What Are The Various Cuts Of Beef

An article giving definitions to the various cuts and grades of beef.

Shopping for beef in the grocery store can be confusing at best. There are sixty cuts of meat found in the meat section. Many of these meat cuts have multiple names as well. A piece of fresh beef is a bright red with fat that is cream colored. If the meat is vacuum packed however, it will be more purple due to lack of air, but will pink up when opened. The meat should be firm but not soft. Do not buy packages with tears, not very cold or have excessive liquid in them.

Several of the definitions include the word marbling. Marbling refers to the strands of fat within the meat. The thinner and more evenly spread strands there are, the higher quality and taste of the meat will be. The more work the muscles do, the tougher the meat will be. But with the right cooking technique, they all can taste wonderful.

Chuck cuts come from the neck and shoulder area. These pieces are very flavorful. They are very low cost because the meat is tough. Names you might see are chuck arm and chuck shoulder pot roast, chuck eye and chuck top blade steak. Use a slow cooking method with liquid like making pot roast to bring out the best. These meats are typically where stew meats come from as well as most ground beef.

The rib section gives tender and evenly marbled cuts of meat such as rib steaks. These cuts do best with no marinade. Common names for cuts from this area are rib roast, ribeye roast, back ribs and ribeye steak. Roasting, grilling and skillet cooking are the best methods to get the most flavor.

The loin area is where you will find the most expensive cuts of meat. The tenderloin is the best piece from this area. Other familiar cuts in this area are the top loin and sirloin. These cuts are great whether they are grilled, broiled or roasted.

Round cuts are from the back end of the animal. These are muscles that are very used and so are tougher. Round cuts tend to be very lean though and do well being roasted with moist heat. Names for cuts include top round and round tip steak, round tip and bottom round roast. Marinade these cuts and then grill or skillet cook them.

The last main areas are the breast and flank. There are many cuts of meat from this area like skirt and hanger steaks, brisket and short ribs. Flank steaks are typically found in fajitas. They are best when marinated and cut against the grain for a softer texture. Other cuts such as ground beef and stew meat come from various areas.

In addition to the cuts themselves, there are also quality grades which come from the USDA. These are indicators for flavor, juiciness and tenderness. There are eight grades, but the most you see in the stores are usually the top three: prime, choice and select. Quality grades are given based on the age of animal and the amount of marbling in the meat.

Prime is the highest grade. It has more marbling than the others. There is less prime than other grades and tends to be sold in specialty meat markets and for restaurants. Choice grades have a little less marbling and is found at the local grocery store. Select cuts have little marbling, making them very lean. This is the most common grade in meat cases at grocery stores. With proper cooking, the select grades can be very tender and full of flavor. And being leaner are healthier cuts in terms of fat.

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