Nowadays, home cooks are becoming increasingly educated about the origins of their meat.

What used to be a specialty that only your local butcher knew about has become a topic of general attention.

People clearly want to know more about the beef cuts they’re purchasing and where they originate from on the animal. Or maybe folks just want to put things off.

In any case, learning about the various cuts of beef, where they come from, and how to best use them is a terrific approach to improve your cooking skills. 

Why are beef cuts bewildering?

Why? There are several reasons for this, one of which is that grocery stores and butchers can chop beef in a variety of ways and call it according to their store’s or region’s preferences. According to one survey, several supermarkets stock more than 60 distinct beef products.

The most expensive cuts are in the center:

Now that you know the regions, all you have to remember is that the more expensive steaks come from the loin or rib section of the steer. 

What is the significance of the center?

Because the distance between the horn and the hoof increases, the beef becomes softer.

Because the muscles in a steer’s legs and neck do the majority of the work, they are firmer. As a result, these are the most difficult areas. The loin and ribs are in the center of the animal, and they don’t work as hard as a neck muscle, so they’re sensitive cuts. 

The 8 primal cuts of beef – and the cuts they contain

A quick history lesson: beef cuts in America were not standardized or called consistently until the Second World War. The American government decided that this should be standardized around the time of World War II.

In today’s world, the USDA recognizes eight primary cuts or sections of the beast:

  • Chuck
  • Rib
  • Loin
  • Round
  • Flank
  • Short Plate
  • Brisket
  • Shank

These are further divided into “subprimal” and “portion” cuts, which are the ones you buy at the shop. Let’s take a look at the eight primal cuts and how they’re typically separated.

Forequarter cuts

1. Beef chuck

Raw Red Grass Fed Chuck Beef Roast Ready to Cook

The shoulder and neck area make up the chuck. Muscles, sinews, fat, and connective tissue abound in the chuck. Because of all of these tissues, cuts from this area have a lot of flavor, but they can also be rough. As a result, in order for the meat to be pleasant and soft, these cuts must be cooked longer. As a result, chuck cuts are typically less expensive. However, if you know how to prepare it, cuts from this section of the animal make extremely flavorful meat. 

Chuck is widely used in stews and pot roasts, and the ground meat from this region is known for producing excellent burgers due to the high aft and sinew content. 

Keep an eye out for chuck eye steaks if you’re on a budget.

When you eat it, you won’t perceive much of a difference between it and the significantly more expensive ribeye steak. 

2. Beef rib

Because of the softness of the meat and the fat that tends to be marbled in the tissue, the rib generates some of the most expensive cuts of meat from the beast.

When dealing with steaks and roasts from the rib primal cut, dry heat cooking delivers excellent results due to the natural suppleness of the meat. 

Because of the suppleness and excellent marbling of fat within the flesh, delicate recipes that require minimal heating of the meat are also prepared with meat from this region of the animal.

After the 5th rib, the rib primal continues until the 12th rib. The lengthy muscle that runs along the spine, as well as the ribs themselves are included. 

Short ribs, or the lower half of the ribs, are sometimes described as rib primal and other times as plate primal.

The valued rib eye, spare ribs, back ribs, and prime rib roast are all produced in the rib primal region.

3. Beef plate

beef short plate

The plate (also known as a short plate or a long plate depending on how it’s cut) rests below the rib, and the meat from this region of the animal is flavorful and well marbled.

However, because it can be difficult to cook, some attention must be given to how to prepare it to get the most out of it.

Small ribs, skirt steak, and Philadelphia steak are some of the cuts available from the short plate.

The meat from the skirt steak is commonly considered to be the best cut to utilize for creating fajitas.

Meat from the short plate is sometimes utilized for ground beef because of its high fat content.

Meat from the short plate is difficult to beat when braised and paired with deep, smoky flavors if you’re seeking a wintery supper while it’s cold outside. 

4. Beef brisket

A whole piece of Beef Brisket with sliced two steaks on stone background

If you’re a fan of low-and-slow cooking, you’ve probably heard of brisket before. The brisket is a cut of beef from around the breastbone that rests just below the chuck.

It is one of the most delicious sections of the steer, but it is also one of the toughest. This can be overcome if the dish is prepared properly.

This cut has a good proportion of fat, which means it provides luscious, juicy meat. 

Brisket is best cooked low and slow after being braised or smoked. Pastrami can be made by smoking it. 

Brisket is one of the less expensive options because it isn’t inherently tender and quick to cook, which is good news if you’re willing to put in the time to prepare it.

5. Beef Shank

Beef Shank

One of the toughest portions of meat on the steer is the shank. It is the muscle that runs down the top of the leg, so you can imagine how hard it has worked.

When braised, however, it can be converted into a beloved classic meal known as Osso Bucco.

If you don’t want to prepare Osso Bucco, the shank can be used in other soups and stews, or even smoked to make tasty tacos.

While shank is generally cheaper cut due to its tough, sinewy quality, it can be pricey at times, especially when dishes like Osso Bucco are popular.

Hindquarter cuts

1. Beef short loin

Raw fresh meat T-bone steak, seasoning and Butcher cleaver on chopping cutting board on wooden background

Moving on to the beef primal cuts from the hindquarter, or back of the animal, the most excellent slices of meat are found in the short loin. T-bone and porterhouse steaks, as well as strip loin or strip steak, are examples.

Short loin beef measures 16 to 18 inches in length. It will yield anywhere T-bones are the center-cut steaks, and there may be six or seven of them. Finally, at the sirloin end, a butcher might be able to get two or three porterhouse steaks. 

From the short loin to the sirloin, the tenderloin stretches. It’s worth noting that without the tenderloin, no T-bone or porterhouse steaks are possible. Both of the steaks contain a tenderloin muscle portion.

The soft cuts of the short loin are best cooked on a dry fire.

2. Beef sirloin

sirloin

The beef sirloin, which runs from the 13th rib to the hip bone and from the backbone to the side, is another important part of the carcass (or belly).

The top sirloin and bottom sirloin are segmented from the whole sirloin. Top sirloin is commonly cut into steaks that are suitable for grilling. Because the sirloin is closer to the animal’s back leg, the muscles are a little tougher.

Nonetheless, a first-cut sirloin steak, sometimes known as a pin-bone steak because it contains a portion of the hip bone, is quite similar to a porterhouse. After being removed from the top sirloin, the bottom sirloin is usually divided into three basic components: tri-tip, ball tip, and flap, all of which are suitable for roasting and grilling (and they are sometimes made into ground beef).. The back end of the tenderloin, known as the butter tender, is likewise located within the sirloin, and it’s either removed entirely when manufacturing a full tenderloin or sold as a roast. Be wary of butchers that call a tenderloin a filet mignon, as that term refers to the opposite end of the tenderloin. 

3. Tenderloin

Tenderloin

Tenderloin is a subprimal of the sirloin, and it’s the most tender section of the cow, as the name implies. Tenderloin cuts into the short loin area, hence it’s commonly credited with premium cuts like porterhouse and filet mignon. Don’t let these meats go to waste by cooking them over low heat for several hours. Because they’re already soft, it’s ideal to cook them in a dry heat for a shorter time.

4. Beef round

The round comes from the animal’s back. Because it is mostly made up of massive muscles, the meat from this cut is tough.

As a result, slow cooking, stews, ground beef, and reverse searing are all good options for this meat.

While the round is tough like the chuck primal cut, it lacks the same amount of collagen as the chuck, making it less delicious and succulent.

Top round steak, top and bottom round roasts, eye of the round, tip roast, and tip steak are all cuts that come from the round. 

While the round isn’t the most appealing cut of beef, it is inexpensive. Meat from the round is a wonderful alternative if you’re searching for a cost-effective cut, especially for ground beef or stews.

5. Beef flank

Raw Flank steak black Angus. Fresh Marble beef meat. Black background. Top view.

The flank is a short part of the steer that sits just beneath the loin.

It has a lot of flavor, but it also has a lot of lengthy muscle fibers, so it can be rough if not cooked properly.

This cut can be a particularly excellent section of the steer if cut across the grain and not overdone.

Although marinating the meat might help keep it moist, many people believe that the best way to cook flank meat is fast and at high heat.

Another option is to braise the flank; in some cases, the flank is utilized to generate ground beef.

Other cuts

Beef cuts exist in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors. “Other” refers to anything that isn’t part of one of the other primary families. This category includes stewing steak, burgers, corned beef, minced, and ground beef. 

Shanks, which are derived from the cow’s legs, are one of the most intriguing beef cuts and are ideal for slow cooking.

The cheeks are one of our favorite cuts of beef. Many great chefs employ beef cheeks in their restaurants, which is an often neglected cut of meat. When cooked slowly, one of the most forgiving pieces of meat, and a basic piece of meat that will improve your pot roast game. The recipe below will show you how to do it.

What is the subprimal cut of beef?

Fresh raw angus beef meat, whole, ground and chopped on parchment paper , wooden cutting board,  stone background, top view

If you’ve ever bought beef from a butcher or supermarket, you know that there are considerably more cuts than simply eight. This is possible because butchers may split each primal cut of beef into smaller sections known as subprimal cuts. Subprimal cuts are frequently found at the grocery store, chopped down even more into individual slices.

Let’s look at the subprimal cuts that belong to each primal cut and how to prepare them to bring out their greatest textures and flavors now that we’ve looked at the eight primal cuts of beef.

1. Chuck subprimal cuts

The chuck primal cut is difficult because it has a lot of connective tissue. Chuck also has a high fat content, which adds to its flavor. Chuck is commonly ground beef, but it’s also an excellent cut for stews and roasts since it can be slow-cooked to tenderize it. Let’s take a deeper look at the beef chuck subprimal cuts. 

  • Chuck tender: Chuck tender is a lean cut that can be separated into two types: steak and roast. To tenderize a chuck tender steak before grilling, marinate it first.
  • Chuck roll: Chuck roll is more tender. It has two cuts: chuck eye roll and under blade, which provide a variety of tasty roasts, country-style ribs, steaks, and other dishes.
  • Shoulder clod: The lean shoulder clod arm roast and shoulder tiny tender, as well as the more marbled upper blade, make up the shoulder clod. You can also grill, roast, or smoke the shoulder petite tender in addition to slow cooking. 
  • Square-cut chuck: Due to the marbling, square-cut chuck is delicious and delicate. It includes a wide range of steaks and roasts, as well as pectoral meat and short ribs. Instead of using a slow cooker, you can grill or broil some slices.

2. Rib subprimal cuts

The rib cut produces classic beef cuts such as ribeye steak and prime rib roast. Although there are only two subprimal cuts, each of these subprimal divisions contain a variety of popular beef cuts. These cuts are adaptable because the beef rib part is delicate and tasty, and you can cook them to perfection in a variety of ways. 

  • Ribeye roll: The ribeye roll is made out of rich, juicy, and tender ribeye steaks and roasts. Ribeye roasts are best prepared by roasting or baking, while steaks can be prepared in a variety of methods, including grilling, pan-broiling, smoking, and more. Ribeye steaks and roasts are a popular cut of meat because of their flavorful flavor and tender texture.
  • Rib subprimal: This subprimal cut contains juicy, delectable back ribs, short ribs, and rib oven-prepared ribs. Rib ovens are best served roasted, while back ribs and short ribs can be prepared in a variety of ways. Rib fingers and blade/lifter meat are also included in this subprimal. 

3. Loin subprimal cuts

The loin is made up of three subprimal cuts that yield some of the most popular and tender beef cuts. Tenderloin and porterhouse steaks are examples of these cuts. Many loin cuts are lean, yet due to their placement on the steer, they are nevertheless delicate.

Butts and roasts should be baked or roasted while tips should be browned in a skillet. The other loin cuts can be prepared in a variety of ways, according to your preferences. Grilling and pan-searing are two common methods for bringing out the exquisite tastes in loin subprimal cuts of steaks.

  • Tenderloin: Tenderloin is a long, narrow cut of meat that is noted for being the most tender. This subprimal cut provides the famed filet mignon, as well as tenderloin roast, tips, tails, and butt.
  • Strip loin: A boneless cut of meat with a wonderful flavor and considerable marbling. You can cook it whole as a roast or cut it up into strip filets, mini roasts, roasts, and steals.
  • Short loin: Another popular subprimal cut for steak aficionados is the short loin. It makes porterhouse and T-bone steaks, as well as the loin steak tail. These cuts have a strong flavor. 

4. Round subprimal cuts

The round primal cut is a low-cost option that can be a little rough. The majority of cuts from the beef round segment are lean and low in fat. Nonetheless, this fundamental cut yields some subprimal slices that are helpful and tasty in a variety of meals. To become tender, they may need to be marinated or cooked slowly. In most circumstances, marinating is the best approach to tenderize steaks, and slow-cooking is the greatest way to tenderize roasts.

  • Bottom round: A lean subprimal cut from the outside of the hind leg of a steer. Outside round, which is cut into roasts and steaks, and outside round, or heel, which can be ground or cut into steaks, are the two components of bottom round. These cuts are usually simmered or roasted before being sliced. Before cooking, marinate steak cuts.
  • Eye of round: Similar to a tenderloin, but more tougher, the eye of round is extremely skinny. It’s made up of roast eye of round and eye of round steak. For roast beef sandwiches, the roast is a common choice. It can also be baked or broiled and served as a roast. Cook the eye of round steak on the grill or in a skillet after marinating it.
  • Sirloin tip: Also known as knuckle, is made up of sirloin roasts and steaks. It can also be ground to make ground beef. The sirloin tip is a very lean cut of meat. Braising, baking, or roasting are the finest ways to make roasts. Before grilling or broiling steaks, you can braise or marinade them.
  • Top round: The final subprimal cut from the round primal. Top round, also known as inside round, is a lean cut of beef that is commonly used to make sliced roast beef. In addition to roasts, top rounds can be used to make affordable steaks. Before cooking, these steaks benefit from marinating. 

5. CUT flank subprimal cuts

The primal cut of beef flank yields only one subprimal cut: flank steak. Flank steak, also known as London broil, jiffy steak, or plank steak, is a lean and delicious cut of meat. For ground beef, flank steak is a good option. A flank can also be broiled, sliced, and stir-fried, or marinated, grilled, and then sliced. The trick to grilling flank steak is to cook it at a high temperature for a short length of time. Avoid overcooking the flank steak to keep it moist and prevent it from drying out. After the steak has been cooked, cut it into thin slices against the grain. 

6. Plate subprimal cuts

Five subprimal cuts are available in the plate primal. Many plate subprimal cuts are well-suited to fast cooking at high heat, unlike many of the beef cuts we’ve looked at, which are best prepared using slow-cooking methods. 

  • Hanger steak: A thick, delicious piece of meat. It has a gritty texture, but by removing some connective tissue membrane or soaking the steak, you can tenderize it. The hanger steak can then be grilled or roasted over high heat.
  • Inside skirt steak: A tasty subprimal cut for fajitas or beef stir-fry, the inside skirt steak is a favored subprimal cut. Before grilling strips of inner skirt steak for a short period over high heat, marinade them for added flavor and to tenderize the flesh a little.
  • Outside skirt steak: While the outside skirt steak is the polar opposite of the inside skirt steak is the polar opposite of the inside skirt steak, this subprimal cut is very comparable. Because it’s also recognized for fajitas, it’s sometimes labeled as fajita meat. 
  • Plate short ribs: A short portion of ribs found in the plate primal. These ribs are delicious whether braised or grilled. Start with a spice rub to add more flavor if you’re grilling them.
  • Flanken-style short ribs: Cut across the rib bones rather than between each bone, and are frequently referred to as Korean-style short ribs. They’re a fantastic grilling option. Make sure they’ve been marinated first. 

7. Brisket subprimal cuts

Because it comes from a muscle that cows frequently utilize in their everyday lives, beef brisket can be a touch rough. As a result, slow-cooking brisket is a wise way to ensure that it becomes tender as it cooks. The flat half and point half of the brisket are the two subprimal cuts. 

  • Brisket flat half: This area of the brisket is thin and comes from the back of the brisket, hence the term flat half. It’s also known as the “initial cut” by others. You can experiment with different cooking methods, such as pressure cooking, smoking, or even sous vide, in addition to the classic slow-cooking approaches.
  • Brisket point half: The point half of the brisket is fattier and more delicious than the rest of the brisket. In most circumstances, though, you’ll want to cook it low and slow to get a tender piece of meat that you can cut or shred. Although this cut is not well suited to pressure cooking, it can be broiled, roasted, baked, smoked, or cooked sous vide. 

8. Beef shank subprimal cut

The shank is the last beef cut on our list. Because the shank primal is a portion of the leg, the cow makes extensive use of these muscles. As a result, shank meat can be rough by nature, but cooking it low and slow can transform it into a delicate dish. 

The shank primal has only one subprimal cut to be mindful of: shank cross-cut. This slim cut is well recognized for its role as the star of the Italian dish osso buco. It becomes fork-tender after being braised. 

What to consider when buying beef

There are a few things you should look for before selecting your next beef chop. 

  • The meat should be red or purple/red in hue, with no brown spots. The richer the color, the more flavorful it is.
  • Smell the meat if you can. Continue looking if it doesn’t smell fresh.
  • The meat within the package should be firm and cold to the touch; you don’t want to cook meat that has been allowed to warm up.
  • Make sure the packaging doesn’t have any moisture in it. The moisture in the meat will build up the longer it sits in the container.
  • If you’re buying a tender cut with a lot of marbling, like rib-eye, the marbling should be constant all the way through the flesh.
  • What are the criteria for grading it? The USDA grades beef so you can see how soft it is and how much marbling it has. The highest grade is prime. Choice and Select are the next two options. Select, a lean cut of beef, has less marbling and is more tender than Prime. 
  • What else can you find on the label? You’ve probably seen meat that’s been branded as lean or extra lean. To be considered lean, 100 grams of beef must contain less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol. Extra lean beef has less than 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

If you’re going to spend some money on a more expensive cut, it’s usually a good idea to take a look at what else is available.

You can’t seem to find what you’re looking for in your local store? You can always look for online butcher businesses that will deliver high-quality meat to your door.

Why do prices vary so much between cuts of meat?

The more delicate the meat is and the less time it takes to cook, the more it costs.

Tender cuts are frequently taken from the animal’s midsection. This is because the muscles in the midsection of the body do less effort than the muscles in the legs and rump, as we explained before in this essay.

There are price exceptions to this rule from time to time. Even if a cut of beef isn’t known for being the most tender, if it becomes fashionable, the price may rise.

Unfortunately, the popularity of low and slow barbecue has driven up the cost of meats like brisket and ribs that were formerly affordable.

Because slimmer cuts are becoming more popular among those concerned about their health, the price of some lean cuts is rising as well.

What are the leanest cuts of beef to cook?

While fat and marbling contribute to luscious, juicy meat, some of us are more concerned about lowering our fat intake. 

The round and flank are two of the leanest cuts of beef.

Tenderloin is a pricey cut since it is not only tender but also extremely lean. Keep in mind that it is also noted for being flavorless.

While skinny cuts can still be delicate, their decreased fat content means they won’t be as juicy as fattier steaks.

Bison is gaining popularity in the United States because it is a leaner meat than cattle. It has a gamier flavor and may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s worth looking into.

In the United States, lean meat must include less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams of meat, and extra lean meat must contain fewer than 5 grams of fat per 100 grams of meat.

Wrapping it up

It might be difficult to sort through the various cuts of beef available, but becoming familiar with the basic cuts and understanding the distinct characteristics of different regions of the animal will assist you in selecting the ideal cut for your next barbeque.