What’s your Beef? Beef Cuts 101

If ever there was a meat that leads to confusion amongst consumers, beef is it. As John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger wrote in their book How to Cook Meat “You could cook beef every night for weeks for months without repeating yourself”, as there are so many different cuts. To add further insult, butchers follow different traditions. How a butcher in America cuts meat will most likely be different from how a butcher in Italy will cut meat.

But fret not! Learn the basics, and you too can learn the difference between a loin and a chuck. Here’s how it breaks down.

Chuck: This is the neck, upper front legs and shoulders of a steer. It’s typically very tough and full of connective tissue, because this is the area that gets the most workout on a cow. Some of the cuts within the chuck are as follows:

  • - 7 bone blade roast (good for pot roasts)
  • - chuck shoulder roast (also good for pot roasts)
  • - brisket (good for braising)
  • - chuck eye roast (tender area of chuck)
  • - chuck top blade (also tender)

Rib: The rib area of the cow, this is probably the most tender area of the cow.

  • - standing rib roast (prime rib, which if you cut into steaks you get rib-eye steaks)
  • - short ribs

Loin: This is the lower back of the cow, also very tender, but not as tender as the rib section. This is the area in which we get most of the steaks that we know and love…porterhouse, T-Bone, sirloin.

  • - top loin (the part closest to the front of the cow)
  • - tenderloin
  • - sirloin (hip area of the cow)

Round: This is the butt and rear legs of the cow. This is the area primarily used for roasts.

  • - eye round roast
  • - rump roast
  • - top round roast

Ground beef generally (but not always) comes from the chuck and the round. If you need stew meat, cubed beef from the chuck will work well. Want to grill? Loin cuts are your first choice.
Also items that should be on your radar, the flank steak, skirt steak and hanger steak, which all run horizontally along the side of the cow.

I loves my skirt steak, especially in Mexican dishes. Oddly, I am hankering for Carne Asada.

This should give a good introduction to the cuts of meat. Hopefully it will allow you to pick your cuts accordingly.

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