By Steve Toms
One of the most common questions that come from our customers is regarding where the significant cuts come from on the cow and how to utilize them best. This handy guide will show you the location of major beef cuts, like chuck, rib, loin, and brisket. You'll also discover which cuts are considered the best and the most reliable ways to cook each one.
Cooks who understand the difference between tough and tender cuts know a trade-off between tenderness and flavor. If you imagine a scale; one end being tenderness and the other end being flavor; there is usually a compromise between the two—the more tender the cut, the less natural flavor, and vise versa.
All you need to know is that tough meat is best when cooked at a relatively low temperature for an extended period and in a moist environment; this ensures that tough collagen becomes tender gelatin, yielding a succulent product that is easy to chew and enjoy. Tender cuts, however, can be quickly seared, broiled, or grilled because there is no need to worry about weakening the connective collagen.
Beef chuck comes from the forequarter. Consisting of parts of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper arm, beef chuck produces tough but very flavorful meat cuts.
This primal cut has a good deal of connective tissue, making the cuts from this region generally very tough. Tougher meat makes chuck a right choice for braised dishes like beef stew or pot roast, both of which tenderize tough cuts. Due to its fat content, beef chuck is also excellent for making ground beef that produces juicy burgers and ground beef stew.
Prime rib: Made from the top part of the center section of rib-specifically the sixth through the twelfth ribs- the beef rib primal cut is used for the traditional standing rib roast. Prime rib bone-in steak is beautifully marbleized, making it extremely rich and juicy. It is a hearty fill-the-plate cut that is great with a baked potato or corn on the cob. For a special dinner on the grill, you will want to grab some boneless ribeyes. Another famous cut would be the legendary Tomahawk steak-a Father’s Day favorite!
T-bone/ Porterhouse: The short loin is where we find the most desirable cuts of meat. These include T-bone and porterhouse steaks, as well as the strip loin and tenderloin. The short beef loin is only about 16 to 18 inches long. It will yield anywhere from 11 to 14 steaks, depending on thickness.
The center-cut steaks are T-bones, of which there may be six or seven. The final loin cuts are the wing steaks or bone-in strip steaks. These have little to none tenderloin left.
Check it out! Florentine Steak. Popular in Florence, Italy, A favorite of Tuscan cuisine, this massive steak is grilled over a wood or charcoal fire, seasoned with salt, sometimes with black pepper, and olive oil. Thickly cut and very large (usually 4 inches thick), “Bistecca” are often shared between two or more persons. They are traditionally served very rare, sometimes garnished with lemon wedges, if not accompanied by red wine, and accompanied by Tuscan beans as a side dish.
Boneless Striploin: Boneless and lean, the strip steak is one of the most straightforward cuts to eat (beyond it being incredibly delicious). When cooking, keep an eye on the doneness—because it doesn’t have a lot of fat, it can overcook faster than a ribeye. Keep your thermometer nearby, and don’t forget to let it rest after you take it off the heat.
Tenderloin: 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. Chateaubriand is made from the center cut of the tenderloin.
The tenderloin extends from the short loin into the sirloin. The pointy end is situated within the short loin, and the section in the sirloin is sometimes called the butt tenderloin. Even so, butchers will often remove the entire tenderloin and sell it whole or as individual steaks and roasts.
*Beef tenderloin should only be cooked using dry-heat methods, such as grilling and broiling. The meat is already super tender, so long cooking times are unnecessary. Keep it quick and the heat high.*
Beef round: The Round primal cut consists of the steer's back (hind) leg. Muscles from the round are relatively lean, but they are also tough because the leg and rump get a lot of exercise.
The beef round consists of multiple sub-primal cuts: the top round (inside round), bottom round (outside round), and the knuckle. The bottom round is where we get a rump roast and eye of round.
Although you might braise a piece of beef round out of necessity, chuck always produces a more delicious piece of meat. There is a good reason for this.
The top round and bottom round are lean and do not contain much collagen. Collagen is the type of protein that turns into gelatin when it is braised slowly. This means that braised rump roast is not as succulent as braised chuck roast.
*Generally, the best use of round roasts is to roast them slowly, so they turn out medium-rare. They can then be sliced thinly and used for sandwiches or even served as roasts. Slicing thinly and against the grain is crucial.*
Beef brisket is one of the most flavorful cuts of meat. However, it is tough, like chuck; if the cooked right (low and slow), it can be juicy and tender. It is a moderately fatty cut of beef, but this can work to your advantage because it tenderizes into succulent, meaty perfection.
The characteristically thick, coarse-grained meat needs a lot of time and low-temperature cooking to break down and tenderize. Brisket is frequently used for making pot roast, and it is the traditional choice for corned beef. Another very popular technique for preparing brisket is to slow cook it in a barbecue or smoker.
The beef shank is the lower part of the leg; each side of beef has two shanks, one in the forequarter and one in the hindquarter. It is extremely tough and full of connective tissue.
Beef shank and veal shank are used in making the luxurious Italian dish osso buco. Ossobuco or osso buco is Italian for “bone with a hole” (osso “bone,” buco “hole”), a reference to the marrow hole at the center of the cross-cut veal shank.
Plate: Also called the short plate (or “long plate” depending on where it's separated from the rib primal above it), the beef plate primal includes the short ribs.
The plate is also where the skirt steak is located, which is used in carne asada. This steak is exceptionally flavorful. It's also a thin piece of meat, allowing you to cook it quickly over high heat. Since it has coarse muscle fibers, be sure to slice it against the grain, or it will be chewy.
Flank: Beef flank can be cooked on the grill. Since it has tough muscle fibers, it can get even tougher if it's overcooked, so be careful.
The best technique for flank steak is to grill it quickly at a high temperature. Marinating the meat first can help prevent it from drying out, but avoiding overcooking is the best prevention. When you're ready to serve it, remember to slice this steak thinly against the grain so it isn't chewy similar to skirt steak.
Must try! Chimichurri Recipe. An Argentinian favorite and many other countries in South America, chimichurri is as standard as ketchup is to Americans! No grill is complete without my insanely flavorful skirt or flank steak marinade with chimichurri sauce! Easy, delicious, and beyond flavorful!