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“What’s for dinner?” is a cry heard in almost every household almost every day. And coming up with a variety of meals is difficult when you’re staring at a long line of pre-packaged beef at the grocery store. Both the sirloin tip and the top sirloin look good and are priced reasonably, but knowing which one to choose and the different ways to prepare them to bring out their best flavor can make the difference between hungry cries and satisfied smiles.

Know Your Cow

Knowing the different sections of a steer or heifer from a butcher’s perspective gives you a leg up when selecting packaged beef. There are seven primal sections in “butcher speak,” and all yield different qualities of beef, depending on whether the meat comes from a working section or one that just goes along for the ride. Muscles tend to make the meat tough, while fat gives flavor and tenderness.

The mid-section, or loin, provides the most tender meat. It’s just behind the ribs, and this section of the cow has had a lazy life. This is where the most expensive cuts come from, such as the filet. Just behind the loin is the sirloin, which gives us top sirloin. Moving back to the rump, we get sirloin tip. The further back you go, the more muscular the beef.

Making Meltingly Good Top Sirloin

Because it comes from the largest muscle, the top sirloin is usually cut boneless. Marbling includes those veins of fat running through the cut, and top sirloin has little of that, because during the cow’s lifetime, it was a worker bee that helped propel the animal. Find a piece that is thick ‒ at least 1-inch thick ‒ if not thicker.

Slow cooking is the key to tenderness in a muscular piece of meat, and the reverse sear method brings out the best in a top sirloin. The process takes time, but by the time the meat is served, it’ll be difficult to taste the difference between this relatively inexpensive cut and one that comes from the loin.

Reverse Searing Top Sirloin

Give yourself at least 75 minutes to make your top sirloin in the reverse sear method. The result is worth it.

  1. Bring the steak to room temperature and season both sides with kosher salt.
  2. Heat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Prepare the baking pan by placing a large piece of foil in the pan, making sure you have enough foil left on the sides to wrap around the steak once it’s baked. Put a rack in the pan and lay the steak on it.
  4. Bake the steak for at least 40 minutes, or until a digital, instant-read thermometer indicates the internal temperature has reached 125F.
  5. Remove the steak from the oven and wrap the foil around it. Let the steak rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Heat a skillet until it is screamingly hot and sear the steak for 1 minute on each side for medium-rare.
  7. Remove the steak from the skillet and let the meat sit for 15 minutes. This lets the juices relax into the meat instead of spilling out when it’s cut.
  8. Slice the top sirloin at an angle and place the pieces onto a serving platter. Scatter freshly chopped parsley and a dash of finishing salt on top and serve. The meat is tender and juicy, and you’ll be rewarded with smiles all around the dinner table.

Tips for Sirloin Tips

The rump and rear leg of the beef give sirloin tips. They are muscular, tough and need long, slow cooking to make them more tender and less chewy. Braising for several hours or marinating them to break down the muscular structure is the best way to make a “silk purse out of a cow’s leg”!