Beef Cuts Explained - Your Guide To Beef

Written in 2024
by Adam

    Nowadays, household cooks are getting more and more familiar with where their particular meat comes from.

    What was previously a speciality insight that only your neighbourhood butcher would know, now happens to be general knowledge.

    Honestly, people want to learn even more about the cuts of meat they are purchasing, and precisely where the cut originate from in the cow.

    Beef is separated into huge sections known as primal cuts, which you can see when looking at a beef cuts chart. These primal meat slices are then categorized into subprimal (food service cuts). These are then cut and sliced into specific roasts, steaks, along with other cuts.

    A beef side is one side of the meat carcass that's cut through the backbone. Each side will be halved between the 12th and 13th ribs. They call these parts the forequarter, which is the front side while the other side is known as the hindquarter or back area of the cow.

    The more tender slices of meat are the tenderloin and ribs. The most difficult areas of the cow to work on is the leg and the shoulder muscles.

    It's extremely hard to explain a primal beef cut with no need of mentioning the adjoining cuts. In this instance, the beef rib cardinal is situated directly over the beef plate. Exactly where it's separated is somewhat irrelevant. Even so, the reduced areas of those ribs, whether we attribute these to one's rib primal or perhaps the dish primal—are precisely where the short ribs originate from.

    Whichever process is being used, knowing about the assorted cuts of beef, where they show up and specifically how to make use of them is an excellent option if you wish to be a master chef or cook.

    Below we show the eight primal beef cuts, in no particular order:

    Let us delve a little deeper into the meaning of these portion cuts that people usually buy from their local butcher or store.

    Forequarter Trims


    The chuck consists of the neck and shoulder area. The chuck consists of muscles, sinews, body fat and connective tissues.

    Trims from this area boast a great deal of flavour because of all the tissues, and yet may also be tough. That is why these trims typically need an extended cooking time to ensure the meat is succulent.

    For this reason, chuck cuts tend to be a bit more affordable. However, if you're sure how to cook it, trims from this portion of the animal create unbelievably flavoursome beef.

    Chuck is regularly put to use in pot roast and stews. The ground beef from this particular area is renowned for making great beef burgers owing to all of the fat and sinew content.

    Our recommendation for those who are budget conscious is to keep your eye out for chuck eye steaks.

    When you eat this cut of beef, you do not notice much if any significant difference from the far more highly-priced ribeye steak.

    The rib cut is regarded as one of the most highly priced trims of meat, thanks to the tenderness of the fatty parts and the meat itself.

    On account of the all-natural tenderness of the beef, coupled with the dry-heat food preparation, it yields excellent results when working with roasts and steaks that originate from the primal rib cut.

    Tender dishes that require very little cooking are also produced using meat with this portion of the cow, which is due to the tenderness and amazing marbling of fats.

    The rib primal will start right after the 5th rib, then works its way through to the 12th rib. This cut includes a long muscle which extends along the spine and also the ribs.

    The short ribs known as the lower part is often classified as being a part of the primal rib.

    This section also produces well-known trims such as the highly valued rib eye, back ribs, spare ribs, and prime rib roast.


    Beef Plate

    The plate (AKA long plate or short plate depending on how it has been separated) lies below the rib, and the meat coming from this part is rich in flavour and well marbleized.

    However, it is often tough, so a bit of thought needs to go towards how to cook it to bring the best out of it.

    Various trims that come from the short plate include skirt steak and short ribs.

    It is commonly thought that the beef from the skirt steak is the better cut to use when making fajitas.

    Meat that originates from the short plate is often time employed for use with ground beef as it features excellent fat content.

    Should you be on the lookout for a wintery meal during colder weather, then it is suggested you do not pass up on the meat that comes from the short plate as it makes for a delicious serving when braised thanks to the rich and smoky flavours it releases.



    If you are someone who is into the slow cooking trend, then the brisket cut will be right up your alley.

    The part of the cow is found directly below the chuck and consists of the breastbone meat.

    It happens to be among the tastiest portions of the steer; however, it is unbelievably tough, which can easily be overcome when appropriately cooked.

    Truth be told there is a fair amount of fat in this cut, meaning it produces delicious, succulent meat.

    Brisket produces better flavours when smoked or braised as well as cooked slow and on low heat. One can smoke it for making pastrami.

    Brisket is revered for being among the cheaper option around as long as you have the patience to take the time needed to prepare it as this cut isn't naturally tender and quick to prepare.


    The shank is probably among the toughest trims of meat on the cow. This is the muscle that is situated towards the top of the leg that has done a lot of work.

    However, when braised, it can easily be reworked into a lovely traditional dish, known as the Osso Bucco.

    If you do not specifically want to make Osso Bucco, the shank can easily be employed to prepare other stews or even soup.

    While shank is, as a rule, a cheaper cut thanks to its tough, sinewy quality, occasionally it is very pricey, especially if dishes such as Osso Bucco are setting the trend.


    Hindquarter Cuts

    The Loin Area

    The loin competes with the rib for producing the most expensive trims of meat. This primal cut is found at the top end behind the rib. The loin contains both the tenderloin, the sirloin, and the short loin.

    The loin is made up of very tender beef, as the muscles aren't extensively made use of and therefore do not become tough.

    From this part of the cow, you will find cuts such as the strip steak, T-bone, porterhouse, and tenderloin.

    Generally, trims from the sirloin area are not as tender as those from the tenderloin and short loin, as the muscles from this portion of the cardinal cut are closer to the hind legs and used more, making these a bit tough.

    Nevertheless, meat from the sirloin does have plenty of flavours and can be very juicy if cooked properly.

    Beef Round

    The round is situated at the rear of the animal. It primarily consists of large muscle groups, and as such the meat from this trim is tough.

    As a result, this meat lends itself to slow down the cooking, reverse searing, stews, and ground beef.

    While the round is tough like the primal chuck cut, there is much less collagen within the meat, so it tends not to be as tasty and tasty as the chuck.

    Cuts that you might identify that come from the round are known as the best round steak, top and bottom round roasts, tip steak and tip roast, and eye of the round.

    Even while the round is probably not the most glamourous cut around, it is cheap. If you're hunting for an affordable trim, especially for stews or ground beef, then meat from the round is a good option.

    The Flank

    This area of the steer is a somewhat tiny section that lies below the loin.

    It is high in flavour but contains extended muscle fibres so it can be tough if not prepared properly.

    If it's cut across the grain, and not overcooked, this particular cut is often really delicious part of the steer.

    One may keep this part of the cow moist by marinating it, but many people recognize that the best method to prepare the flank quickly, is at high temperatures.

    Yet another hint is to braise this area of the steer, and at times you will discover the flank is used to produce ground beef.

    What to consider when buying beef

    Just before you pick your next cut of meat, there are a couple of things you must check.

    • The beef should be a purple or reddish colour, without any brown discolouration. The deeper the colour, the richer the flavouring.
    • When you can, detect the smell the meat, and its smells off, continue looking.
    • The meat within the packaging should be firm, and cold to touch; you do not want meat that has been permitted to warm up before you can actually cook it!
    • Assess if there is any moisture inside the package. The longer it has been laying in the packaging, the more moisture will formulate.
    • If you're going to be buying a cut that is intended to be tenderized, like ribeye, the marbling should be consistent through the meat.
    • When you are paying for a much more expensive cut, it's always a good idea to have a quick glance at some other cuts on offer.

    How Come Costs Differ As Much Between Trims of Meat?

    As a general rule, the extra tender your meat and the less you need to cook it, the more the costs.

    Soft cuts usually originate from the middle region. As we mentioned previously, this is because the muscles in the middle of the body perform much less work than the muscles in the legs and the hindquarters.

    At times, there are exceptions to this rule about costs. When a cut of beef becomes a trend, chances are you'll notice the price go up even if the cut is not very tender.

    Regrettably, the growing popularity of barbecue resulted in cheaper cuts such as ribs and brisket to go up in price.

    These days, leaner trims are also getting popular for those concerned about their well being, so some leaner cuts are increasing in costs also.

    So what's the Leanest Beef Cuts to Cook?

    Even though fat and marbling make for tasty, juicy meat, some of us are really a lot more anxious concerning reducing the amount of fat in our eating habits.

    Most of the leanest meat cuts come from the flank and the round.

    The tenderloin is a pricey cut as it is not just tender, but very lean. Always keep in mind that it is known to be lacking flavour.

    Despite the fact that lean trims may still be tender, they will not be as juicy as fattier cuts due to the lower fat content.

    In America, Bison is increasing in level of popularity as it's a leaner meat than beef. It offers a gamier flavour, and will not be everyone's cup of tea, and yet may be worth investigation.

    In the US, for beef to be considered low fat, there has to be significantly less than 10g of fat per 100g of beef.

    In Summary

    To navigate the cuts of beef available can be tricky, but getting to be familiar with the cardinal trims, and understanding the unique characteristics of a variety of sections of the cow will help in choosing the very best cut for one's upcoming barbecue.

    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

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