Denver steak is a relatively recent cut of beef that has gained popularity for its flavor and tenderness. It is sourced from the chuck portion of the cow, specifically the serratus ventralis muscle, which is located near the shoulder. Denver steak is known for its marbling and versatility in cooking methods, as it can be grilled, pan-seared, or broiled. This cut is considered a more affordable alternative to pricier steaks while still offering a satisfying beef experience.
In this article, I’ll explain the characteristics of Denver steak. You’ll learn how to cook, buy, and store it properly to ensure the meat is of the highest quality before consuming it.
What is Denver steak?
Denver steak, also known as the under-blade steak, boneless chuck short rib, or simply Denver cut, is a relatively recent addition to the world of beef cuts. It is carved from the serratus ventralis muscle, which is found in the chuck portion of the cow, near the shoulder area. This specific location results in a well-marbled, tender, and flavorful cut of meat.
One of the main characteristics of Denver steak is its rich marbling, which contributes to its juicy and flavorful profile. The marbling also makes it more tender than other cuts from the chuck region. Moreover, its affordability in comparison to more traditional steak cuts like ribeye and filet mignon has made Denver steak a popular choice among meat lovers.
What does Denver steak taste like?
The taste of Denver steak can be best described as a perfect balance between the rich, beefy flavor and the delicate tenderness that meat enthusiasts crave. The secret behind its distinct taste and texture lies in its marbling, which refers to the thin streaks of fat distributed throughout the muscle. These streaks of fat render down during the cooking process, imparting a depth of flavor and juiciness to the steak.
The serratus ventralis muscle, from which the Denver steak is sourced, is less worked compared to other muscles in the chuck region. This results in a more tender and succulent cut of meat. The fine-grained texture of the steak further adds to its appeal, making it enjoyable to eat and easy to cook.
In essence, the combination of rich marbling, the location of the muscle, and the fine-grained texture work together to create the delightful taste and great texture that Denver steak is known for. This cut of beef offers a satisfying eating experience, rivaling the more expensive and well-known steak cuts.
How to cook Denver steak
There are several methods that can be employed to bring out the best flavors and textures from Denver steak. The chosen methods work well with this particular cut, as they enhance its tenderness and showcase its rich marbling. Here are some of the best ways to cook Denver steak:
- Grilling: Grilling steak is a popular method for cooking, as the high heat sears the outer layer, sealing in the juices and creating a flavorful crust. This technique also allows the fat to render and melt into the meat, enhancing its taste and tenderness. To grill a Denver steak, preheat the grill to medium-high heat and cook the steak for 4-5 minutes per side, depending on the desired doneness.
- Pan-searing: Pan-searing steak is another excellent method for cooking Denver steak, as it produces a similar effect to grilling with the added benefit of being able to control the heat more precisely. To pan-sear a Denver steak, heat a heavy skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat, add a small amount of oil, and cook the steak for 4-5 minutes per side or until it reaches the desired doneness. For added flavor, consider basting the steak with butter and aromatics during the final minutes of cooking.
- Broiling: Broiling steak is a suitable method for cooking Denver steak because it exposes the meat to direct, high heat from above, similar to grilling. This process sears the surface of the steak, locking in its juices and promoting a tender and juicy result. To broil a Denver steak, preheat the broiler, position the steak on a broiling pan or oven-safe skillet, and cook for 4-5 minutes per side or until it reaches the desired level of doneness.
How does Denver steak compare to other similar cuts?
When comparing Denver steak to other beef cuts, it’s only fair to compare it against other steaks in a similar price range and with similar taste characteristics. So keeping that in mind, here are steaks that are worth comparing to Denver steak:
- Flat Iron Steak: Also known as the top blade steak, flat iron steak is cut from the shoulder area of the cow, just like Denver steak. Both cuts share a similar price range, and flat iron steak is known for its tenderness and rich, beefy flavor. However, Denver steak may have slightly better marbling, leading to a juicier result.
- Hanger Steak: Hanger steak is sourced from the diaphragm area of the cow and is often more affordable than other steak cuts. It has a rich, beefy flavor and a coarser texture than Denver steak. While hanger steak is not as tender as Denver steak, it is still considered a good value option for those seeking a flavorful beef cut.
- Chuck Eye Steak: Chuck eye steak, sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s ribeye,” is cut from the chuck section close to the ribeye. It shares a similar price range with Denver steak and offers a good balance of tenderness and flavor. While it may not have the same level of marbling as Denver steak, chuck eye steak can still provide a satisfying beef experience at a more affordable price.
- Top Sirloin Steak: Top sirloin steak comes from the sirloin section of the cow and is known for its lean and tender qualities. Although it has a similar price range to Denver steak, top sirloin may not have the same rich, beefy flavor due to its leaner nature. Nevertheless, it is a popular choice for those seeking a leaner option while still enjoying a tender cut of beef.
How to choose a quality Denver steak
It’s essential to consider factors that contribute to the overall quality of the cut. By understanding the USDA grading system and other key aspects, you can make an informed decision and select a high-quality Denver steak. So here’s how to pick a good steak:
- USDA Grading System: The USDA grading system classifies beef into different quality levels based on factors such as marbling, age, and appearance. The three main grades for beef are Prime, Choice, and Select. Prime-grade beef has the highest level of marbling, followed by Choice and then Select, which has the least marbling. When selecting a Denver steak, look for a cut with a USDA grade of Choice or higher to ensure a good level of marbling, tenderness, and flavor.
- Marbling: As previously mentioned, marbling is a crucial factor in determining the quality of a Denver steak. When choosing your steak, look for one with a good amount of thin, white streaks of fat distributed evenly throughout the meat. This marbling will contribute to the tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of the cooked steak.
- Color: A quality Denver steak should have a vibrant, cherry-red color, indicating that it is fresh and properly aged. Avoid cuts that have a dull, grayish, or brown color, as this may be a sign of poor quality or mishandling.
- Thickness: Denver steaks should be cut to a thickness of around 1 to 1.5 inches. This thickness ensures that the steak can be cooked evenly and achieves a desirable sear without overcooking the interior.
- Supplier Reputation: When purchasing a Denver steak online or from a butcher shop, it’s essential to consider the reputation of the supplier. Look for reviews or recommendations from others who have purchased from the same source, and choose a supplier known for providing high-quality, ethically sourced, and properly aged beef.
How to store Denver steak
To maintain the freshness, flavor, and overall quality of Denver steak, you must use proper storage methods. Following the USDA guidelines, here are some tips on how to properly store your Denver steak:
- Refrigeration: If you plan to cook your Denver steak within a few days of purchase, store it in the refrigerator. Place the steak on a tray or plate and cover it loosely with plastic wrap or wax paper. Store it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent any possible cross-contamination with other foods. The ideal temperature for storing raw meat is between 34°F and 40°F.
- Freezing: If you do not intend to cook your Denver steak immediately, freezing is a suitable option to preserve its quality. To freeze the steak, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, or aluminum foil, or place it in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Label the package with the date and type of meat, and store it in the freezer. Frozen steaks can last for up to 6 months without a significant loss of quality. To defrost, place the steak in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking.
How to reheat leftover Denver steak
If you have leftover cooked Denver steak, follow these steps to reheat it without sacrificing its taste or texture:
- Allow the leftover steak to come to room temperature by removing it from the refrigerator and letting it sit for about 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 250°F.
- Place the steak on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, which allows the heat to circulate evenly around the meat.
- Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the steak to monitor its internal temperature.
- Heat the steak in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 110°F for medium-rare, or adjust the temperature according to your desired level of doneness.
- Remove the steak from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- While the steak is resting, heat a skillet or grill pan on medium-high heat. Sear the steak for 1-2 minutes per side to restore the crust and enhance the flavor.
- Serve the reheated steak immediately.
How does Denver steak compare to other premium steaks?
Denver steak is often compared to popular steaks like ribeye, New York strip, or filet mignon due to its tenderness and flavor. While it may not be as tender as a filet mignon, it has more marbling than a New York strip, resulting in a rich and flavorful taste.
Where can I buy Denver steak?
Denver steak can be found at most supermarkets, butcher shops, and specialty meat stores. You can also check with your local butcher for availability or even order it online from various meat retailers.
Is Denver steak an expensive cut of meat?
Denver steak is generally considered a moderately priced steak. While it may not be as affordable as some other cuts like flank or skirt steak, it typically costs less than premium cuts like ribeye or filet mignon. Prices may vary depending on factors like the quality of the meat, the source, and regional availability.
Can I use Denver steak in recipes that call for other steak cuts?
Absolutely! Denver steak can be a great substitute for other cuts like ribeye or New York strip in recipes that call for a tender, flavorful steak. Just be mindful of the cooking times and temperatures, as overcooking can lead to a tougher result.
What are some good side dishes to serve with Denver steak?
Denver steak pairs well with a wide variety of side dishes, such as roasted or grilled vegetables, potatoes, rice, or salads. Some popular options include garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, or a simple mixed greens salad.