Beef Cuts Explained: Guide to Different Cuts of Beef
Up until recently, it was considered that knowing the different cuts of beef was really only suited to butchers and chefs – perhaps with the occasional upperclassman thrown in, for good measure. Yet, with the increasing range of different beef cuts available in the average supermarket, and an increasing ability to get the best out of even the cheapest cuts of beef, it’s good to know that this knowledge is now becoming more evenly spread.
Below, we discuss the best cuts of beef to use in each recipe type, along with some ideas for both simple and more extravagant meals. We also give a brief overview as to why they are all so different, when they come from the same animal.
Loin cuts of beef are incredibly lean, which makes them best suited to dry heat cooking, such as grilling or pan frying. They are also often referred to as tenderloin, which you can see in T-bones, tenderloin fillets and tenderloin roast options, although a porterhouse steak also falls under this category.
These are often the most expensive of the different cuts, as they are known to be the most tender. However, that can also mean that they are the most difficult to cook to perfection, as the flavor falls under a very delicate balance.
Not as expensive as the loin cuts, the sirloin is less tender – although some consider these cuts to be more flavorful, thanks to the fat that is inherent to the cut. As you may be able to see in most cuts of beef charts, the sirloin cuts come from rump of the cow, and the meat is therefore a little tougher than others.
There is a danger with sirloin cuts that they may lose their flavor if they are overcooked. Thus, they are often best when grilled or broiled. Common cuts include the top sirloin fillet, sirloin bavette, tri-tip steak and top sirloin steak.
Rib cuts are often much fattier and are therefore better suited to slower methods of cooking, such as roasting and stewing. You can also find thin rib options, which are often sold as ground mince, making it more suitable for shepherd’s pie or other mince-based recipes.
Racks of ribs, however, are growing increasingly popular in restaurants, as well as at barbecues. They soak up any marinades with ease or can be simply seasoned before making a decent option as finger food, making them a big success at events
Sitting between the rib and chuck cuts, is the clod. Very flavorful and often sold at very low prices, this option is often used in burgers, when ground. If sold over the counter, however, you might find that you prefer to slowly stew this cut, in order to get the best of its flavoring.
Just above the ribs are the shoulders, which often produces incredible tough pieces of meat, due to the constant work of the muscles during life. These cuts are commonly found diced, ready to be added to casseroles and stews as, again, they are better suited to slow cooking methods. However, its tougher nature also means that it is frequently sold at one of the best prices available for beef.
The added fat content in these cuts work well when boiled, as the flavor then leaks into the sauces, providing additional flavor and intensity. Meanwhile, the meat itself is unlikely to dry out during cooking – perfect for cooking simple meals that don’t require supervision.
Just below the chuck cuts are the brisket cuts of beef. Similar in nature to the former, these are often best suited to slow-cooking options. Used for a variety of different recipes and creations, these cuts of beef are often made into mince, corned beef and rolled options. Just be careful not to overcook these options, which can lead to a chewy mouthful of disappointment.
Another cheap but delicious option, this cut of meat comes from the lower leg of the cow. When cooked well, you will find the tough meat loosens up to melt in the mouth. The denser fibers and plenty of connective tissues in the shin cuts break down very well to make an excellent gravy or sauce.
Be warned, however, the undercooking this meat or cooking under a fast, dry heat will lead to an incredibly tough, tasteless meat.
Round cuts of meat are another popular choice with buyers, particularly in the UK where it is frequently used in the Sunday Roast. Made from the back legs of the cow, these cuts of beef include the top round steak, bottom round rump roast and eye of round roast. Add a few vegetables to the dish before placing in the oven and you can make an easy meal, suitable for the whole family.
Coming from the “skirt” of the cow – where the belly and ribs meet – the plate and flank cuts are some of the toughest of the cuts of the beef. They often come covered in a membrane, which would need to be removed before being cooked. However, their thinner nature means that they can be cooked in a wide range of manners.
You might find that cooking a short rack of ribs would be better suited to roasting or grilling. Meanwhile, a thin flank is often best used in traditional Mexican cuisine. They also produce a fantastic gravy, making them equally suitable for pies and pasties. Clearly, this is a flexible cut of beef that is more economical than other options, while still producing a delicious dinner for many.
- Your Guide to Cooking (or Ordering) the 7 Best Cuts of Steak – Tasting Table