Even if you’re not steak nerds like us, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of or had a Delmonico steak. This legendary steak staple is served all around the country and is known to be delicious, tender, and rich. What exactly a Delmonico steak is, however, is more of a debate than you may realize.
Buckle up. This story is meaty.
What is a Delmonico steak?
As it turns out, a Delmonico steak isn’t actually a particular cut. Back in the mid-19th century, New York’s first premier steak house, Delmonico’s Restaurant located in lower Manhattan, used to serve up the original Delmonico steak. The thing is, the Delmonico steak just happened to be whatever the butcher thought was best that night. The cooking method remained mainly the same, but the cut itself would change.
This name is possibly due to a famous importer socialite whose last name was Delmonico and would create elaborate meals with “whatever the best” ingredients and meats could be found[*]. In other words, Delmonico became a bit of a slang way of saying “the best”.
This variability is the source of confusion for steak lovers everywhere, resulting in over eight different cuts being labeled by experts as the Delmonico cut[*].
Here are the eight cuts that various butchers, restaurants, and chefs typically label as a Delmonico steak:
- Last boneless chuck-eye steak
- Any bone-in rib steak
- Any bone-in rib-eye
- First boneless rib-eye
- Any boneless rib-eye
- First bone-in top loin steak
- Any bone-in top loin steak
- Any boneless top loin steak
So who is correct? Steak Perfection has a theory after reviewing historical interviews by two 19th century head chefs at the original Delmonico’s. After careful analysis, they think that the historical fact is that the original, authentic Delmonico steak is, in modern terms, the first boneless top loin steak cut from the front of (anterior to) the short loin.
But, sometimes the historical fact isn’t as useful when it’s not what most people know. With that in mind, this is what is common across Delmonico steaks:
- They are usually rib or short loin.
- They are broiled or quickly grilled.
- They are usually cut at least an inch and a half thick and often go beyond two inches.
- If you go to Delmonico’s and order their Delmonico steak, you’ll get a rib-eye that’s been brushed with melted butter and beef fat and cooked via a fast broil. Many restaurants emulate this cooking method when serving a Delmonico.
It’s also common to top Delmonico steaks with a compound herb butter, and while it’s more traditional to broil a Delmonico, many chefs will grill them as well. In the end, the focus should be on the meat. While some restaurants deck out their Delmonico steaks with sauces and lots of toppings, we prefer to keep it simple.
Are Delmonico steaks dry-aged or wet-aged?
While dry-aged steaks are in vogue these days, Delmonico steaks are traditionally wet-aged. This means they are usually vacuum-sealed in plastic and aged for 4-10 days as opposed to dry-aging, where butchers hang cuts just above freezing for weeks or even months to get rid of water content and concentrate the flavor.
Both forms of preparation are delicious in their own right, but if you want the traditional Delmonico experience, it needs to be wet-aged. That’s because wet-aged steaks are juicier, which is what we associate with Delmonicos.
Most steaks you buy are wet-aged anyway, so unless they specifically say dry-aged you will be getting a wet-aged steak.
How to cook Delmonico steak
In order to cook a Delmonico steak, you’ll want to fast broil it and brush it with butter and beef fat. The key is to get your broiler as hot as possible, buy the best steak you can, and nail the timing.
Here’s how we like to cook our Delmonico steaks:
- Set your steaks out and let them come to room temperature. Sponge any moisture as needed.
- Put a broiler pan in your oven and get your broiler ripping hot. Try to place the rack and pan as close to the broiler as possible, too. 4 to six inches is perfect. High heat is the name of the game here!
- Season your steak — at a bare minimum this is rubbing it down with oil, salt, and pepper, although you could take this in any direction you want — e.g. lime salt and vegetable oil for a Latin twist or your favorite rub.
- Score the fat on your steaks a few times to prevent the steak from curling.
- Put your steaks on the broiler pan and cook for around 3 and a half minutes on each side or until you are 5-10 degrees from your desired temperature.
- Take it out and either feel test or use an instant-read thermometer.
- Let rest for 5 minutes to let the meat relax, brush with melted butter and beef fat from the bottom of the broiler pan, cut against the grain, and serve on warm plates.
That’s it! If you stick to those basics you will walk out with an irresistible steak.
Delmonico steak recipes
Here are a few other recipes that slightly vary by searing method or seasonings. There’s no one right way, so get your Delmonico steak, take your pick, and get cooking!
This compound butter really puts this recipe over the edge. It really is fantastic, and you can make a bunch of the butter to have around for future Delmonico steaks. That butter is also great on roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes!
This is similar to the first recipe but gives you advice on how to grill a Delmonico steak if that’s what you’re in the mood for. Remember to get your grill as hot as you can before you start cooking.
This recipe gets a bit more experimental by adding mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. If you want to step away a bit from a straight-ahead steak night, then this is for you.
Where to buy Delmonico steak
Again, that depends on your definition of a Delmonico steak. You could argue that a Delmonico steak is whatever a butcher gives you after asking them for their best cut of the day. You could also ask a butcher for any of the cuts listed above, or you can order any farm’s Delmonico steak with the knowledge that it’s one of their favorite cuts.
Take our Delmonico steak, for example. Our take on the 1800’s culinary delight is a bone-in cut originating from the short loin, which produces an unbelievably tender steak.
We proudly teamed up with a group of elite grass farmers from the Island of Tasmania (off the coast of Australia) for this short loin cut, and as soon as you taste this steak you’ll know why. The climate in Tasmania is a utopia for cattle because of the year-round maritime climate buffered by the Southern Ocean, and their air quality is recognized as the gold standard for purity.
Each of our Delmonico steaks average 14 ounces and are made from 100% grass-fed, non-GMO, non-antibiotic, completely-natural beef.
If you want to win your steak night, then this is the cut.
Storing Delmonico steak
You can just follow conventional steak storage advice here. You’ve got about 3-5 days in the fridge and a few months in the freezer depending on the temperature and how well you store it.
In general, it’s best to:
- Remove it from the grocery store packaging
- Use butcher’s paper, freezer bags, or even better — vacuum seal it.
- Quick freeze it when you can. This reduces the time ice has to build on the steak.
- Avoid using plastic wrap — it will develop freezer burn faster than the other methods mentioned.
If you stick to that advice you should have no problem eating your steaks before they go bad. We can barely keep them in our house for two days!
The bottom line on Delmonico steak
Modern chefs have different definitions of the Delmonico steak, but the most historically accurate cut is the first boneless top loin steak cut from the front of (anterior to) the short loin. Regardless of what specific cut you get, Delmonico steaks are typically thick-cut, fast broiled, and brushed with butter and beef fat.
Your best bet for a perfect Delmonico steak is to follow a good recipe and buy the best Delmonico steak possible. The way you do that is by knowing your farm and source, buying non-GMO, and finding a butcher who knows how to cut a great Delmonico.
Lucky for you, we’re exactly who you’ve been looking for. You won’t find a better Delmonico steak in the country, we guarantee it.
Try our elite Tasmanian Delmonico Steaks cut by our expert butchers.
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.