Where’s the Beef? Cuts of Beef Explained.

“Mustard’s no good without roast beef.”

- Chico Marx

There are many different cuts of beef.  Each cut is best suited to certain uses.  Do you know where the cuts come from and what cooking method are best suited to the cut?

Primal Cuts of Beef:

As you might expect, different regions have their own methods for butchering a cow.  This results in different names for the various cuts of beef.  The first thing to understand is that there are primal cuts (i.e. big main pieces).  In the U.K., the primal cuts might look like the following diagram:

Picture of UK Cuts of Beef

UK Beef Cuts

In America, you would find these primal cuts of beef:

Picture of US Cuts of Beef

US Beef Cuts

These primal cuts are then cut into the smaller retail cuts of beef that most of us recognize at the grocery stores.

Chuck (Shoulder):

At the front are the chuck, brisket and shank (shoulder, and shin).  These are the most exercised parts of the cow and as a result, these are the toughest cuts.  They also contain the most fat.  Meat from the shoulder is usually boned and diced for stewing.  It also makes the most flavourful ground beef.  Because meat from the chuck is tough, it usually benefits from moist-heat cooking or combination cooking methods such as stewing and braising.

You might find the following roasts and steaks.  They all come from the chuck portion of the cow:

Roasts
Chuck Arm Roast
Chuck Shoulder Pot Roast
Chuck 7 Bone1 Pot Roast
Cross Rib Roast
English Roast
Chuck Eye Roast

 

Steaks Also known as
Top Blade Steak, Boneless
  • Flat Iron Steak
  • Book Steak
  • Butler Steak
  • Lifter Steak
  • Petit Steak
  • Top Chuck Steak
  • Boneless, Blade Steak
  • Chuck Eye Steak
Shoulder Steak, boneless
  • Cold Steak
  • English Steak
  • Long Broil
  • Shoulder Steak Half Cut
  • Arm Swiss Steak
  • Chuck Steak
Chuck Arm Steak
  • Arm Swiss Steak
  • Chuck Steak for Swissing
  • Round Bone Steak
Chuck-Eye Steak, boneless
  • Boneless Chuck Fillet Steak
  • Boneless Steak
  • Bottom Chuck
  • Boneless Chuck Slices
Chuck Mock Tender Steak
  • Chuck-Eye Steak
  • Chuck Fillet Steak
  • Fish Steak
  • Chuck Tender Steak
Chuck 7-Bone1 Steak
  • Center Chuck Steak

Note 1: “7-Bone” refers to the shape of the bone.  It looks like the number 7.

Rib:

The rib cut is probably best known for producing roast prime rib.  The meat is tender, well marbled, and ideal for roasting.

You might find the following roasts and steaks.  They all come from the rib cuts:

Roasts
Rib Roast
Rib-eye Roast

 

Steaks Also known as
Rib-eye steak
  • Beauty Steak
  • Delmonico Steak
  • Market Steak
  • Spencer Steak

 

Short Loin:

Like the rib section, the short loin contains meat that is tender and well marbled.  The short loin can be divided to produce the most popular, flavourful (and expensive) steaks. These steaks are ideal for grilling.

You might find the following steaks that are produced from the short loin.

Steaks Also known as
T-bone steak
  • Porterhouse2
Top Loin Steak, boneless
  • Strip Steak
  • Kansas City Steak
  • New York Strip Steak
  • Ambassador Steak
  • Boneless Cub Steak, Hotel-Style Steak
  • Veiny Steak
Top Loin Steak, bone-in
  • Strip Steak
  • Sirloin Strip Steak
  • Chip Club Steak
  • Club Steak
  • Country Club Steak, Delmonico Steak
  • Shell Steak

Note 2: Porterhouse steaks are cut from the sirloin end of the short loin and so they contain a bigger portion of the tenderloin.

Sirloin:

The sirloin can be divided to produce steaks and roasts that are tender and flavourful.  However, they are not as tender as the cuts produced from the short loin.

Meat from the sirloin can be cooked using dry heat methods such as roasting, grilling, or broiling.

The sirloin will produce the following roasts and steaks:

Roasts
Tri-Tip Roast

 

Steaks Also known as
  • Sirloin Steak
  • Top Sirloin Cap Steak (Coulotte Steak)
  • Santa Maria Steak
  • Flat-Bone Steak
  • Pin-Bone Steak
  • Round-Bone Steak
  • Beef Loin
  • Bottom Sirloin Butt
  • Flap Steak (Flap Meat), Boneless
Tri-Tip Steak
  • Triangle Steak

 

Tenderloin:

The tenderloin is, as the name implies, one of the tenderest cuts of beef.

The tenderloin is actually part of both the short loin and the sirloin.  If the whole tenderloin roast is to be kept, it needs to be cut before separating the short loin and the sirloin.

Tenderloin is best roasted, or cut into steak strips.

Roasts
Tenderloin roast

 

Steaks Also known as
Tenderloin steak
  • Filet Mignon
  • Fillet Steak
  • Chateaubriand

 

Round:

Meat from the round is flavorful but steaks cut from the round can be tough.  Beef cuts from the round are best when braised.

The round will produce the following roasts and steaks:

Roasts
Bottom Round Roast
Eye Round Roast
Pike’s Peak Roast (AKA Heel of Round)
Round Tip Roast
Rump Roast
Tip Roast

 

Steaks Also known as
Round Tip Steak, thin cut
  • Ball Tip Steak
  • Beef Sirloin Tip Steak
  • Breakfast Steak
  • Knuckle Steak
  • Sandwich Steak
  • Minute Steak

 

Flank:

The flank does not contain any bones.  The meat is quite flavourful, but it is also tough.  Flank meat is usually either ground or cut into steaks (flank steak, London broil).  The steaks need to be marinated.

Steaks Also known as
Flank steak
  • Jiffy Steak
  • London Broil

 

Plate:

The plate, found below the rib contains rib bones and cartilage.  Short ribs are meaty, yet high in connective tissue, and are best when braised. Skirt steak is often marinated and grilled as fajitas. Other, less meaty portions of the plate are ground.

The plate will produce the following roasts and steaks:

Steaks Also known as
Skirt steak
  • Fajita Meat
  • Inside Skirt Steak
  • Outside Skirt Steak, Philadelphia Steak
Hanger Steak
  • Butcher’s Steak
  • Hanging Tender Flank Steak
  • Fillet
  • Jiffy Steak

 

Shank:

Beef shanks are very flavorful. Shanks are excellent for making soups and stocks.

Brisket:

The brisket is very tough and contains a lot of fat. It is well suited for moist-heat cooking methods such as simmering or braising.
The brisket is also pickled or corned to produce corned beef brisket, or cured and peppered to make pastrami.

If you found this post useful, or if you have any tips for cooking beef, please leave a comment.

Thanks.

Note: A temperature chart for checking beef “done-ness” can be found here.

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