A Simple Guide To Beef Cuts And How Best To Cook Them

Many people get stuck in a cooking rut. The problem is that we tend to keep cooking the things that we already know. And since there is a lot of mystery surrounding the different cuts of beef, many people either cook a steak or a simple beef stew. They don’t have the knowledge of the cuts to add some variety. 

With so many people becoming foodies these days, there is more interest in learning the best ways to cook various cuts to add some variety. This is especially true with so many people getting interested in some prime cuts of meat that cost quite a bit. They don’t want to risk ruining a wagyu picanha, for example, by using the wrong cooking method. 

In this article, we will go over several cuts of beef with the preferred cooking method to be able to get the most out of them. 

The Basics

When a butcher receives a whole beef carcass, it needs to be divided up. This is so that the parts can be sold, otherwise there would be nobody buying meat if they had to cut it up themselves. 

Besides the commercial aspect, the meat needs to be divided into cuts since the various muscles will cook differently. To make sure they have a cut that cooks the same way throughout they turn a side of beef into primal cuts. From there it gets further divided into sub-primal cuts. 

The general rule of thumb is that the further the cuts are from the hooves or the horn of the animal the more tender they will be. Tender cuts should be cooked quickly and tough ones more slowly.

Chuck Beef

The forequarter includes parts that are generally called chuck but there are various parts within that description. It includes parts of the neck, shoulder blade, and what could be imagined as the upper arm as cows don’t have arms. These are generally parts that have quite consistent fat marbling and some collagen.

As such the chuck is good for braising and stewing. Any long cooking method that slowly melts the collagen and makes the meat soft and tender. 

For quicker cooking, it is often ground up and used as burger meat. The amount of fat and connective tissue makes for a juicy burger.

Not all of the chuck cuts from the forequarter are all for low and slow cooking. Part of the ribeye is also from the end of the chuck off of the ribs. This is a tender and very juicy steak that should be cooked to medium-rare.

Brisket, Flank and Plate

These parts are getting closer to the hoof which means that they are muscles that are worked quite a bit. As such, they can be tough if not cooked properly. This isn’t to say that they all need slow and low cooking methods. 

The brisket, however, is inedible if it is not cooked for long periods. It stands up very well to smoking and cooking over coals at a very low temperature. It is most famous as a classic Texas barbecue meat

The flank is a piece that is very good as a steak although it can be tough if not treated properly. It should be marinated for a while to help break down the connective tissue. Then it has to be cut a certain way for the grain of the meat to be such that it is easy to chew. It will never be totally tender, but the flavor makes up for that. It’s great in tacos, for example. 

The Short Loin

This is the area with the most expensive cuts of meat since they are the most tender. They don’t require slow cooking or marinades to make them tender. 

The T-bone, porterhouse and sirloin steak all come from the short loin and are what you will be served in any steakhouse. They have excellent flavor and do well with quick, dry cooking such as grilling or being cooked on a flat top. 

The most expensive cut is the tenderloin, however, this comes from its own primal cut area and not the short loin. Although the name implies it should be from the short loin area, it is located right next to it. It is a muscle that does little movement so it is extremely tender but lacks the flavor of other cuts like a ribeye or sirloin. To make up for the lack of flavor, tenderloin is often served with a sauce of some kind. 

Leave a Reply