A steak, also sometimes called “beef steak”, is a meat generally sliced across the muscle fibres, potentially including a bone. It is normally grilled, though it can also be pan-fried. Steak can also be cooked in sauce, such as in steak and kidney pie, or minced and formed into patties, such as hamburgers.
Besides cattle, steaks are also often cut from other animals, including bison, camel, goat, horse, kangaroo, sheep, ostrich, pigs, reindeer, turkey, deer, and zebu, as well as various types of fish, especially salmon and large fish such as swordfish, shark, and marlin. For some meats, such as pork, lamb and mutton, chevon, and veal, these cuts are often referred to as chops. Some cured meat, such as gammon, is commonly served as steak.
Grilled portobello mushroom may be called mushroom steak, and similarly for other vegetarian dishes. Imitation steak is a food product that is formed into a steak shape from various pieces of meat. Grilled fruits such as watermelon have been used as vegetarian steak alternatives.
Exceptions, in which the meat is sliced parallel to the fibres, include the skirt steak cut from the plate, the flank steak cut from the abdominal muscles, and the silver finger steak cut from the loin and including three rib bones. In a larger sense, fish steaks, ground meat steaks, pork steak, and many more varieties of steak are known.
The word steak originates from the mid-15th century Scandinavian word steik, or stickna’ in the Middle English dialect, along with the Old Norse word steikja. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first reference is to “a thick slice of meat cut for roasting or grilling or frying, sometimes used in a pie or pudding; especially a piece cut from the hind-quarters of the animal.” Subsequent parts of the entry, however, refer to “steak fish”, which referred to “cod of a size suitable for cutting into steaks”, and also “steak-raid”, which was a custom among Scottish Highlanders of giving some cattle being driven through a gentleman’s land to the owner. Early written usage of the word “stekys” comes from a 15th-century cookbook and makes reference to both beef and venison steaks.