Getting to know your cuts of beef.
Knowing what cut of beef you are handling is a must. It will determine how it is cooked for the best taste.
Below is a quick run down on what each cut is, where is comes from, and how it can be used.
Chuck comes from the front shoulder where the cow is lean and muscular. This makes chuck steak and roast flavorful. Unless you slow cook it, chuck steak can be a little tough to chew because it has an abundance of connective collagen that can only be released through heat. For this reason, chuck taste best when braised or stewed. Chuck is sold in roast form labeled chuck arm, chuck shoulder pot, cross rib, English, chuck eye and chuck seven bone pot. As steak chuck is sold with the label flat iron, top blade boneless, book, butler, lifter, petit, boneless blade, shoulder boneless, cold, English, long broil, shoulder half cut, arm Swiss, round bone, fish and any cut with chuck in the name.
Rib cuts come from the rib area of the cow, which should come as no surprise. Cuts from the rib tend to be tender and flavorful. Rib cuts are generally best when cooked on a grill or when broiled. This type of cut can be purchased as short ribs and baby back ribs. However, steaks and roast are also good. Some rib cuts may be labeled with rib roast, rib eye roast, ribeye steak, boneless rib steak, rib steak, beauty steak, market steak, spencer steak, prime rib and delmonico steak.
Short loin beef cuts are the most tender by a long shot. Among the short loin cuts, the tenderloin is the most tender. The tenderloin comes from the muscle that runs along the sides of the spine. That said, loin cuts are not the most flavorful. For this reason, they are typically heavily seasoned or marinated when they are cooked. A short loin roast would be called a tenderloin roast. Short loin steaks would be labeled porterhouse, T-bone, fillet mignon, fillet, chateaubriand, top loin boneless, strip, hotel style, veiny, Kansas city, NY strip, boneless cub, ambassador, top loin bone-in, strip, sirloin strip, chip club, club and country club.
Sirloin cuts have a robust flavor and they are lean. They are good on the grill or when pan fried. A sirloin roast would be called a tri-tip roast. There are many names for sirloin steaks including top sirloin cap, flat-bone, pin-bone,round bone, beef loin, bottom sirloin butt, flap, flap meat, tri-tip and triangle.
Round beef cuts are known for having a good texture and taste. They come from the rear of the cow where muscle is built-up so they are not as tender as loin or sirloin cuts. Round cuts are popular for roasting. Round roasts may be labeled bottom round, eye round, pike peak, round tip and rump. Steaks cut from round would be labeled round tip, thin cut, ball tip, beef sirloin tip, breakfast, knuckle, sandwich, London broil and minute steak.
Shank cuts come from the leg of the animal. This is a muscular area of the body, so they tend to be tough and lean. To make shank edible it needs to be slow cooked for a long time. Shank steak isn’t very popular, but it used to make low-fat ground beef and beef soups. It is also used to make beef stock. Beef shank cross cuts can be braised or stewed.
Brisket comes from the lower chest and breast area. It is a very flavorful beef cut. Brisket is typically cooked using slow cook methods like braising, smoking, stewing, slow roasting and barbecuing. A brisket can be purchased whole or flat cut.
Plate cuts are also called skirt cuts. These cuts come from the bottom of the brisket. The cut comes from the diagram muscle, so it is very flavorful, but tough in texture. Skirt steaks are usually grilled. Other names for plate/skirt steak would include fajita, Philadelphia, inside skirt, outside skirt, hanger, butcher’s steak, hanging tender flank and jiffy.
This cut comes from a triangle shaped muscle near the flank of the cow. These cuts have a robust flavor and can be braised, broiled, baked or slow cooked. The cuts are sold as flank steak, flank steak fillet and jiffy steak.