What is top sirloin steak?

Top sirloin steak is a versatile cut that comes from the sirloin section of a cow, specifically the area just behind the loin and above the rear leg. This area is known for its balance of tenderness and flavor, which makes it a desirable choice for grilling, broiling, or pan-searing. The top sirloin is generally leaner than other cuts like ribeye or filet mignon, but it still boasts a rich beefy taste and a satisfying texture. To achieve optimal results when cooking, it is recommended to use high heat for a short duration, followed by letting the steak rest before slicing to ensure juiciness and tenderness.

In this post, I will delve into the origins of this cut and its distinctive characteristics and will explain to you how to prepare it as a chef for a mouthwatering dining experience.

What is top sirloin steak?

Facts about top sirloin steak
Facts about top sirloin steak

Top sirloin steak is a cut of beef that originates from the sirloin section of a cow. This particular section is situated just behind the loin and above the rear leg, which consists of various muscle groups. Due to its location, the top sirloin boasts a unique combination of tenderness and flavor, setting it apart from other cuts of beef.

It has a lean profile, moderate tenderness, and a rich beefy flavor. While it might not be as tender as a filet mignon or as marbled as a ribeye, the top sirloin presents a satisfying balance of taste and texture. 

Top sirloin steak is known by a few different names, depending on the region and specific cut. In some areas, it may be referred to as sirloin butt, top sirloin cap, or simply sirloin steak. The names may vary, but the core characteristics of this cut remain consistent, offering a delectable and adaptable option for a variety of culinary creations.

Different types of sirloin steaks

The sirloin section of a cow offers a diverse range of cuts, each with distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different cooking methods and dishes. Here are the different types of cuts that originate from the sirloin section:

  • Top Sirloin Steak: As discussed earlier, top sirloin is a lean and moderately tender cut with a rich, beefy flavor. It is ideal for grilling, broiling, or pan-searing and offers a healthy option without sacrificing taste.
  • Bottom Sirloin: The bottom sirloin, located below the top sirloin, is less tender than its counterpart. This cut is typically used for roasting or slow-cooking methods such as braising. Some popular bottom sirloin cuts include tri-tip, ball tip, and flap steak.
  • Tri-Tip: Tri-tip is a triangular-shaped cut from the bottom sirloin. Known for its robust flavor and moderate tenderness, it is popular in California-style barbecue and can be grilled, roasted, or smoked.
  • Ball Tip: Also, from the bottom sirloin, the ball tip is a small, lean cut with minimal marbling. It is typically used for roasting or slow-cooking methods, such as braising, to achieve optimal tenderness.
  • Flap Steak: Flap steak, or sirloin flap, is a thin, elongated cut from the bottom sirloin. It is characterized by its rich flavor and relatively loose muscle fibers. Flap steak is suitable for grilling or pan-searing and works well when marinated or seasoned before cooking.
  • Sirloin Cap (Coulotte): The sirloin cap, or coulotte, is a boneless cut that sits atop the top sirloin. It is prized for its tenderness, marbling, and rich flavor. This cut is versatile and can be grilled, roasted, or pan-seared.

How to cook top sirloin steak

Grilled top sirloin steak
Grilled top sirloin steak

Selecting the right cooking method for top sirloin steak can greatly enhance the final result, ensuring optimal tenderness and flavor. Generally, grilling, broiling, pan-searing, and sous vide are preferred by most chefs and experienced home cooks.

Grilling is one of the most popular methods for cooking top sirloin steak, as it imparts a delicious charred flavor and beautiful grill marks. The high heat allows the steak to develop a crust quickly, sealing in the juices and ensuring tenderness. To grill the top sirloin, preheat the grill to high heat, season the steak, and cook for 4-6 minutes per side, depending on your desired doneness.

Broiling is another excellent option for top sirloin, as it uses high heat from the oven’s top element to cook the meat quickly and evenly. This method creates a nice crust on the exterior while keeping the interior juicy and tender. To broil, place the seasoned steak on a broiler pan or oven-safe skillet and cook under the broiler for about 4-6 minutes per side, monitoring closely to avoid overcooking.

Pan-searing is a versatile method that can be done on the stovetop using a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet. The high heat creates a flavorful crust on the steak while maintaining its juiciness. To pan-sear sirloin steak, heat a small amount of oil in the skillet over medium-high heat, season the steak, and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent burning.

Sous vide cooking involves sealing the steak in a vacuum-sealed bag and submerging it in a temperature-controlled water bath. This method is particularly well-suited for top sirloin, as it ensures even cooking and precise temperature control, resulting in a tender and juicy steak. Cook the steak at 130°F (54°C) for 1-2 hours for medium-rare, and then sear it quickly in a hot skillet to develop a crust.

What does top sirloin steak taste like?

Top sirloin steak offers a unique combination of flavor and texture that distinguishes it from other cuts of beef. In this section, we will explore the taste profile of top sirloin steak and examine the factors that influence its flavor and texture.

The taste of top sirloin steak is characterized by its rich, beefy flavor, which is often described as robust and satisfying. While it may not have the same level of marbling as a ribeye, it still delivers a hearty taste that appeals to many palates. The leanness of the cut contributes to a slightly milder flavor compared to fattier cuts, but it remains distinct and enjoyable.

The texture of top sirloin steak is moderately tender, with a balance between firmness and tenderness that many find appealing. It is not as tender as a filet mignon or as chewy as a flank steak, striking a middle ground that offers a satisfying bite without being overly tough. However, you can tenderize sirloin steak using one of many different tenderizing methods.

However, I want you to be aware of several factors that influence the flavor and texture of top sirloin steak:

  • Marbling: The distribution of fat within the muscle impacts the taste and tenderness of the meat. Top sirloin has less marbling than cuts like ribeye, which contributes to its leaner profile and milder flavor.
  • Connective tissue: The presence of connective tissue can affect the tenderness of the steak. Top sirloin generally has minimal connective tissue, which results in a more tender texture compared to other cuts with a higher amount of connective tissue.
  • Aging: The aging process can influence the taste and tenderness of the steak. Dry-aged or wet-aged top sirloin steaks may have a more pronounced flavor and enhanced tenderness compared to freshly cut steaks.
  • Preparation and cooking methods: The way the steak is seasoned, marinated, or cooked can significantly impact its flavor and texture. High-heat cooking methods, such as grilling, broiling, or pan-searing, are particularly effective for top sirloin, as they create a flavorful crust while maintaining tenderness.

How does top sirloin steak compare to other similar cuts?

Often top sirloin steak is compared to tri-tip steak, bottom sirloin steak, and sirloin tip steak. Although these cuts share similar flavors and price points, they tend to be less tender than top sirloin. Here’s a brief overview of each of these cuts:

  • Tri-tip steak: The tri-tip is a triangular-shaped cut situated at the bottom part of the sirloin primal. It is often considered a more affordable alternative to top sirloin. Both cuts have similar flavors, but the tri-tip is slightly less tender than the top sirloin. Tri-tip is ideal for grilling, roasting, or smoking and is often used in recipes that call for marinating, which can help enhance its tenderness.
  • Bottom sirloin steak: The bottom sirloin is positioned just below the top sirloin, and while it has a similar taste, it is generally considered to be a tougher cut of meat. Due to its lower tenderness, bottom sirloin is often used for slow cooking methods such as braising or stewing, allowing the connective tissues to break down and tenderize the meat. It is typically less expensive than top sirloin but requires more preparation and cook time.
  • Sirloin tip steak: The sirloin tip, also known as the knuckle, is located adjacent to the top sirloin and is part of the round primal. This cut is leaner and less tender than the top sirloin, but it shares a similar flavor profile. Like the bottom sirloin, the sirloin tip benefits from slow cooking methods or marinating to improve its tenderness. It is often used in dishes like stir-fries or kabobs and is usually priced lower than top sirloin.

Below you’ll find a couple of comparisons between sirloin steak and other cuts of beef:

How to choose a quality top sirloin steak

Whether you’re shopping at a butcher shop, online, or in a supermarket, there are several factors to consider when selecting the perfect cut:

  1. Color: Look for a steak with a bright, cherry-red color. This indicates that the meat is fresh and has been properly stored. Avoid cuts that have a dull or dark brown color, as this may be a sign of oxidation or aging.
  2. Marbling: Marbling refers to the thin white streaks of fat distributed throughout the meat. A well-marbled top sirloin steak will have small, evenly dispersed flecks of fat. This fat enhances the flavor and tenderness of the meat, making it juicier and more enjoyable to eat. Steaks with little or no marbling can be tougher and less flavorful.
  3. Thickness: A thicker cut of top sirloin steak is generally preferable, as it allows for better heat distribution during cooking, leading to a more evenly cooked and tender result. Look for a steak that is at least 1 to 1.5 inches thick.
  4. Packaging: If purchasing pre-packaged steaks, inspect the packaging for any damage, leaks, or excessive liquid. A well-packaged steak should be tightly wrapped and free from any punctures or tears.
  5. Online Shopping: When buying top sirloin steak online, choose a reputable retailer with positive customer reviews and a clear description of the cut’s grade, origin, and any certifications (such as organic or grass-fed). Pay attention to shipping and handling policies, as proper temperature control is crucial for maintaining meat quality during transit.
  6. Butcher Shop or Supermarket Counter: At a butcher shop or supermarket counter, don’t hesitate to ask the butcher for advice on selecting the best top sirloin steak. They can provide guidance on factors such as marbling, thickness, and freshness. Additionally, they may be able to custom-cut a steak to your preferred thickness.

Additionally, you can use USDA grading as guidance when buying top sirloins teak. It is a voluntary system used in the United States to classify meat, particularly beef, based on its quality and consistency. The USDA evaluates factors such as marbling, color, and maturity to assign one of three primary grades: USDA Prime, USDA Choice, and USDA Select. These grades serve as a guide for consumers, indicating the overall tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of the meat, with USDA Prime representing the highest quality, followed by Choice and Select.

How to store top sirloin steak

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides recommendations to ensure the proper handling and storage of meat, including top sirloin steak. So here’s how to properly store and thaw the top sirloin steak:

  • Refrigeration: Upon purchasing top sirloin steak, it is advised to store it in the refrigerator if you plan to cook it within 3 to 5 days. Keep the meat in its original packaging or place it in a sealed container to prevent cross-contamination with other foods. Set your refrigerator temperature at or below 40°F (4°C) to maintain freshness.
  • Freezing: If you do not plan to cook the top sirloin steak within the recommended refrigeration time, it is best to store it in the freezer. For optimal quality, wrap the steak in plastic wrap or freezer paper, followed by a layer of aluminum foil or a resealable plastic freezer bag. This will help to protect the meat from freezer burn and maintain its flavor. The USDA advises that frozen steaks can be stored for up to 12 months at a constant temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or lower.
  • Thawing: To thaw frozen top sirloin steak, the USDA recommends three methods: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or using a microwave. Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method, but it requires planning as it can take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of meat. Cold water thawing is faster, taking about 30 minutes per pound, but the steak must be placed in a sealed plastic bag and submerged in cold water, with the water changed every 30 minutes. Microwave thawing is the quickest option, but the steak should be cooked immediately after thawing to ensure food safety.


How should I season my top sirloin steak?

You can season top sirloin steak with a simple combination of salt and pepper or use a marinade to enhance its flavor. Allow the steak to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking for better seasoning absorption and even cooking.

How long should I cook top sirloin steak for optimal tenderness?

Cooking times will vary depending on the thickness of the steak and your preferred level of doneness. As a general guideline, grill or pan-sear for 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare and 5-7 minutes per side for medium. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches 130-135°F (54-57°C) for medium-rare or 140-145°F (60-63°C) for medium.

How can I tell if my top sirloin steak is cooked to the desired doneness?

A meat thermometer is the most accurate way to determine doneness. Alternatively, you can use the touch test, where you press the surface of the steak to gauge its firmness. A medium-rare steak will feel similar to the fleshy part of your palm when you touch your thumb and middle finger together, while a medium steak will feel like the same area when touching your thumb and ring finger together.

Should I let my top sirloin steak rest after cooking?

Yes, letting your steak rest for about 5-10 minutes after cooking allows the juices to redistribute and results in a more tender and juicy steak.

What side dishes go well with top sirloin steak?

Top sirloin steak pairs well with a variety of side dishes, such as garlic mashed potatoes, steamed or roasted vegetables, fresh salads, or rice dishes. Feel free to get creative with your side dish options.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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