As delicious and amazing as rib-eye steak is, let’s admit – you can’t eat fatty steak cuts every day. So I’m guessing you’re looking for the leanest steak cut for your next steak dinner. Thankfully there’re a few options. In the meantime, put away your chicken breast and go for a lean piece of flavorful steak instead.
Some of the leanest steaks are top sirloin, top round, bottom round, the eye of round, and sirloin tip side. These steaks are not as tender as the fattier steak cuts, but you can still have a delicious and juicy steak with a little bit of cooking knowledge.
I love that lean meat has a lot of beefy flavors while at the same time containing less fat and more protein. I know for some steak lovers, the texture of the meat might be too tough – lacking a melt-in-your-mouth experience. However, if you’re looking to cut down on your fat intake, go for one of the leaner steak cuts.
The 5 Best Lean Steak Cuts
So what determines a lean cut? Obviously, it’s the amount of fat on the steak. The USDA defines a lean cut as containing less than ten grams of fat, 4,5 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.
As a chef, I can tell you – it’s easy to overcook a lean steak because there’s less fat to lubricate and keep the steak moist while cooking. So ensure you don’t overcook your lean steak, or it will be dry and tough. At the end of this article, I have a section dedicated to how to cook a lean steak.
Top Sirloin Steak
Top sirloin steak is a cut from the primal loin. It’s located between the short loin and the round. The top sirloin is flavorful and juicy if cooked properly (read about the steak doneness temperature chart). It does not contain a lot of marbling. In fact, it has only 10.6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fats, and 51,6 grams of protein per serving.
Top Round Steak
Top round steak is a cut that comes from the inner rear leg. It has a lot of muscular connective tissue. Keep in mind it is a little bit tougher than other steak cuts but still very flavorful if cooked properly. Like the top sirloin, it doesn’t have a lot of marbling, with only 7,6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fats, and 54 grams of protein per serving.
Bottom Round Steak
The bottom round steak is a cut from the primal round. It’s located between the rump and the eye of the round. The bottom round is not as tender as some more expensive steak cuts but is still flavorful when braised or slow-cooked. Like the top round, it has little marbling with only 11 grams of fat, 3,8 grams of saturated fats, and 47,2 grams of protein per serving.
Eye of Round Steak
Eye of round steak is a cut that comes from the round primal between the top round, outside round, and heel. It’s very lean with little to no marbling. The eye of round is one of the leanest and most budget-friendly steak cuts. It has only 7 grams of fat, with only 2,4 grams coming from saturated fats. Additionally, it has 49,8 grams of protein per serving. It’s best when slow-cooked. More about that later in the article.
Sirloin Tip Side Steak
The sirloin tip side steak is a cut from the primal round. It’s located near the bottom round and rump roast. The sirloin tip is extra lean with some marbling. It has 5,4 grams of fat, with only about half of that coming from saturated fats. Additionally, it contains 39 grams of protein per serving. Like the bottom-round steak, it’s best when braised or slow-cooked.
How To Cook Lean Cuts of Steak
It’s best to cook a lean steak using a method that will add moisture and tenderize the meat. Meat without marbling lacks texture and tenderness; however, it still has a lot of beefy flavors. As a chef, I recommend braising, slow cooking, or sous vide cooking methods for tougher steak cuts.
- Braising. Braising is a method of cooking where you first brown the meat using cooking oil (light olive oil) and then cook it in a liquid until tender. The tough connective tissues in the meat break down and dissolve into the braising liquid, making it incredibly tender. This method is best used for tougher, less tender cuts of steak such as the bottom round, the eye of round, or the sirloin tip side.
- Slow cooking. Slow cooking is a method where you cook the meat in a small amount of liquid at a low temperature for an extended time. This method is also best used for tougher, less tender cuts of steak such as the bottom round, eye of round, and other steaks cuts listed above.
- Sous vide. And last but not least is sous vide. Sous vide is a French cooking method where you vacuum seal the meat and then cook it in a water bath at low temperatures. This method is excellent for all steak cuts, not just lean ones. The steak comes out incredibly tender and juicy every single time.
Additionally, you can use other traditional ways of cooking tough steaks – reverse sear is a good method. The reverse sear is a two-step process that first slowly cooks the steak until it’s nearly finished. Then you sear it in a cast-iron skillet over high heat to get a nice crust on the outside. This method works well with all steak cuts, not just the lean ones.
Note: cooking steak in a pan that is tough is not the best idea. The same applies to cooking steak on a grill.
What cut of steak is the leanest?
Eye of round steak is the leanest cut of steak. It contains only 7 grams of fat, and only 2,4 grams of that comes from saturated fats. Additionally, it has nearly 50 grams of protein per serving.
What is the best way to cook a lean steak?
The best way to cook a lean steak is braising, slow cooking, or sous vide cooking methods.
Can I reverse-sear a lean steak?
Yes, you can reverse sear any steak cut, not just the lean ones.