Steak vs. Chicken

steak vs. chicken title graphic showing a cow and chicken

Steak vs. Chicken

Of all the different types of meat, steak and chicken are popular choices for dinner. We often hear chicken is more healthy than beef, but how much healthier is it? Let’s take a look.

Steak vs. Chicken sounds like a new game show hosted by Guy Fieri on the Food Network, doesn’t it?

Steak vs. Chicken

Protein plays an important role in the growth and function of pretty much everything in our body. It is one of the four main parts to a balanced meal, along with carbohydrates, protein and fiber. And meat is one of the most common sources of protein in each of our daily meals.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, pork is the most widely eaten type of meat in the world. Seeing how some of the best tasting deli meat is made from pork, not to mention BACON, it’s easy to understand why pork is popular. Poultry and beef are the second and third most consumed meats.

steaks on a grill

Steak Nutrition Facts

Beef is mostly made up of protein, with varying amounts of fat depending on the cut of beef. The protein content of cooked lean cuts of beef is about 26-27%. A 7-ounce serving of beef, a little less than half a pound, contains about 52 grams of protein and 23.6 grams of fat. Animal protein contains essential amino acids needed for the growth and maintenance of your body. That’s why eating lean meat helps to build and maintain muscle mass.

The level of fat in beef varies. Fat is an essential nutrient for your body, providing energy and helping growth. More than half of the fat in beef is unsaturated. Most of the unsaturated fat in beef is the same type of beneficial fat found in olive oil.

About 40% of the fat in beef is saturated fat. Saturated fatty acids are precursors for cholesterol and therefore, the level of their intake is directly associated with cholesterol level, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. High “bad” cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your intake of saturated fats to 5% to 6% of the calories eaten every day.

The one good thing about beef’s fat content is that much of the fat is visible. Therefore, much of the fat can be trimmed before eating.

Despite containing a lot of saturated fat, steak is a good source of many important nutrients. Lean beef is an excellent source of B vitamins. A 100-gram serving of cooked steak contains 102% of the recommended daily value of vitamin B12. Beef is also an excellent source selenium, niacin and iron. Eating beef is a great way to boost your immune system because beef is a good source of zinc, important for the development of white blood cells that defend your body.

roasted chicken in a pot

Chicken Nutrition Facts

Chicken makes an excellent substitute for beef. Like beef, chicken is a great protein source.

The protein in chicken is a great source of essential amino acids. Amino acids are essential to build muscle tissue.

A 6-ounce serving of skinless chicken breast contains 52 grams of protein and 5.4 grams of fat. That’s the same amount of protein as the 7-ounce serving of steak. Unlike steak, however, the chicken contains significantly less fat.

Chicken also contains several essential vitamins. Chicken meat is a very good source of selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B, and niacin. Selenium is important for thyroid function and making DNA. Niacin and B6 both are important for proper cellular functioning.

To maximize the benefit of eating chicken, just remember to eat the breast meat. The breast’s white meat is leaner. Chicken thighs and legs are dark meat and contain higher levels of unhealthy fat. Also, make sure you consume skinless chicken breast. You will consume more fat and calories if you the skin on the chicken breast.

The Winner

For a healthy diet, chicken is the winner because it reduces your fat intake which will lead to healthier cholesterol levels. If weight loss is something you’re trying to achieve, a lean protein like chicken will get you closer to your goals, assuming exercise and plenty of fruits and vegetables are also part of your plan.

Be careful how you cook chicken, though. If you batter and deep fry that chicken breast in vegetable shortening, you’re going to be eating more bad fat than you would if you ate a big, juicy steak. Don’t think the crispy fried chicken breast sandwich at your favorite fast-food chain is healthy! It’s deep-fried and contains a ton of sodium.

Even though chicken is the healthier option, you can still enjoy beef. Leaner cuts of beef can be part of a healthy diet in moderation.

Many cuts of beef now meet the USDA’s regulations to qualify as lean or extra lean. Of these, the following are considered extra lean:

  • Eye of round roast and steak
  • Sirloin tip side steak
  • Top round roast and steak
  • Bottom round roast and steak
  • Top sirloin steak

Other tips when choosing cuts of beef:

  • Choose cuts that are graded “Choice” or “Select” instead of “Prime,” which usually has more fat.
  • Choose cuts with the least amount of visible fat.
  • Trim off visible fat before cooking.
  • When selecting ground beef, choose the one with the lowest fat. 93% lean, 7% fat is the lowest fat that I’ve seen in stores.
  • Don’t eat organs, such as liver. They’re full of unhealthy fat. I don’t know how anyone could eat liver, anyway. It’s so slimy and gross looking!

And even if you want to enjoy a lean cut of beef or steak, don’t eat a large portion. Limit yourself to five or six ounces per day.

It’s a good idea to try to get your protein from plant sources and limit your consumption of animal products.

Tony Tested Tips for Cooking Steak and Chicken

There are different ways to cook healthy, but grilling is always my favorite for steak and chicken. Grilling allows fat to drip off the meat while it cooks. It also doesn’t involve cooking the cut of meat in oil which will add to the fat and calories.

The key to grilling is to make sure the grill is heated sufficiently prior to putting the meat on the grill. Also, you need to season the steak or chicken well before putting it on the grill.

McCormick’s Grill Mates line of seasonings are made just for grilling (as the name suggests; go figure!). I’m a big fan of their Montreal Steak Seasoning. I use it anytime I’m grilling steaks or burgers. Their Montreal Chicken Seasoning is just as good for chicken.

I’m also a big fan of Kinder’s brand of seasonings. Their Butcher’s All Purpose seasoning is great on both steak and chicken. I also like their Italian Blend and Fajita Blend.

If you live in a climate where you can’t grill in the winter weather, like I do, get yourself a grill pan. Lodge makes a nice, pre-seasoned cast iron grill that’s only about $25 and it will last a few lifetimes. If you don’t like to be bothered with the maintenance a cast iron pan requires, there are plenty of nonstick, dishwasher safe grill pans out there you can buy for around the same price.

A grill pan is not going to give you that same fire grilled, smoky flavor that a grill can, but it will allow for the fat to drip away from the meat as it cooks just like a grill does. And it will give you those same pretty grill marks.

I have one last tip about cooking a boneless chicken breast. If you look at a boneless chicken breast, you’ll notice that one end is thicker than the other. The thinner end is going to cook more quickly than the thicker end. By the time the thicker end is cooked, the thinner side is going to be dry and overcooked. To solve this problem, you need to cut the breast to an even thickness so it cooks evenly. I notice a lot of people fail to do this. If you are going to grill a boneless, skinless chicken breast, you need to cut it into cutlets before putting it on the grill. Here’s a good video that shows you how.

So pass up the hot dogs and fatty pork chops in the meat aisle at the grocery store and feel good about buying lean cuts of beef and chicken. Consume lean cuts of beef in moderation, and be mindful that your preparation methods aren’t adding fat. And wash it down with a healthy glass of red wine.

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