Your Guide to Beef Cuts
Cattle carcass is slaughtered into different primal and sub primal cuts, which are basically the different body parts of the animal. These are then further cut into the smaller retail cuts, which are what we see in groceries and wet markets.
We’ll go through each primal and sub primal cut, discuss their attributes, and what kinds of retail cuts you can get from each one.
These four cuts belong to the front half of the animal, with the chuck and rib composing the upper half, and the brisket and plate composing the lower half.
The chuck is a huge primal cut starting from where the head and neck ends, extending to the start of the ribs. This includes shoulder muscles and some of the arms. This part of the body gets a lot of exercise, making the meat tough (and a tendency to get chewy), but it’s also one of the most flavorful cuts, and can be braised, pan broiled, roasted, or grilled.
This cut includes seven types of roast (arm chuck, cross rib chuck, shoulder, blade chuck, 7 bone chuck, chuck center, and chuck eye) and 8 types of steak (arm chuck, shoulder, blade chuck, ranch, flat iron, denver, top blade, and chuck eye), along with short ribs, country style ribs, shoulder petite tender, and medallions.
This image is property of cattlemen’s beef board and national cattlemen’s beef association
As the name implies, this cut comes from the rib area of the animal, which is fairly stagnant throughout the animal’s life, making the meat tender and infused with delicate flavors that come together nicely when grilled, roasted, or pan broiled.
This cut includes the ribeye roast, steak, filet, cap steak, and petite roast, and of course the popular baby back ribs.
This cut comes from the breast area of the cattle, making the meat thick and fatty. It also comes off as tough, but can easily be tenderized when cooked for a long period of time over low heat by braising or roasting, which gives the meat wonderful flavors.
Typical retail cuts from the brisket are the brisket flat and the brisket point.
The beef plate is a relatively small cut from the opposite side of the ribs. This cut is made of coarse grained meat, which is fatty, and has lots of cartilage and connective tissue. Despite these things, however, the beef plate is actually thin and flavorful, and can be made into delicious ground beef.
This cut is composed of the skirt steak and the short ribs, which can be grilled, pan broiled, stir fried, or braised.
The back end of the animal carcass can be divided into six primal and sub primal cuts, which vary in flavor and tenderness.
This is a large primal cut of tough, flavorful meat divided into the top and bottom sirloin. The retail cuts that can be garnered from this are extremely versatile and can be cooked through almost any type of dry and moist heat cooking.
This includes the top sirloin steak, filet, and petite roast, the coulotte roast and steak, the tri-tip roast and steak, the petite sirloin steak, and the sirloin bavette steak.
Loin (short and tender)
The loin is composed of the short loin and the tenderloin, the two most popular and most tender sub primal cuts of beef. While these are just small cuts, you can get a variety of retail cuts that can be grilled or pan broiled.
The retail cuts from this part are the porterhouse, T-bone, and strip steak, the strip filet and petite roast, the tenderloin roast, and the filet mignon.
Round, Flank, and Shank
The round is, basically, the animal’s back end. From here, you can get tough but lean cuts which are best cut thinly, and can be roasted, grilled, or pan broiled. This includes the top round roast and steak, the bottom round roast and steak, the eye of round roast and steak, and the bottom round rump roast.
The flank and shank, on the other hand, come from the underbelly and legs, respectively. These are both filled with tough muscle fibers and connective tissue, and are best when marinated or made into ground beef. They can also be grilled, roasted, pan broiled, or braised. Included in these cuts are the flank steak, cube steak, shank cross cut, and ingredient cuts like ground beef, patties, strips, stews, and kabobs.