They say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing but we believe that when it comes to cooking and enjoying food, a little can go a long way! For instance, are you ever confused by all the different cuts of beef available when you go to the grocery store? Do you know the difference between a T-bone and a London broil? Well, to help you with your menu planning and maybe inspire you to try something new, here’s a little info on basic cuts of beef that may come in handy the next time you visit the butcher shop.
Our Prime Cut Tea Towel provides a handy visual, as well.
The first point you should know is that there are traditionally eight main or primal cuts of beef – loin, brisket, chuck, shank, round, short plate, flank and rib. From these, many different minor beef cuts can be made and are known as sub-primal cuts.
The loin is on the top of the cow directly behind the the rib and is very tender and flavorful. Because of this, the loin also tends to be the most expensive cut of beef. This area is further divided into two categories called short loin and tenderloin. Some common cuts from the short loin area are filet mignon, T-bone steak, strip steak, filet of strip, porterhouse steak and hanger steak. Some common cuts from the tenderloin area are sirloin steak, center cut sirloin steak, tri-tip steak, tri-tip roast, filet of sirloin and bottom sirloin. Loin is best cooked with dry heat such as a broiler, on a grill or in a pan. Sirloin also cooks well when marinated prior to cooking.
Brisket is the breast of the steer. It’s a tough cut of meat, contains a high amount of fat and is usually sold whole. The key to cooking brisket is to remember to cook it low and slow. Cooking it at lower temperatures for longer periods of time reduces the toughness and brings out delicious flavor. Using a marinade, dry rub or brine is also a good idea when cooking brisket.
Chuck comes from the shoulder area and can be tough. Ground chuck is commonly used for hamburgers and other ground beef products. Some of the more well-known cuts of chuck are flat iron steak, top blade steak, chuck roast, short ribs, stew meat, ranch steak and chuck eye roast. Ground chuck cooks well grilled or pan fried without any prep work. Chuck roasts should be cooked at low temperatures for longer periods of time. When cooking chuck steaks, a marinade or tenderizer will help tenderize the meat and keep it moist for grilling.
Beef shank is in front of the brisket and is the forearm of the animal. This cut of meat is usually sold whole with the bone in, but can be ground for lean beef as well. Shank is best when cooked low and slow with moist heat and with the bone in. Shank is good for making soups and broths.
The round comes from the back part of cattle and includes the rump and hind leg. Round tends to be slightly tough and lean. Often sold as ground beef (ground round) this area is also where rump roast, London broil, round roast and sirloin tip roast comes from. Steaks from this region include round steaks, sirloin tip center steak and butterfly top round steak. Ground round and petite tender steaks can be pan fried or grilled without marinating. The roasts cook up well using lower temperatures and longer cooking times to get the best flavor. The exception to this is the London broil. It should be marinated and then grilled. Keep in mind when marinating rounds, do not over-marinate. Due to the leanness of the meat, over-marinating will toughen the meat.
The short plate is underneath the the ribs near the abdomen area. This cut contains rib bones and is not a lean cut of meat. Short ribs and skirt steak are the sub-primal cuts from this area. Cook skirt steak with dry heat, in a pan or on the grill. It needs high heat and searing to bring out the flavors. Short ribs cook better with moist heat on lower temperatures at a longer time. They have a very full flavor and pair well with high flavor braising liquids, such as dark beer.
The flank is a tough cut of beef and is on the underside of the cattle below the loin. Flank steak is a very popular cut an can be found in most supermarkets. Marinate flank steak for about an hour and then enjoy it grilled, broiled or pan seared. Mexican fajitas are often made from marinated strips of flank steak.
As its name implies, rib cuts are from the backbone and ribs of the cattle. The steaks from here include Delmonico steak, filet of rib, cowboy steak and rib eye steak. This is also where both boneless and bone in rib eye roasts come from, as well as back ribs and short ribs. Steaks and roasts from the rib are usually tender and should be cooked with dry heat, broiled, grilled or roasted in the oven. For the ribs, braising is usually the best method because they will cook better with the extra moisture.
To enhance your grilled meats this summer, check out our great selection of grille sauces and marinades.