The top sirloin is a fat steak cut from the sirloin primal section of the cow, between the steak-heavy loin and the thick-muscled round, or rump. Due to its proximity to the round section of the cow, sirloin can be tougher than other less-exercised sections, but top sirloin is the leanest of its cuts and one of the most flavorful cuts of beef. Meat experts and renowned chefs alike advise simple preparations for cooking top sirloin, typically a quick grilling or broiling with just a standard dry rub or perhaps a more complex refrigerated marination.
The top sirloin is among several prevalent sirloin offerings from butchers around the world. Also in this primal are part of the storied beef tenderloin, ordinary sirloin steak from the lower part of the primal, and tri-tip roasts and steaks. As the name suggests, the top sirloin is cut from the meat closest to the spine. If the labeling says just sirloin, it is possible the cut comes from the lowest portion of the primal, where the meat is less prized. Nevertheless, all sirloin cuts are considered lean, with very little marbling and less than 4.5 g of saturated fat per serving.
According to a beef cut chart produced by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Cattlemen's Beef Board in the United States, the preferred methods for cooking top sirloin are grilling and broiling. Since this is considered one of the more flavorful steaks, many chefs recommend cooking top sirloin with a less-is-more approach to preparation and cooking. For instance, celebrity chef Alton Brown uses just olive oil, salt and pepper to coat his top sirloin steak before it is cooked in an oven set to broil. To get the temperature and sear just right, however, Brown adds a little complexity. For medium, he starts off with five minutes a side at the bottom of the oven, a drip pan just below the steak, then three minutes a side on the top rack.
Grilling or smoking is another favored way of cooking top sirloin. As with broiling, some stick to a simple dry rub designed to bring out the natural flavor of the meat — salt, pepper and some oil to promote grill marks and keep the meat from sticking. Some also pound the steak with a meat hammer to loosen up any cartilage still on board. Grilling can dry out meat even more than a broiler, though. To avoid this, many cooks will marinate their meat in the refrigerator ahead of time, sometimes as long as overnight.
Marination adds seasoning to the meat and keeps it from getting tough on the grill. These marinades can be store-bought barbecue or teriyaki sauces, or sauces thrown together at home. Common ingredients for a homemade marinade includes olive oil, minced garlic and onion, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.