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The Great Debate: Bone-In vs Boneless Steak on the Grill

The Great Debate: Bone-In vs Boneless Steak on the Grill

Words Jennifer Billock

When it comes to grilling steak, one question stands out: Should you go bone-in or boneless? Learn what’s best—plus how to prepare, cook and serve your meal.

Grill aficionados have an ongoing debate: Is it better to grill a bone-in steak or a boneless steak? Grab your ribeyes and wield your tongs, because we’re about to unpack that question and discover whether bone-in vs boneless steak is better.

tongs holding a steak

Which Cuts of Steak Have Bones and Which Don’t?

No matter what type of steak you’re going to have, the first thing you have to choose is the cut. Read ahead for the most common—and whether they come with a bone in, boneless or both.

Ribeye: Both

The ribeye cut comes from the beef rib and is known for being tender, juicy and hugely flavorful—largely thanks to the intramuscular fat deposits, or marbling. It’s considered one of the best cuts for flavor alone. The famous Kobe beef is usually served as a ribeye cut.

Filet Mignon: Typically Boneless

Filet mignon is cut from the tenderloin and, as the name implies, is one of the most tender cuts of meat. It’s typically a special occasion steak and can be pretty pricey. Filet mignon is also on the smaller side, so plan for one steak per person.

Strip Steak: Typically Boneless

A strip steak is from the short loin muscle; it’s what’s left after you remove the tenderloin from the muscle. This cut is just the right mix of tender and chewy, and marbling pulls in a burst of flavor and juiciness.

Flank Steak: Boneless

Flank steak comes from the cow’s underbelly. It’s a tougher cut but still flavorful. Most of the time, flank steak is cut up and used in other dishes, or it’s sliced thin and put in a marinade. It has a longitudinal grain, which makes it easier for the meat to soak in the flavor. This combination of versatility and tastiness also means this the cut is a crowd-pleaser, making flank steak a great choice when grilling for a group.

Skirt Steak: Boneless

The skirt steak is pretty flavorful, thanks to its origin on the cow: the chest plate just below the ribs, where it’s almost all muscle. That being said, because skirt steak is so muscle-heavy, it won’t be as tender. Cook it on the rarer side to make sure it doesn’t get tough.

Top Sirloin: Boneless

Sirloin steak comes from the cow’s hip, so top sirloin comes from the upper portion of the hip. It’s the best of the sirloins, thanks to a robust flavor from the marbling. It’s a versatile steak, too, and works just as well cut up and incorporated into other dishes as it does on its own. Be careful with cook time, though—top sirloin can turn tough pretty quickly.

Porterhouse: Bone-In

If you like T-bone steaks, you’ll definitely like porterhouse—they’re almost exactly the same. Both cuts have the same bone and range of flavor and texture, but the porterhouse is larger than the T-bone.

T-Bone: Bone-In

A T-bone is the most iconic bone-in steak, thanks to its namesake bone right in the middle of it. It comes from the front of the short loin muscle and is technically two steaks in one: a strip steak and a tenderloin, separated by the bone. T-bones have a pretty wide range of texture and flavor, and they’re typically big—which can also mean expensive.

Which is Better: Boneless or Bone-In?

If you prefer your steak a little more cooked, choose bone-in; if you cook it until the meat near the bone is the temperature you like, you can be sure the rest of the steak will be more well-done, too. Plus, you’ll get a variation of doneness throughout the meat, which satisfies every taste. Bone-in also gives you that iconic cookout steak flavor. Boneless, on the other hand, is easier to cut—so if you have kids at your cookout, that may be your best bet. And if you truly adore your seasoning or rub of choice, go boneless so you can get that flavor in every bite.

Bone-in steaks are heavier and impart more natural flavor into the meat, but they take longer to cook near the bone, which acts as an insulator. Boneless steaks are easier to overcook, as the heat comes in from every direction—so watch your cooking time to avoid overdoing it. It’s also a good idea to let boneless meat sit about 10 minutes longer before cooking to allow the seasoning or rub to penetrate more deeply.

checking the temperature of a steak using a meat thermometer

How to Prepare Your Steak

Whether you’re cooking a bone-in steak or a boneless steak, you’ll want to season it well. It’s best to season the steaks the night before and let them sit in the fridge overnight, then pull them out 30 minutes before grilling. Otherwise, take the meat out of the fridge about a half-hour before you cook it so it can reach room temperature; that will help it cook evenly. Right when you pull the steak from the fridge, brush both sides with a thin coating of olive oil and sprinkle it liberally with your seasoning of choice. We prefer simple salt and pepper—but you can also make your own seasoning with equal parts salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.

How to Grill to Perfection

Prepare your grill so you have both direct heat and indirect heat. For charcoal grills, that means putting all the coals on one side; for a gas grill, keep half the burners on and half off. Then:

  1. Place your steaks on the indirect heat side. Cover the grill for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  2. Move the steaks to the direct heat side and repeat the process, flipping halfway through again.
  3. Move the steaks back to indirect heat and continue to cook until they reach your desired doneness. Use an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of your meat; 120° is rare, 140° is medium and 160° is well-done.

Other than timing, the grilling process doesn’t change for bone-in vs. boneless.

a finished grilled steak with a turner

How to Serve Your Meal

Don’t serve the meat immediately—let the steak rest for about five minutes to lock in the flavor and ensure the temperature is just right. When it’s time to cut the meat, go against the grain; otherwise it could be tough and chewy instead of tender. If you want to ensure the steak is as easy to chew as possible, opt for boneless, as the absence of the bone makes it softer overall. As for the best meal pairings, you can go classic with grilled corn on the cob and a baked potato, or get a little fancy with unexpected sides like grilled grapes and a light salad.

Ultimately, in the great bone-in vs boneless steak debate, both styles take the top spot. As long as you prepare and cook it properly, the end result will be impeccable. For delicious side dish ideas, head over to the OXO blog and sign up for the newsletter to get them right in your inbox.

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By Jennifer Billock

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