Many retail cuts can be found on a beef steer, some tough and some tender. The tough cuts are usually ground or slow-cooked, while the premium cuts of tender beef are grilled or broiled. The top sirloin is the lowest priced of the tender cuts for grilling. You can buy it already cut for steaks, or buy the whole top sirloin or a top sirloin roast and cut it yourself.
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Selecting Your Cut
The full top sirloin, sometimes called a top sirloin butt, is a large, roughly square piece of beef. It's sometimes sold with the cap muscle attached, sometimes with it removed to make a top sirloin center. This is the portion you'll see most often at your supermarket. You can buy it whole, but most retailers cut it into two or three portions as roasts. One end of the top sirloin is divided by a diagonal line of connective tissue. If you're buying a portion to cut into steaks, try to avoid that piece.
Cutting the Whole Top Sirloin Center
Imagine your sirloin as a bundle of drinking straws. On two sides the muscle tissues are round, like the end of the straws. Everywhere else, the beef shows a collection of parallel lines like the side of the straws. When you cut your steaks, you'll want to slice from the sides where the beef looks like the end of the straws. On a whole top sirloin, this will result in very large steaks so you'll need a long knife to cut them properly. You'll find it easier to cut them evenly if the sirloin is cold, even slightly frozen.
Cutting Steaks From a Roast
It's usually easier to cut your steaks from a roast, rather than the whole sirloin, because you're making shorter cuts. Place the roast on your cutting board, and once again envision it as a bundle of drinking straws. As before, you want to cut across the roast so that the top and bottom of your steak look like the ends of the straws. Cut the steaks 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick for most purposes. If you want a larger steak, cut the beef to twice the width, and then cut each thick piece down the middle and butterfly it to make one large portion.
Removing and Cutting the Top Sirloin Cap
If your sirloin included the top sirloin cap, remove that and prepare it separately for best results. Roll the top sirloin so it's resting on its cap of fat, and you'll see a seam of fat joining the main and secondary groups of muscles. Cut through this to free up the smaller muscles. This piece consists of the large top sirloin cap, and a smaller muscle sitting on top of it. Cut away the smaller muscle for stew beef, leaving a large triangular portion. Cut the triangle into strip-shaped steaks, across the grain of the meat.
- "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen"; Harold McGee; 2004
- "Professional Cooking"; Wayne Gisslen; 2003