What Are the Different Cuts of Beef and How to Cook Them
Figuring out the different cuts of beef on a cow and the best way to cook each is a daunting challenge for anyone. With so many different cuts and cooking styles, there are plenty of options for you to choose from depending on what you want.
Some cuts of beef can work fine on a grill, while others taste best when slow-cooked for hours. In this article, I go over the different cuts of beef and how to best cook each for maximum tenderness.
Different Types of Beef
The most commonly used types of beef are:
- Chuck: Cut from the shoulder; tough but flavorful.
- Shank: Cut from the leg; very tough and chewy.
- Brisket: Cut from the breast; tough if not cooked properly.
- Rib: Cut from the rib area; very tender and flavorful.
- Short plate: Cut from the belly of the cow; chewy and quite tough.
- Flank: Cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow; one of the toughest cuts.
- Loin: Cut from the back of the cow above the ribs; one of the tenderest cuts.
- Sirloin: Cut from the back of the cow just past the loin; pretty tender and flavorful.
- The round: Cut from the back of the cow above the back legs; chewy and tough.
There are less common types that we won't be discussing here, but they are:
- Liver and other organ meats
Many people find the less common types of meat to be less desirable when it comes to taste and texture. For example, many people do not like the texture or the taste of beef liver so they make sure to never buy it at the store despite its high level of vitamins and minerals.
Description: The chuck, also known as the seven-bone steak (in reference to the shape of the bone), is located near the shoulder and neck area of the cow.
Types: The chuck cut yields some of the more economical cuts of beef, such as the chuck roast, chuck arm roast, and the flat iron steak.
How to Cook: The chuck contains a significant amount of connective tissue, which contains collagen and can be a little tough, but provides great flavor. Chuck cuts of beef are best cooked slowly over time with a crock pot or by braising.
Description: The shank is the leg of the cow and is one of the toughest meats. This is because the leg muscle is constantly used, creating a tough, sinewy cut. Therefore, it is one of the less popular, but also one of the cheapest.
Types: The Shank doesn't yield very many cuts of meat, just the shank or the shank cross cut. It is also used in very low fat ratios of ground beef.
How to Cook: The shank is best cooked over a long period and in liquid. It is best in soups, stews, or to make beef stock.
Description: Brisket is cut from the breast or the lower portion of the cow. Like the shank, it has a lot of connective tissue and can be quite tough unless cooked properly.
Types: The brisket is known by two main cuts of meat: brisket flat cut and the brisket point cut.
How to Cook: Brisket is a favorite of BBQ'ers everywhere and is best cooked smoked or braised.
Description: The rib includes some of the finest cuts of the cow, and is the known for its juiciness, tenderness, superb marbling, and flavor. The rib cut refers to ribs 6 through 12 on the cow.
Types: The rib includes several of the finest cuts of the cow, including the prime rib, short rib, rib-eye steak, and rib-eye roasts.
How to Cook: Rib cuts are best cooked over dry heat and for long periods of time. American BBQ'ers favor grilling or smoking these tender cuts.
Description: The short plate is located on the front belly of the cow below the ribs. It contains a lot of cartilage and is kind of fatty and tough.
Types: It contains a few different cuts including the short ribs, hangar steak, and the skirt steak. It is best known for being used to make carne asada.
How to Cook: Best braised because of its toughness.
Description: The flank is a long flat cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow. It is one of the toughest cuts of meat.
Types: The flank is usually cut into flap steaks or flank steaks. It is typically used in Asian and Mexican cuisine as stir-fry or fajita beef. It can also be used in London broil.
How to Cook: Due to its excessive toughness, flank cuts are best cooked with moist methods like braising.
Description: The loin is cut from the back of the cow, typically a portion of the hindquarter directly behind the ribs. It is one of the most tender and desirable cuts of beef.
Types: The loin is best known for producing filet mignon, porterhouse steak, and the T-bone steak. However, it also contains the KC strip, tenderloin roast, and the shell steak.
How to Cook: Loin cuts are best cooked over dry heat such as on a grill.
Description: Sirloin is also cut from the back of the cow, just past the loin (a.k.a the short loin). Although, not as tender as the loin cuts, the sirloin is still a very popular cut of beef.
Types: The sirloin contains the top sirloin, bottom sirloin, and center cut sirloin steaks, as well as the tri-tip steak, filet of sirloin, and the ball tip roast.
How to Cook: Sirloin is best cooked by grilling, but can also be broiled, sautéed, or pan-fried.
Round or Rump
Description: The round, also known as the rump, is a lean cut of meat with very little fat. It is located at the back of the cow near the rear leg. Like the Shank, the round is a tough cut due to the constant use of the cow's legs.
Types: Despite the round or rump's toughness, it produces quite a few different cuts of meat that are quite popular. Some of the more common cuts are: rump roast/steak, top round roast/steak, bottom round roast/steak, eye of round roast/steak, and the sirloin tip center roast/steak.
How to Cook: Round cuts are best braised or roasted with low levels of moisture.
Leanest Cuts of Beef
Lean cuts of beef provide a great ratio of protein to fat, with many cuts having low levels of saturated fat. Lean meat can be just as flavorful as fattier cuts, but it is healthier due to its lack of saturated fat.
Here are some of the leanest cuts of beef with basic nutrition facts based on a serving size of 6 ounces.
- Sirloin tip side steak: This cut comes from the sirloin tip or the top of the round. Despite its lack of fat, it's still quite flavorful. Calories 206; Fat 5.4g; Saturated Fat 2.06g; Protein 39g
- Top round steak: Taken from the hip of the cow, this cut is considered more flavorful and more tender than round cuts. Calories 240; Fat 7.6g; Saturated Fat 3g; Protein 36.9g
- Eye of round steak: Similar to the cuts taken from the round, but tougher and less juicy. Calories 276; Fat 7g; Saturated Fat 2.4g; Protein 49.8g
- Bottom round steak: This cut is taken from the outer part of the round that is a well-exercised area of the cow. Due to this, the bottom round tends to be quite tough to chew, and this cut requires a slower cooking technique such as braising. Calories 300; Fat 11g; Saturated Fat 3.8; Protein 47.2g
- Top sirloin: Another tough cut of meat that still has some flavor to it. This cut requires a slow cooking method to get it tender enough to eat. Calories 316; Fat 10.6g; Saturated Fat 4g; Protein 51.6g
Fattiest Cuts of Beef
Fatty cuts of beef have all of that delicious flavor and texture that sets it apart from other animal meat. These cuts have all of the tasty marbling that people come to expect with plenty of flavors as well. Keep in mind that these cuts tend to be more pricey and contain more saturated fat so they may not be the healthiest to eat all of the time.
Here are some of the fattiest cuts of beef with basic nutrition facts based on a serving size of 6 ounces.
- Flap steak: This cut tends to be quite chewy and fibrous but still tasty. Calories 240; Fat 12g; Saturated Fat 3.8g; Protein 33g
- Filet mignon (Chateaubriand or tenderloin): The most tender cut of beef and the most expensive. It is prized for its tenderness and flavor. Calories 348; Fat 16g; Saturated Fat 6g; Protein 48g
- Porterhouse steak: Another cut from the tenderloin, it is another delicious and pricey cut that is easy to chew. Calories 346; Fat 16.4g; Saturated Fat 6.6g; Protein 46.2g
- Skirt steak: This cut, also known as a flank steak, is taken from the plate or chest of the cow. While it has great flavor, it tends to be quite chewy. Calories 348; Fat 17.2g; Saturated Fat 6.6g; Protein 45.4g
- New York strip steak: A tougher cut of meat taken from the t-bone area of the cow. This classic cut of meat is still very flavorful, and if cooked correctly it can still be quite tender. Calories 360; Fat 18g; Saturated Fat 6g; Protein 46g
- T-bone steak: This cut is from directly below the porterhouse, and it is known for its smooth texture and savory flavor. Calories 376; Fat 25.6g; Saturated Fat 10.6g; Protein 33g
- Rib-eye steak (rib roast, prime rib): The ideal cut of beef when it comes to tenderness and texture. Its high fat content makes it one of the tastiest cuts. Calories 466; Fat 37.6g; Saturated Fat 15g; Protein 30g
Can You Cook Steak Without a Grill?
Most people assume that in order to cook a good cut of steak you need to have either a gas or charcoal grill to cook the meat on. While having a grill can certainly make the process easier, you can cook a tender piece of steak on your stovetop and in your oven with a technique known as the reverse sear method.
The reverse sear method involves searing the steak in a pan on a hot stovetop, then putting the steak into the oven and letting it cook until your desired rareness. By searing the meat, you lock in the flavor and juiciness.
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