different kinds of beef

The Ultimate Guide to Different Kinds of Beef Cuts

Beef is one of the most popular and versatile meats in the world, but not all cuts are created equal.

Depending on where they come from on the cow, how they are butchered, and how they are cooked, beef cuts can vary widely in taste, texture, tenderness, and price.

This ultimate guide to different kinds of beef will help you choose the best one for your recipe, budget, and preference.

Key Takeaways

CutLocationCharacteristicsBest for
Beef BrisketChestTough, fatty, flavorfulSlow-roasting, smoking, braising
Beef ChuckShoulderTough, fatty, flavorfulStewing, braising, mincing
Beef RibUpper backTender, fatty, flavorfulRoasting, grilling, frying
Short plateLower chestTough, fatty, flavorfulBraising, stewing, making short ribs
Beef FlankLower bellyLean, tough, flavorfulMarinating, grilling, stir-frying
Beef LoinLower backTender, lean, mildRoasting, grilling, frying
Beef SirloinUpper hipTender, lean, mildRoasting, grilling, frying
Beef RoundUpper legLean, tough, mildRoasting, braising, mincing

Beef Cuts Explained

Beef is divided into large sections called primal cuts, which are then broken down into smaller cuts called subprimal cuts. These are then sliced and chopped into individual steaks, roasts, and other retail cuts. The location of the primal cut on the cow determines its characteristics. Generally speaking, the more a muscle is used by the animal during its life, the tougher and more flavorful it is. Conversely, the less a muscle is used by the animal during its life, the more tender and mild it is.

Here are some of the most common primal and subprimal cuts of beef and how to cook them:

Brisket

Brisket comes from the chest area between the shoulders of the cow. It is a tough but very flavorful cut of meat that has a lot of fat and connective tissue. It needs to be cooked slowly and for a long time to break down the collagen and render the fat. Brisket is traditionally slow-roasted in the oven until it falls apart and melts in your mouth. It is also popular for smoking and barbecuing in the US. Brisket is also used to make corned beef and pastrami by curing it with salt and spices1.

Some popular brisket dishes are:

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Chuck

Chuck comes from around the shoulders of the cow. It is also a tough but very flavorful cut of meat that has a good amount of fat and connective tissue. Chuck is often sold as braising steak or stewing steak because it needs to be cooked with liquid for a long time to become tender. Chuck can also be minced to make ground beef that produces juicy burgers and meatballs1.

Some popular chuck dishes are:

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Beef Rib

Rib comes from the upper back of the cow. It is one of the most tender and flavorful cuts of beef because it contains a lot of intramuscular fat or marbling.

Beef Rib is usually sold as a whole or half rib roast (also called standing rib roast or prime rib) or as individual ribeye steaks (also called entrecôte or scotch fillet).

Rib can be cooked with dry heat methods such as roasting, grilling, or frying because it does not need much time or moisture to become tender1.

Some popular rib dishes are:

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Short Plate

Short plate comes from the lower chest of the cow. It is a tough but very flavorful cut of meat that has a lot of fat and connective tissue. Short plate is often used to make short ribs by cutting across the bones. Short ribs need to be braised or stewed for a long time to become tender and succulent. Short plate can also be used to make skirt steak by removing the bones and cutting along the grain. Skirt steak is best marinated and grilled or stir-fried quickly over high heat1.

Some popular short plate dishes are:

  • [Braised beef short ribs with red wine sauce]
  • [Korean-style grilled beef short ribs (galbi)]
  • [Skirt steak fajitas]
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Beef Flank

Flank comes from the lower belly of the cow. It is a lean, tough, and flavorful cut of meat that has a coarse grain. Flank is best marinated and cooked quickly over high heat to retain its juiciness and tenderness. Flank can be grilled or broiled whole and sliced thinly across the grain. It can also be cut into thin strips and stir-fried or sautéed1.

Some popular flank dishes are:

  • [Grilled flank steak with salsa verde]
  • [Beef and broccoli stir-fry]
  • Beef stroganoff
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Loin

Loin comes from the lower back of the cow. It is one of the most tender and lean cuts of beef because it is not used much by the animal during its life. Loin is usually sold as a whole or half loin roast (also called strip loin or sirloin) or as individual steaks (also called strip steak, New York strip, or porterhouse). Loin can also be cut into smaller pieces to make filet mignon (also called tenderloin or eye fillet), which is the most tender and expensive cut of beef. Loin can be cooked with dry heat methods such as roasting, grilling, or frying because it does not need much time or moisture to become tender1.

Some popular loin dishes are:

  • [Roast beef with horseradish cream]
  • [Grilled strip steak with blue cheese sauce]
  • [Pan-seared filet mignon with red wine sauce]
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Sirloin

Sirloin comes from the upper hip of the cow. It is a tender and lean cut of beef that has a mild flavor. Sirloin is usually sold as a whole or half sirloin roast (also called top sirloin or rump) or as individual steaks (also called sirloin steak, rump steak, or T-bone). Sirloin can also be cut into smaller pieces to make kebabs, stir-fries, or salads. Sirloin can be cooked with dry heat methods such as roasting, grilling, or frying because it does not need much time or moisture to become tender1.

Some popular sirloin dishes are:

  • [Roast beef with mustard and herb crust]
  • [Grilled T-bone steak with garlic and rosemary]
  • [Beef and vegetable kebabs]
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Round

Round comes from the upper leg of the cow. It is a lean, tough, and mild cut of meat that has little fat and connective tissue. Round is usually sold as a whole or half round roast (also called bottom round or silverside) or as individual steaks (also called round steak, eye round, or topside). Round can also be minced to make ground beef that produces lean burgers and meatloaf. Round needs to be cooked with moist heat methods such as roasting, braising, or stewing to become tender and moist1.

Some popular round dishes are:

  • [Roast beef with gravy]
  • [Beef pot pie]
  • [Beef and mushroom pie]
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Conclusion

Beef cuts can vary widely in taste, texture, tenderness, and price depending on where they come from on the cow, how they are butchered, and how they are cooked. Knowing the differences between beef cuts can help you choose the best one for your recipe, budget, and preference. Whether you prefer a tender and juicy ribeye steak, a hearty and flavorful beef stew, or a lean and mild beef salad, there is a beef cut for every occasion.

FAQ

Q: What is the most tender cut of beef?

A: The most tender cut of beef is the filet mignon, which comes from the loin primal cut. It has very little fat and connective tissue, which makes it very soft and easy to chew.

Q: What is the most flavorful cut of beef?

A: The most flavorful cut of beef is the brisket, which comes from the brisket primal cut. It has a lot of fat and connective tissue, which gives it a rich and deep flavor.

Q: What is the best cut of beef for roasting?

A: The best cut of beef for roasting is the rib roast, which comes from the rib primal cut. It has a lot of intramuscular fat or marbling, which makes it very juicy and succulent.

Q: What is the best cut of beef for grilling?

A: The best cut of beef for grilling depends on your personal preference, but some of the most popular and delicious options are:

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