Despite what your supermarket meat counter would have you believe, the New York strip, Tenderloin, Ribeye and Sirloin aren’t the only great quality steaks to come from a beef carcass.
The Denver steak is an excellent example of a lesser-known cut that has all the marbling and rich flavor of a New York strip but is up to five dollars cheaper per pound.
Sure, you might have to go down to your local butcher to find one, but the Denver steak’s deep beefy flavor and smooth texture make it worth the extra effort.
So if you are looking for a steak that has mouth-watering flavor without an eye-watering price, read on to find out why the Denver steak should be the next thing to hit your grill.
What is Denver steak?
If you’ve not heard of the Denver steak before, it’s probably because it is a relative newcomer on the beef scene (which is totally a phrase people use).
In 2000, the Cattleman’s Beef Board created the Beef Checkoff Program, a think tank to stimulate beef sales by creating new, more affordable cuts that would act as alternatives to the pricey steakhouse favorites.
The chuck is a section of the carcass that is most commonly used for ground beef or stewing steak. It has a reputation for toughness because it sees a lot of work during the animal’s life and is therefore of comparatively low value.
This particular section of the chuck underblade supports the other more active muscles but doesn’t see much use itself, making it a surprisingly tender and well-marbled for a cut from the chuck roll.
Why is it called a Denver steak?
The creation of the Denver steak was part of marketing exercise by the Cattleman’s Beef Board, and the name Denver tested well with market test groups.
Not the exciting background story you were hoping for!
You can also find this particular cut marketed as the Chuck Under Blade Center Steak, the Denver Cut, the Under Blade Steak, and the Center Cut Steak, although these names are not really in common usage.
The Zabuton is a very similar cut created in Japan, but since it is cut from richly marbled Wagyu beef and sliced extremely thinly, it doesn’t have much in common with the Denver.
Buying and storing Denver steak?
Despite the best marketing efforts of the Cattleman’s Beef Board, you probably won’t find Denver steak in your supermarket beef aisle or on your local steakhouse menu.
Thankfully, there is a good chance that your local craft butcher shop will be happy to sell you one.
If you are in the unfortunate position of having no access to a local craft butcher, then your next stop should be the internet.
Where to buy Denver steak online
Recent years have seen a surge in quality online beef providers that can cater for all your beef needs that you can’t satisfy locally.
Porter Road is one of our favorite online butchers for sourcing rare cuts of beef like Denver Steak.
If you are wondering where else to buy from, check out our list of the best butchers in the country for purchasing steak online.
When you are buying your Denver steak, make sure the butcher has cut it across the grain. Generally, butchers cut steaks from back to front to minimize waste and work efficiently. However, this can result in the meat not being sliced across the grain, potentially making it chewy.
Obviously, it can be difficult to tell how steak bought online has been sliced.
However, as a general rule, if your Denver steak is roughly triangular, this is a good indication that the butcher separated the front section from the rear section before cutting it across the grain to make it into individual steaks.
How to cut a Denver steak
If you can’t find Denver steak to buy, you can always cut your own.
This video shows how you can start with a chuck roll and break it down and cut out your own Denver steak.
Storing your Denver steak
Storing your Denver steak properly is actually quite easy as long as you take the proper precautions.
Below are some quick steps you can take to keep your steak stored in the refrigerator or the freezer without compromising its quality.
- Steaks will usually keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. The danger with refrigerating steak is the potential for bacteria growth, which you can limit by taking the following precautions:
- Make sure you refrigerator’s temperature is below 40°F. Meat stored between 40°F and 140°F is in the Danger Zone, making it an ideal breeding ground for bacteria
- Store your steak with a plate underneath to catch any run-off liquids
- Try to store raw meat on its own shelf or in a separate drawer to avoid cross-contamination
Storing steak in the freezer
You can store steak in the freezer for up to three months. The main thing to try and avoid when freezing meat is the formation of ice crystals that cause the membranes in the beef to burst, also known as a freezer burn.
Thankfully, avoiding freezer-burned meat is as easy as taking the following steps:
- Wrap each steak in plastic wrap and place it in a sealable freezer bag, this prevents the air from coming in contact with the meat and stops ice forming.
- If you have one, a vacuum sealer is an excellent tool to use when freezing meat.
- Remember to label your meat with what it is and when you froze it. Then you’ll know exactly what’s in each bag and when you’ll need to cook it.
What’s the best way to cook Denver steak?
What makes the Denver steak special is its beautiful marbling, tenderness, and beefy flavor. Getting the best from this cut means cooking it in a way that accentuates these qualities, rather than covering them up.
You can just throw you Denver steak on the grill and cook it hot and fast, but if you’re looking for alternative cooking methods that bring out the best in this fantastic steak, this is what we suggest:
The Reverse Sear
The reverse sear keeps your Dever steak moist and tender while still giving you a delicious brown crust and can be done with an oven, charcoal grill, or gas burner.
1) Prepare your steak
To correctly season your steak, sprinkle on a good pinch of kosher salt on each side and rest in the refrigerator for around 24 hours. If you don’t have a day to prepare, salt your steaks just before they go on the grill.
2) Set up your two-zone grill or oven
If you are using a charcoal grill, bank your coals to one side, creating hot and cool zones. With a gas grill, turn one burner up to full and leave the other one on low.
If you are using an oven, preheat it to around 275°F.
3) Cook your steaks
Place your seasoned steaks on the cool side of your grill or on a baking sheet in your oven. The indirect heat from the hot side of your grill will cook your steaks in the same low-and-slow manner as the low-temp oven.
Use your probe thermometer to check the temperature of the steaks until they are around 105°F for rare, 115°F for medium-rare or 125°F for medium.
4) Sear to finish
Once your steaks are up to the target temperature, take them off the grill, or out of the oven, and bush them down with some melted butter. Then sear them on the hot side of your grill, or in a smoking hot skillet, for the all-important Maillard Reaction crust.
If your Denver steak is frozen and you can’t wait a day for the steak to thaw out, then using a Sous-Vide an excellent way to cook your steak to the same finish as the reverse sear method without ever needing to thaw them out.
If you have a sous-vide machine, then the task is much easier, you simply set your desired temperature, using the guide temps we used for the reverse sear and a cooking time based on the thickness of your steak.
If you don’t have a sous-vide machine, don’t worry, you can just use a pan on the stove.
1) Prepare your water bath
Fill your chosen pan with water and leave enough room at the top so the water won’t overflow when you add the steak. If you didn’t freeze your steak in an airtight ziplock bag, now is the time to put it in one.
2) Bring the bath up to temperature
For this step, you’ll need your handy probe thermometer. Attach your thermometer to the side of the pan with a clip clamp. If you don’t have a clip, you can always just dunk it in the water every now and then.
You’ll have to fiddle around with your stove to get the bath up to the right temperature. We recommend starting on a medium-low, letting the water get to a stable temperature, and increasing or decreasing the heat incrementally.
3) Cook your steak
Hang the bag with your steak in it over the side of the pot, and use a clip to secure it in place, making sure the bag doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot.
How long you cook your steak for depends on the level of doneness you want and the thickness of the steak. You can use this handy adjustable Sous Vide Time and Temperature Guide to work out how long you’ll need.
4) Sear to finish
Much like with the reverse sear, once you’re steak has come up to the correct temperature, you’ll need to sear it to get a tasty crust. Since you’re already using the stove, heat up a skillet until it’s smoking hot, brush your steak with some melted butter, and sear for a few seconds on each side.
Wrapping it up
You might have to put a little extra effort into sourcing a Dever steak, but it is worth it for this tender, flavorsome cut. If you are looking for an alternative to a New York Strip that doesn’t break the bank, then the Denver steak, reverse-seared to a perfect medium-rare, should be at the top of your list.
What do you think of the Denver steak? Is there a cooking method that you feel works better for this cut than the reverse sear or the sous vide? We’d love it if you’d let us know in the comments below!