Shell Steak Guide

Latest posts by Erin Jamieson (see all)

Over 27 billion pounds of beef is produced in the United States every year, and steak remains among the most popular forms of meat. But as we head into 2022, it’s not filet mignon and ribeye that is being showcased, but great cuts like shell steak guiding Americans to new flavors. 

Fine dining steakhouses are struggling. The ups and downs of lockdowns, supply chain problems and Americans hesitating to spend money have made 2020, 2021, and now the beginning of 2022 a rocky one for even the best steak restaurants.

But the picture is more complex than that. Even as some steak houses struggle, steak consumption hasn’t waned. Beef consumption rose 40 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

And some steakhouses are taking advantage of that by showcasing more cuts of steak. One such place is the River Palm Terrace. Named one of the best steakhouses in the United States, River Palm Terrace has a lot to celebrate. And while the Kitchen Sink Banana Split is turning some heads, it’s their selection of steaks that keep them on top.

Those steaks include not only prime butcher cut filet mignon but also succulent prime dry-aged New York shell steak. Shell steak is a star of the menu, alongside porterhouse and t-bones, all prime-aged and served with fresh vegetables and in-house pasta. 

So does shell steak deserve more credit? In this guide, I’ll tell you how to find the best kinds of shell steak and how to cook shell steak. Finally, I’ll tell you where to buy shell steak. No reservations are required. 

What cut is shell steak?

shell steak

Shell steaks come from the short loin of a cow. It’s cut directly from a muscle, which may make some steak lovers hesitant. The truth is what muscle you cut from greatly impacts the tenderness of your meat. Some muscles are used often, lending to tougher cuts of steak. But shell steak is cut from a muscle that is used very little. 

What does a shell steak look like?

With a name like a shell steak, you might expect an odd, shell-like appearance. Instead, shell steak is quite flat. It’s a flattened, shallow cut compared with many other cuts of beef. However, it’s not so flat that it’s too thin. High-quality shell steak will have a bright red appearance when raw and a side cap of fat. You’ll also notice a moderate amount of marbling. 

Does shell steak have a bone?

Shell steaks are taken from muscles on either side of the T-bone. Sometimes you’ll have a cut with the bone, and other times you’ll purchase it sans bone. 

What is another name for shell steak? 

If the description of a shell steak is ringing a bell, that’s because you’ve most likely had one. Shell steak is a name that encompasses more specific steak cuts. A shell steak is a strip steak. This family includes Kansas City Strip Steaks and New York Strip steaks. You’ll also have your choice of shell steak sirloin, Angus, and Wagyu. 

Is shell steak a good cut of meat?

Shell steak is an excellent cut and quite underrated. Since there are many different forms of shell steak, shell steak is versatile. It can be found at many price points and is known for its pleasing taste. 

What does shell steak taste like?

When prepared correctly, shell steak can be seasoned the way you like. Shell steak is not as tender as many cuts, but it’s also not as tough as others. Tenderness is paired with a slight chewiness. The flavor is mild and versatile- making it all around a steak suited for casual entertaining. When prepared incorrectly, it can be tough. 

Is shell steak fatty or lean?

Shell steak is in between the leanest and most fatty steak. It’s fattier than steaks like filet mignon and flap steak. It’s also leaner than steaks like prime rib and rib roast. Shell steak is not classified as the healthiest meat, but it is a source of iron and protein. 

Looking further into shell steak’s nutritional value, a 4-ounce serving has an average of 260 calories and 18 grams of fat (7 grams of saturated fat. Depending on the specific cut, that serving also provides 65mg of cholesterol, 60mg of sodium, and 23 grams of protein. 

Is shell steak expensive? 

Shell steak is considered to be moderately priced for most cuts. Shell steak falls right in the middle, with an average price per pound of $12.99 to $14.99. Wagyu runs far more expensive.

How does shell steak compare to other popular cuts?

shell steak

Before you purchase shell steak, here’s how it compares to other popular cuts. From ribeye to filet mignon, here’s what you need to consider. 

Shell Steak vs Ribeye Steak

Ribeye steak, as the name suggests, comes from the rib cage. It’s one of the most sought-after cuts of meat, with rich marbling and an exceptionally robust beefy flavor. It’s also the highest in fats and calories and is often used for special occasions. By comparison, shell steak is a bit tougher, leaner, and has less flavorful marbling. It’s cheaper but requires more care in cooking and more seasoning for a good result. 

Shell Steak vs Filet Mignon 

Filet mignon is a premium cut of steak that comes from a part of tenderloin referred to as the psoas major. Filet mignon is lauded for its succulent, tender texture. Some describe it as buttery. Shell streak is noticeably tougher though it also has a more robust beefy flavor. 

Shell Steak vs Flank Steak

Flank steak is one of the leanest cuts of meat that comes from the rear flank of a cow. In French, it’s sometimes referred to as a bavette steak. It’s very lean and versatile as well as fairly affordable. Shell steak is going to provide more flavor and fat and is also a bit more tender. 

How do you prepare shell steak?

Before you fire up the grill or heat the stovetop, there’s a little prep work involved. Depending on the recipe, you may find yourself making a dry rub for seasoning or even marinade. Bone-in steaks are usually prepared as one full steak, and you won’t need to further butcher with knives before tossing them on the stovetop or grill. 

Shell Steak Seasoning

seasoningSeasoning is always helpful for steak, but it’s especially important for shell steak. While shell steak can be delicious, it has its challenges. You need to make sure you’re optimizing your seasonings to bring up the flavor. Your cooking method matters: the higher the temperature and the quicker the cooking method, the more you need to worry about retaining moisture. As I know and you likely know too, the last thing you want is dry steak. 

Shell Steak Dry Rub

A dry rub is a mix of seasonings directly applied to fish and meat before cooking. For shell steak, this usually consists of salt, brown sugar, paprika, pepper (cayenne, white), garlic, and even fennel. A blend of salty, spicy, and sweet brings out beefy flavors and works well with both the marbled and leaner portions of the steak.

To lock in moisture, I recommend coating the steak with olive oil or with butter before applying your dry rub. This also keeps your dry rub in place. If you choose a dry rub as your primary seasoning, be cautious about heat and cooking time. If I notice your steak getting dry, sometimes I add a bit of moisture with a splash of citrus. 

Recommended Recipes

Sweet and Spicy Dry Rub, Classic Homemade Dry Rub, Dry Rub Tutorial 

Shell Steak Marinade

Vinegar, Worcester, steak sauce, olive oil, honey, and some spices are some of my favorite ingredients for shell steak marinade. When applying a marinade, allow your steak to sit for half an hour up to 8 hours in a cooler. If you want to create your own, remember the elements of fat, salt, acid, and heat. A little sweetness to balance out the heat is likewise important. 

Recommended Recipe

Classic Steak Marinade

What’s the best way to cook shell steak?

Shell steak can be grilled, cooked in the oven, pan-seared, broiled, and cooked in an air fryer. While all of these cooking methods come with pros and cons, pan-frying is the most popular cooking method, followed by grilling. Both provide a nice caramelization to the exterior. At the same time, both run the risk of drying steak out due to the high cooking temperatures. 

What internal temperature should I reach for shell steak?

shell steak

Your cooking time is dependent on the cooking method and your desired internal temperature. USDA guidelines consider an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to meet requirements for food safety. This would be a medium steak. 

 However, with steak, it’s common to serve below that temperature. See the guidelines below for what temperatures your shell steak should be for desired results. 

Desired Result Internal Temperature
Rare  125 Degrees F/ 52 Degrees C
Medium Rare  135 Degrees F/ 57 Degrees C
Medium  145 Degrees F/ 63 Degrees C
Medium Well  150 Degrees F/ 66 Degrees C
Well Done  160 Degrees F/ 71 Degrees C

Is shell steak good for grilling?

tacosGrilling is a great option if you’re opting for a medium-rare to rare result. If you prefer your steak medium well or well done, it may be wise to select a different cooking method. 

What temperature should my grill be?

Set your grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. You can play with slightly lower or higher temperatures. 

How long should you grill shell steak?

For best results, grill for 3 to 5 minutes per side until you reached the desired internal temperature. For a 1-inch bone-in shell steak, it takes around 10 to 15 minutes total. You’ll need to have a marinade and/or olive oil blend nearby to add moisture during the process. Brushing on marinade after you flip each side ensures you retain moisture. This works for gas and electric grills. 

Suggested Shell Steak Recipes

Carne Asada Hard Shell Tacos (Substitute Flank), Quick Grilled Steak Sandwiches, Korean BBQ Grilled Shell Steak

How do I cook shell steak in the oven?

steak in oven

Shell steak can also be cooked in the oven. The advantage of this is you can achieve a medium-well or well-done steak without the high risk of it drying out. You’re cooking at a lower temperature, and it’s easier to cook your shell steak more evenly. There’s no doubt that oven steak doesn’t taste the same as grilled steaks, but there are things you can do to optimize results. 

Step One: Prepare Shell Steak

Marinate your steak. Let it reach room temperature for half an hour. 

Step Two: Preheat Oven to 375 to 400 Degrees 

Some suggest higher temperatures, but I prefer to go slower and slower. You can kick it up to 450 for thicker cuts. 

Step Three: Pan Sear

You can place your shell steak directly in the oven, but pan-searing creates a nice caramelization. Make sure your skillet is very hot, heating steak until it just starts to color. 

Step Four: Finish in Oven 

Make sure you have enough moisture, finish cooking your shell steak in the oven until it reaches the desired temperature. Rotating your rack ensures even cooking. 

Suggested Shell Steak Recipes

New York Strip Loin Roast with Garlic Herb Crust, Oven Grilled Shell Steak, Stovetop To Oven New York Strip Steak 

How do you cook shell steak in a cast-iron skillet?

strip steakCan you cook shell steak entirely on a stovetop? If you have a large cast-iron skillet, the answer is yes. Cast iron skillet shell steak is quite popular as a substitute for grilling. Though it won’t have the same result, it’s quicker than cooking steak on a stove. However, for this cooking method, I highly recommend buying a boneless cut. Pan-frying a steak that’s bone-in is quite challenging. 

Step One: Prepare the Steak 

Apply butter or oil to the exterior of your steak, followed by a dry rub. Be sure to use plenty of salt and seasonings. 

Step Two: Preheat the Skillet

The skillet needs to be very hot. It may take up to 4 minutes. 

Step Three: Pan Fry Shell Steak

Cook for 1-2 minutes initially on each side. Continue to flip and cook for 30 to 45 seconds on each side until the desired internal temperature is reached. Pay attention to the moisture in the pan, and reduce the heat if you notice uneven cooking or drying out. 

Suggested Shell Steak Recipes

Steak Au Poivre, Steak Pizzailoa, Herb Butter Basted Cast Iron Steak

How do you broil shell steak?

steak

If you’re in a hurry and struggle pan-frying shell steak, broiling is another option. Broiling may be preferred if you have a bone-in shell steak since you don’t have to directly control how evenly heat is being distributed. The risk of broiling is the steak won’t typically have as much flavor or caramelization. It’s also easy to overcook quickly, so it’s important to rotate your shell steak and check frequently. When done correctly, the shell steak’s exterior should be crisp. 

Step One: Prepare Shell Steak

Choose a dry rub with oil or butter. Make sure there’s enough moisture and plenty of salt and seasonings. Apply liberally, but make sure you don’t have an excess loose dry rub. 

Step Two: Set Broiler to High 

Broilers heat up quickly but wait a moment before broiling your steak.

Step Three: Adjust Racks

You don’t want your steak too near or too far away from the top of your broiler. Place your steak around 4 inches from the top of the broiler. 

Step Four: Broil and Rotate 

Depending on the size of your shell steak, broiling should take anywhere from 6 to 20 minutes. A 1-inch steak takes an average of 15 minutes. A smaller steak could take as little as 7. Check a minute before you expect it will be done by taking the internal temperature. Rotate often. 

Suggested Shell Steak Recipes

Broiled New York Strip Steak, Mark Bittman’s Broiled Steak

How do I cook shell steak in an air fryer?

steakMy final recommendation is cooking your shell steak in an air fryer. Air fryers are a wise choice for anyone who isn’t confident in their steak cooking skills. The beauty of air fryers is that they evenly distribute heat in a way other cooking methods don’t. While air frying won’t provide the same taste as grilled steak, you’ll get a nice crisp exterior and tender interior. 

Step One: Prepare Shell Steak 

You’ll want some type of marinade. I like garlic butter or olive oil with herbs. Let your steak sit out for half an hour at room temperature. You can also apply a dry rub of Italian seasonings. 

Step Two: Preheat and Prepare the Air Fryer

Set the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step Three: Air Fry Shell Steak

Most steaks will take 10-12 minutes to cook. All you need to do is flip your steak over using tongs about 5 to 6 minutes in. Check the internal temperature of your steak about a minute before you think you need to. 

Suggested Shell Steak Recipes

Air Fryer Steak with Garlic-Herb Butter, Frozen Steak in Air Fryer, Vortex Air Fryer Steak

How do you select the best shell steak?

To select the best shell steak, there are several things I consider. First, I look to see if the steak is graded by the USDA. The USDA grades steak based upon the quality of the marbling and tenderness. The different grades of steak in order from best to worst are prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. Ideally, you should buy prime shell steak, though choice shell steak can still be great for tacos and sandwiches. 

What is the source of shell steak?

Sourcing refers to where the steak comes from. This won’t matter to everyone, but I prefer supporting producers that supply information about how and where their animals were raised. Not only does this provide transparency, but it can even impact the composition of your meet. For instance, grass-fed steak is richer in healthier fats and lower in saturated fats. Humanely raised means different things but typically indicates the animals are free to graze, treated well, and butchered as efficiently as possible. Of course, if you’re on a tight budget or shopping in-store at your local supermarket, it may not be possible to meet all of these standards. 

Kansas City Steak vs New York Steak

Kansas City and New York steaks have a lot in common but also some noticeable differences. Kansas City steak is usually thinner with a supple fat cap. New York strip steak is thicker with the fat trimmed off. This is mostly a matter of preference. Read about the differences between Kansas City vs New York Steak Here

What is an Angus shell steak?

Angus beef is one great option. Angus beef is worth the extra cost because it has more marbling. Angus shell steak also has more even marbling, making it easier to cook. Angus steak of any kind is s bit more flavorful and tender. It is fattier, so it’s not the best option if you’re worried about fat and calories. 

What is Wagyu shell steak?

If you’re looking for a premium steak for a special occasion. Wagyu shell steak is another option. Wagyu strip steak is almost always sold without a bone. It has robust marbling and richness you wouldn’t expect from shell steak. This tender, juicy type of shell steak can be bought as Japanese Wagyu or American Wagyu. 

Where do I buy the best shell steak?

Shell steak is very common, and even more so if you aren’t picky about the type of shell steak. You can buy shell steak at your local butcher or supermarket. Farms and farmer’s markets are great places to buy fresh meat from. But if you’re looking for shell steak online, there are better places than others. My recommendations for the best places to buy shell steak from are based upon this criteria: 

  • Company Ratings
  • Sourcing
  • Variety
  • Reasonable Prices
  • Clear Customer Service Presence and Policies 

TruBeef Organic

truebeef

Whether you want a subscription or just to make a one-time purchase, TruBeef Organic is a great place to buy shell steak. Their beef is organic, raised in a pasture, grass-fed, and grass-finished. They’re also certified 100 percent organic. That means your shell steak comes without hormones, antibiotics, or dyes. There’s an excellent selection of shell steaks, both individually and as bundles. For the quality, the prices are fair, too. Shop Here

Organic Prairie

Organic Prairie

This lesser-known company is a gem for premium quality shell steak. Lauded by customers, Organic Prarie sells shell steak and related beef products that are ideal for burgers, roasts, sandwiches, and tacos. The small, family-owned content is based in Iowa and is USDA-certified organic. Shop Here

Kansas City Steaks

Kansas City Steaks

If you don’t care as much about ethical sourcing, a more mainstream company I’ll point you to is Kansas City Steaks. Kansas City steaks have excellent strip steaks and many buying options for entertaining. They’re a practical option for entertaining and retaining excellent customer reviews. (Check out my review of Kansas City Steaks vs Omaha Steaks Here). Shop Here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is a beef shell?

Answer: Beef shell is simply a shorthand for beef shell steak. Beef shell steak is flat and maybe bone-in or without a bone. 

Question: What are the huge steaks called?

Answer: Huge steak is the tomahawk steak. Tomahawk steaks are a bone-in form of ribeye steak and are quite popular. These huge steaks are not only noted for their size but also their buttery and succulent flavor. These steaks have plentiful marbling and robust flavor. 

Question: What is the most flavorful steak?

Answer: It’s hard to place one steak as the most flavorful. Forms of Wagyu rank high, as do cuts of ribeye. 

Question: Are strip and shell steak the same?

Answer: Strip steak is a type of shell steak. Both New York and Kansas City strip steaks are classified as shell steaks. Both are fairly popular and versatile. You can grill, broil, pan sear, cook, and even air fry shell steak. 

Final Thoughts

From a classic steak dinner to tacos or sandwiches, a shell steak is a practical option for entertaining. While shell steak isn’t the most flavorful or tender steak available, it’s among the most versatile. You can find shell steak at a good price or splurge on more expensive cuts. Make sure you don’t make the most common steak cooking mistakes. Season well and cook your steak once it arrives to room temperature for best results. 

Final Buying Recommendation: Wagyu Shell Steak from Snake River Farms

wagyu steak

I saved this one for last because it’s expensive. Snake River Farms has an impressive selection of shell steak, including New York American Wagyu Strip Steak. This collection includes bone-in and boneless options. Their farm-to-table model means they are in touch with local sourcing from smaller farmers. Their cattle are allowed to roam freely, and their beef is known for its splendid marbling. Shop All New York Strip Wagyu Here.

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