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Well Done

My taste for steak has evolved. As a kid, I wanted meat burned beyond recognition. Teenage rebellion followed when I rejected meat … not out of principle, but to annoy my friends. Now I’m adamant that the way to enjoy steak is to devour it medium-rare.

Texas is a state whose history is bound to steak; its cowboys and ranchers are legendary. Because Fort Worth, “Cowtown,” is still so closely tied to livestock, this is one of the best places to get a juicy steak, cooked to perfection. And the most authentic cowboy experience—where Fort Worth’s ranching past is plainly evident—is found at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

In the early 20th century, the Stockyards processed millions of livestock, making it the heart of the booming cattle industry, long before it became the tourist attraction it is today. Although its prominence as a cattle-trading center declined after World War II, the Stockyards remains a vibrant reminder of the importance of ranching to Texas history.

Today, visitors can experience the Stockyards legacy at any of its many notable steak houses. Located in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards, H3 Ranch serves aged USDA Prime and Choice cuts, cooked over a hickory-fired grill. H3 General Manager Brian Christensen says a steak house should focus on meat quality and value. “When a consumer compares value in the marketplace, it’s important to keep all of the variables in mind. What’s included in the entrée’s price?” asks Brian.

In addition to value, consumers are considering whether to seek out grass-fed beef or order the common, feedlot variety. In the business for 30 years, ranchers Jon and Wendy Taggart of Burgundy Pasture Beef seized an opportunity 12 years ago to leave the high-volume, low-margin world of commercial ranching for a grass-fed operation at their ranch in Grandview, a town 30 miles outside of Fort Worth. “We started raising pasture-fed Angus when our children were small, because I was concerned about the quality of the food on my family’s table,” says Wendy.

Tim Love, chef and owner of Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, prefers 100-percent grass-fed beef or grass-fed-finished beef with organic grain prime cuts. To Love, a good cut of beef speaks for itself; the only seasoning it needs is salt, pepper and a pat of serrano lime butter.

According to Wendy Taggart, feedlot-raised cattle are higher in fat and can contain the unhealthy side effects of commercial agriculture. “While there can be problems with the consistency of the taste of grass-fed beef, proper pasture and livestock management reduces flavor inconsistency. As organic ranchers, we have greater control over our product and believe that grazing land can produce a richer dining experience, akin to comparing the terroir of wine,” says Wendy. While industry representatives maintain that there is no health difference between grass-fed and feedlot beef, grass-fed does represent a burgeoning market segment. The Taggarts have experienced 50-percent to 100-percent growth every year since beginning their operation.

Chef Tim Love likes longer aging. “Our meat is aged at least 28 days wet; then we add our own dry age for seven days to give it a little extra Lonesome Dove flavor,” says Tim. Grilling over different woods also enhances flavor. “Wood has a tremendous influence. For example, pecan wood gives steak a nutty flavor,” says Love.

These Fort Worth steak houses are delicious, but don’t fear if you can’t find time to visit the Stockyards. Fort Worth’s Cattlemen’s Steak House ships its legendary steaks— like the 24-ounce Cattlemen’s Porterhouse—via airmail. Packages even include specific cooking instructions, so you can replicate the flavors at home. And the renowned Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House offers its Texan flavors in eight locations nationwide. Guests rave about the 10-ounce rib eye and six-ounce Governor’s Filet.

When it comes to what makes the perfect steak, everyone has an opinion. Whether you like your steak saucy or simple, grass-fed or feedlot, you’re guaranteed to have one of the best steaks of your life at a Fort Worth steak house.