Sleeper Steak Showdown

I feel like 2018 was the year for the butchers to let the cat out of the bag about the "secret" cuts that the normal consumer doesn't know about. Cuts like the picanha, the hanger steak, and the tri tip started popping up in meat cases all over.

A lot of people have questions about the new cuts of steak they were seeing so I decided to have those cuts face off against the known and loved ribeye and filet in a steak challenge. It was time to see who reigned supreme.

I wanted to keep this test very simple and since we were dealing with prime beef. For this test, I wanted to compare the natural flavor of the cuts so I simply seasoned the cuts with kosher salt. Because I wanted to be as careful as possible when cooking the steak, I decided to use a reverse sear.

To start, I got the Char-Griller AKORN set up for indirect heat. I brought it up to 275 degrees. In around a half an hour, our steaks reached an internal temperature of 115 degrees. At this point, I took them off of the indirect setup and seared them off.

I like to do that on a grill set up for direct heat at around 600 degrees with just two minutes per side, until the steak hits an internal temp of 125 degrees.

For me, a quick rule of thumb for getting my AKORN to those searing temperatures is to set both the top and bottom vents to 3 and wait for the smoke to be more clear coming out of the top vent.

After you have seared the steak off, remove it from the heat and let it rest for between 5 to 10 minutes and enjoy.

To compare all these cuts, I did a blind taste test. I didn’t know which cut was which so I had a totally unbiased opinion going in. Read what I thought about each cut below.

Tri Tip

This bite was really the biggest shock to me. With the sheer size of this cut, I would have never guessed that cooked to a medium rare it would be so tender and juicy. After the first taste, I assumed I was just handed a filet. This brings me to my most important point about tri tip: be very aware of the change in direction of the grain of the meat.

As long as you slice this cut against the grain, it has a wonderfully soft bite and chew; however, the grain changes direction because this cut comes from the intersection of several muscle groups and if you forget that and begin to slice with the grain, the bite will soon become chewy and undesirable.


This bite was amazing and I realized that I had always taken for granted just how much grill flavor a ribeye absorbs during the cooking process. While I don't know if the bite I was handed was from the spinalis or not, it did have a bit of fat on it, and the texture was very good. It wasn’t quite as soft as the tri tip or filet but it was still fantastic.

There was also an insane amount of charcoal flavor in this cut. Biting into it just took me straight to the warm months of summer. It was truly remarkable just how much other flavor came with this bite.

Filet Mignon

Always one of my favorite cuts because of the sheer tenderness a cook can coax out of it, this taste test was no different. Immediately upon tasting this bite, I knew it had to be the filet.

It had that unmistakable velvety texture and chew. It was a very juicy, tender, and had a flavorful bite. To me this bite is what I measure all other steaks against.

Hanger Steak

Even while trimming the hanger steak before it hit the grill, I knew just by looking at the muscle fibers that this cut had the potential to dethrone my previous favorite cuts; however, the one thing I didn’t plan for was just how much beef flavor would be packed into this torpedo shaped cut of meat.

I would venture to say that is the beefiest cut of meat I’ve ever eaten, steak or otherwise. It was simply amazing. The texture was inspiring and I would compare it to that of a perfectly cooked spinalis of a great ribeye. The difference here is that instead of just being a tiny part of a steak, this was the entirety of the steak.


This steak was the all-arounder to me. When we did the blind taste test, we cut the excess fat off the side so we wouldn’t know exactly which cut this was purely by fat content.

In the taste test, this was a very flavorful cut, but it wasn’t as tender as the others. This left me a little disappointed because while it was good, I expected greatness. After the taste test, I discovered that it needs that fat paired with it because it elevates the picanha. When cooked right, that fat will instantly melt when you take a bite and preload your taste buds with amazing flavor.

I don't know if it’s because you’re currently thinking about this new flavor or if that helps with the texture, but every bite I took after the taste test was much more tender and flavorful.

The moral of my picanha story is leave the fat on. Enjoy this cut the way it was meant to be enjoyed and it will amaze you.

Those were my results from the 5 Steak Secret Cut Shootout. For me, the best steak I could spend my money on is the hanger steak, but I would be very excited given the opportunity to cook and serve any of these cuts again. After this experiment, I encourage you to get out there and try cooking some cuts that you aren’t used to. You never know, you may find a new king or queen cut of your grill.

Guest Blog by Cookout Coach