A Complete Guide to Beef Cuts

A Complete Guide to Beef Cuts

Are you the type of person who goes to the meat section of the grocery store only to find yourself grabbing any beef that looks like it can be grilled and calling it steak? It isn’t about just grabbing whatever beef you can find, throwing it on the grill, and calling it a day. Every cut of beef has a different texture, flavor, and preparation methods. From a beef chuck to a top tenderloin, you’ll come out the other end of this manual ready to sound like a professional to the meat butcher.


Beef chuck

Beef chuck is found right behind the neck. It’s basically the shoulder area of the cow and the type of beef you think about when slow cooking anything for a pot roast. Depending on the cow, the chuck can be very fatty and it’s not the beef portion you get when you’re thinking of a ribeye steak (that will be covered later.) While you should be prepared for the beef chuck to have a lot of connective tissue, that’s what gives such a rich flavor and texture best used for slow cooking.


Beef brisket

In the lower breast area right underneath the front legs houses the meat that is pretty much a staple at barbeque places, the brisket. The brisket area of the cow is one the cow utilized mostly through its life so be prepared for a lot of fatty connective tissue, but that’s what makes it one of the best for slow cooking. Brisket is also a favorite for barbeque sandwiches as it pretty much falls apart after proper slow cooking. The flat of the brisket is best for braising but doesn’t have as much fatty connective tissue. The point of the brisket is the fattier part of the cut that you want to use for barbeques.


Beef rib

The ribbed part of the cow is exactly where you’d think the rib meat would be, in the ribs of the cow. If you feel the intercostal space of your ribs, and feel the meat in that spot, that’s where the rib meat is. Just like the brisket and chuck, the rib is one of the fattier parts of the cow. Ribs can be very tender depending on how you’re preparing them. They can be dry rubbed and slow cooked for barbecues. They can also be boiled for grilling.


Beef plate

Just below the rib of the cow is an area where the plate of the beef is found. It is also known as a short plate. Depending on which country your butcher is, the plate can also be considered part of the brisket. The plate of the cow can also be used for ground beef because of how fatty the meat is or be another source of short ribs. It is ideal for braising because of all the cartilage around the rib area of the plate.

Short loin

Beef short loin

The short loin is what you think of when you think of steak. This part of the cow contains the porterhouse, T-bone, strip loin, or strip steak. This is also one of the bigger parts of the cow that will yield multiple steaks depending on the size of the cow. The tenderloin actually cuts into the short loin of the cow. Depending on how the tenderloin is removed, you could possibly be cutting out the T-bone or porterhouse steaks because those steaks contain a part of the tenderloin muscle. Roasting, broiling, and grilling are the best dry heat ways of preparing beef from this section of the cow.


Beef flank

The flank meat is right on the abdomen of the cow. It is the lean underbelly of the cow. If you’re familiar with the Mexican dish, carne asada, then you’re familiar with the texture of this meat, assuming the carne asada is being prepared with the flank meat of the cow. Stripping the fatty connective tissue off this meat makes it one of the harder meats to chew, depending on how you prepare it. Any leftover flank can also be used for ground beef.


Beef sirloin

The sirloin is at the top of the cow and runs from the end of the ribs to the hip. It is also divided into the top and bottom sirloin which will be mentioned later. If you’re looking to spend a little extra money, then you’ll be looking at the top sirloin. The bottom of the sirloin area, simply known as bottom sirloin, or sirloin steak, is not as tender as the top sirloin.


Beef tenderloin

Everyone loves a good filet mignon. The tenderloin is a very tender part of the cow because it doesn’t get as much work as the other parts of the cow. Though, if you’re not a big lover of bones then the tenderloin is the part of the cow you want to go for. The tenderloin can be found in the lower back area right above the spinal cord and doesn’t contain very much fat. However, it’s easy to overcook a tenderloin because of how dry a cut it is due to there being very little fatty connective tissue.

Top sirloin

Beef top sirloin

The upper butt area in the small of the back of the cow houses the top sirloin, also known as one of the prized parts of the cow. It is very tender and lean and is labeled as “top sirloin.” Looking for just a sirloin steak will most likely fetch you the bottom sirloin, which isn’t as prized as the top sirloin. The top sirloin can be prepared a number of ways from being skewered for grilling to roasting in the oven. Just make sure when you’re ordering a steak from a restaurant to make sure the waiter explains if it’s a top sirloin or bottom sirloin. You may be paying more for a bottom sirloin disguised as a sirloin steak.

Bottom sirloin

Beef bottom sirloin

As stated before, the bottom sirloin isn’t as prized as the top sirloin is. However, if you’re just looking for a normal sirloin steak then you’ll most likely be picking up the bottom sirloin. The bottom sirloin is found just above the flank but below the tenderloin and top sirloin of the cow. This meat is also considered leaner and often times confused for a skirt steak among sellers, so make sure you’re not overpaying for a basic sirloin. This is also great for broiling, skillet-broiling, or grilling.


Beef round

The round is exactly where you think it would be because of the name, the butt of the cow. When you’re thinking of beef jerky, this is where the meat is found. Since the round of the cow gets more exercise than the other parts of the cow, expect the meat too tough and lean. The round can also be separated into the knuckle, top round, or bottom round. The meat found here is one of the best for cutting into thin slices and using for sandwiches or roast beef. Though, don’t expect as much collagen from slow-cooking as you would a cow chuck.


    You need to login to create comments.