How to Choose the Perfect Cut of Beef

Cooking How-To, Father's Day, Featured Article, How-To
on June 26, 2011
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

The first time I went shopping for beef, I naively assumed that all cuts are created the same. But after standing in front of the meat counter for 15 minutes and scanning everything from briskets to ribs, I realized beef isn’t all that basic.

However once I learned the eight primary cuts of beef, selecting the right beef for the job became a breeze. Here a quick guide to help you determine the best bovine for your meal:

  1. Chuck: Located at the front of the cow (at the shoulders), chuck is a highly flavorful cut because the area is highly exercised has a great deal of connective tissue. Chuck is most often ground up for burgers or used in stews and pot roasts.
  2. Brisket: Found directly beneath the chuck, brisket isn’t a particularly tender cut. But it is very flavorful when smoked, braised or prepared in a slow cooker.
  3. Rib: One of the juiciest and most tender cuts, ribs (whether they are prime, short or rib eye) are best roasted or cooked long and slow on the barbeque.
  4. Plate: A section found beneath the ribs, the plate is a tough cut and best used in hearty stews, so it can simmer for hours.
  5. Short Loin: Found on the top portion of the cow behind the ribs, the short loin comprises the tenderloin, T-bone and porterhouse cuts. The area is extremely tender in places and best cooked over a grill so the juices will stay seared in.
  6. Flank: Perhaps the toughest cut, flank steak comes from the stomach muscles of the cow. Always marinate or tenderize to make flank steak more tender, and cut in thin slices to serve.
  7. Sirloin: Arguably the most flavorful steak a cow has to offer, sirloin (found on the lower back between the short loin and round) contains all tenderloin cuts and can be cooked in countless variations, from grilling to slow cooking.
  8. Round: Found at the back of the cow, this lean cut can also turn out a little on the tough side. It is best prepared using a moist cooking method, such as braising or stewing.

— By Emily Arno

Check out what Relish Cooking Show Chef Chris Koetke has to say about an unusual cut of meat–ox tail.