more popular than they are. “The more I think about it, I have not seen steak tips on a menu in a very long time. Maybe it is just a New England thing,” he says. “Ten years ago, you would’ve never found a tri-tip if you were east of the Rockies. That always just got ground into ground beef because they didn’t know how to market it or sell it.”
While you’ll have to source the tips on your own — or just simply order some from Peisker and Porter Road — we were able to round up a Maillard-inducing marinade from Antimo DiMeo, the executive chef at Bardea Steak, a carnivore paradise in downtown Wilmington that boasts conventional cuts as well as options like a kangaroo, elk, bison, and ostrich. Soak. Sauté. Repeat.
Bardea Steak executive chef Antimo DiMeo’s Marinade
- 1 cup tamari
- 1/2 cup blended oil/EVOO
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 knob ginger
- 3 tbsp. sambal
- 1 tsp. Dijon
- 3 tbsp. dried shiitake
- 1 tbsp. black peppercorn
- 1 tbsp. coriander
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig thyme
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Thoroughly combine all ingredients and then fully submerge the steak tips in the marinade.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or for up to a day, turning several times.
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