How to Tell a Premium Steak From an Ordinary One


Wolfgang’s Steakhouse recently opened its third branch in the Philippines and its 21st outpost worldwide.

Business has been good for Peter Zwiener, the president and managing partner of the steakhouse his father Wolfgang Zwiener started in 2004. The world might know Wolfgang’s steak for its 28-day dry-aged USDA Prime Porterhouse steak but not many know the complexities of this splendid piece of beef.

In one of Peter Zweiner's frequent visits to the Philippines—he makes it a point to come regularly to ensure that the steaks are up to par with the company standards—he spoke to Town & Country about how to prepare a steak, how to source premium beef, and which qualities diners should look out for when ordering a steak.

Peter Zwiener

Opened by Wolfgang Zwiener after a 40-year history as head waiter at a top New York steakhouse, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is known to serve some of the best steaks in the world.

Can you tell us about how you prepare steaks?

The steaks that we serve are bone-in cuts. We buy something called a short loin, which is a bone-in piece of beef covered in fat, and we buy a striploin, which is from around the same region of the cattle. We also buy ribeyes. We get them sent to each of our restaurants all around the world, within two days after the cattle is slaughtered, so it's never frozen. It's just put on a plane and is flown to the location.

This beef is then put in a room called an aging box. This is a temperature-controlled room that we try to keep at 1 or 2°C above freezing. We keep the humidity level at approximately seven percent. The airflow, temperature, and humidity make it a perfect place for the beef to age. We also make sure that we don’t pollute the environment by putting anything other than the steaks in there. During this process, the meat has a tendency to absorb other flavors so we make sure it stays in a meat environment, nothing else. The beef is aged for about a month, for an average of 28 days.

How do you know when it’s ready?

It’s really about timing. Follow the formula and keep the box relatively closed for a month. What happens is the outside gets dark in color, hard, and when you touch it you can almost knock on it. It’s not soft anymore and the fat turns a little bit darker as well. When you take it out, the beef shrinks about 20 percent due to evaporation of the water. Then you have to clean the beef because it has a hard crust. Inside will be that rich red color that’s delicious and highly marbleized.

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How do you source beef?

There’s a region in the U.S. that’s known as the Corn Belt in the Midwest and there are many ranches and certain companies out there that we deal with. We find the certain ranchers that we can deal with and once they are approved, we deal only with those ranchers. We deal with one purveyor internationally and another in the U.S. as well but these purveyors help us source the ranches.

When it comes to ordering steak, what level of doneness do you recommend?

Personally, I like it rare because the less you cook a piece of beef, the more you can enjoy the flavor profile of the beef. I think that there are a few aficionados that love the flavor of beef, that’s why they like their meat rare—to taste the flavor profile. If you start overcooking the beef, and go beyond medium, medium well, or well-done, you’re not going to be able to differentiate the texture and the flavor. If someone does ask how they should have a piece of beef, we will recommend medium rare just because the majority of people end up enjoying that. Then again, we serve beef any way our customers like it. 


Medallions of Filet Mignon Aux Poivre

Are there certain qualities that one should look out for in discerning a great piece of beef?

When you’re buying fresh beef, you can take a look at a piece of red meat and see the quality by looking at the marbling. Marbling doesn’t just mean having globs of fat; it’s how fat is spread out through the intermuscular fibers of the meat, so the more experience you get in that, the more you can see the quality of beef. 

When you’re taking a look at steak once it’s on your plate, it will already have grill marks and you won’t be able to tell until you cut into it and try it. When cutting into it, the first thing you should look at is how soft or how tough the piece of beef is. Then, you can look at the profile of the beef. You want to look for the marble, not too much of the gristle. It should not be too chewy. When you put a great piece of beef in your mouth, it should just melt. If it’s a filet mignon, it should be a very soft piece of beef. If it’s a sirloin or ribeye, it shouldn’t be chewy but it should have more texture than a filet mignon and a little more flavor because it’s fattier.

USDA Prime Dry-Aged Rib Eye Steak

Are there certifications that matter when it comes to choosing a steak?

Only two percent of all the beef in the U.S. is awarded the status of USDA Prime Beef. Once you get that, there’s nothing higher. After that there’s USDA Choice, USDA Select, and then 14 other levels. Some restaurants will call their meat a Certified Angus, but that doesn’t mean it’s prime, it just comes from Angus cattle.


Not all USDA Prime beef is the same either because there are elements that go into it. This could be the breed of cattle—again just because it’s USDA Prime, doesn’t mean it’s Angus either—it could be a Holstein or a White Head. The best breed of cattle from the U.S. is the Angus and the best Angus is the Black Angus.

What cut would you recommend for diners?

The bestseller in all our restaurants ends up being the porterhouse. I was told that when we came into the Philippines, it would probably be the ribeye because people were more accustomed to it.

Because Wolfgang’s signature is the porterhouse, people tend to go for that after trying it. The beauty of the porterhouse is that you get two steaks in one. One part of it is a filet mignon and the longer piece is a sirloin steak. It’s served sizzling, family style, so many people enjoy trying both the filet with the sirloin.

Wolgang's signature USDA Prime Dry-Aged Porterhouse Steak

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Hannah Lazatin
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