With so many different cuts of beef, it's sometimes hard to tell what cut is best used in certain recipes and how each cut is best prepared. With this handy guide you'll learn about where all the major beef cuts, like chuck, rib, loin, and brisket are from and the best ways to cook them!
The most tender cuts of beef, like the rib and tenderloin, are the ones farthest from the horn and hoof. The toughest areas of the animal are the shoulder and leg muscles because they are worked the most. Beef chuck comes from the forequarter so it is tough and has good deal of connective tissue, but it is also very flavorful. Roasts, flat iron steak, and Denver steak all come from the chuck. These are all great choices for braised dishes like beef stew or pot roast - basically any recipe that allows you to cook the beef slow and low. Beef chuck is also excellent for making ground beef that produces juicy burgers and ground beef stew as it has the perfect fat content ratio.
Prime rib and ribeyes come from the rib cut. As these cuts are already tender, steaks and roasts from the beef rib primal stays tender through various forms of dry-heat cooking.
These cuts are extremely flavorful and fairly fatty, so it can be used in making ground beef. Short ribs and skirt steaks are also cut from the beef plate. Skirt steaks are thin cuts of meat best cooked quickly over high heat, just be careful not to overcook it. Since it has coarse muscle fibers, be sure to slice it against the grain or it will be chewy.
Beef plate contains a lot of cartilage, especially around the ribs, making beef short ribs ideal for braising. This process of cooking with moist heat at a low temperature dissolves cartilage, turning it into gelatin.
Beef brisket is one of the most flavorful but tricky cuts of meat to cook as it is tough and needs to be prepared correctly. The brisket is basically the chest or pectoral muscle. It is characteristically thick, coarse-grained, and moderately fatty, which means it becomes succulent and tender when cooked with low heat for longer periods of time. Brisket is popular for barbecues, smoked meat, pot roast, and it's the traditional choice for corned beef.
Another cut that's great braised, the beef shank is extremely tough and full of connective tissue as it comes from the leg of the animal's thigh.
The short loin is where the most desirable cuts are from including the T-bone and porterhouse steaks, as well as the strip loin or strip steak.
The first-cut steaks are club steaks or bone-in strip steaks. The center-cut steaks are T-bones and the porterhouse steaks are from the sirloin end. The tenderloin extends from the short loin back into the sirloin. It's interesting to note that if the tenderloin is removed, there can be no T-bone or porterhouse steaks. Both of these steaks include a section of the tenderloin muscle. These cuts can be prepared pan fried, seared, roasted, grilled, or sautéed.
Since the sirloin is closer to the rear leg of the animal, the muscles get a bit tougher. Still, a first-cut sirloin steak—sometimes called a pin-bone steak because it includes a section of the hip bone—is very similar to a porterhouse. Tri-tip, ball tip, and flap, are also cut from the sirloin area and are typically served roasted or barbecued.
The most tender cut of beef is the beef tenderloin and it is found within the loin. This is where we get filet mignon, which is made from the very tip of the pointy end of the tenderloin. Beef tenderloin should only be cooked using dry-heat methods, such as grilling and broiling. The meat is already super tender, so be sure to keep the heat high and cook it quick!
Beef flank is good for braising and it's often used for making ground beef. The best technique for flank steak is to grill it quickly at a high temperature. Since it has tough muscle fibers, remember to slice this steak thinly against the grain so it is not chewy. It can get tougher if it is overcooked, though marinating the meat first can help prevent it from drying out.
The beef round is basically the back leg portion. Muscles from the round are fairly lean, but tough because the leg and rump are almost constantly being worked. The bottom round is where we get rump roast and eye of round. You might braise a piece of beef round out of necessity, but chuck is always the better choice for braised recipes. As this cut is lean and doesn't contain a lot collagen, a braised rump roast just won't be as succulent as braised chuck roast.
Round roasts are best roasted slowly to a perfect medium rare. It can then be sliced thinly and used for sandwiches or served as roasts. Don't forget, slicing thinly and against the grain is crucial!
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