Eight Cuts of Beef & How to Prepare Them

A Beefy Breakdown

 

Red meat could be its own food group in the American diet, but how well do you really know your beef?

To gain a better understanding of what you’re eating – and expand your cooking options – it’s helpful to know the different cuts of a cow and how each one is used. For starters, a cow is divided into eight primal cuts: chuck, rib, loin, round, brisket, short plate, flank, and shank. These cuts can then be broken down into sub-primal cuts, such as sirloin steak, prime rib, and ground beef, which is typically how your beef is packaged at the grocery store.

This handy guide will cover the eight primal cuts and help you take the bull by the horns (figuratively, of course) when it comes to preparing each cut like a pro.

1. Chuck

Cut from the shoulder, chuck is versatile, economical, and very flavorful. 

How to prepare it:

Beef chuck is best cooked slowly over time, making it a good choice for slow-cooker meals and braised dishes (think: beef stew, pot roast). Due to its higher fat content, ground chuck can also be used to make juicy, flavorful burgers; just be sure not to work the meat too much, or your burgers could turn out rubbery.

 

2. Rib

Cut from the rib area – specifically, ribs six through 12 – rib is one of the most expensive cuts due to its tenderness, fatty marbling, and distinctive flavor.

How to prepare it:

Rib is best when cooked over dry heat at a low temperature for several hours. In the United States, grilling and smoking are some of the most popular techniques for preparing these tender cuts.

 

3. Loin

Cut from the lower back, the soft and tender loin is perhaps the most desirable cut of beef (and the most expensive).

How to prepare it:

From T-bone and porterhouse steaks to filet mignon, a loin cut transforms into a mouthwatering piece of meat when cooked over dry heat, such as a grill. Loin is often best prepared medium-rare.

 

4. Round

Cut from the rear, round is a lean cut that’s typically tough.

How to prepare it:

Round is a good cut for roasting slowly at a low temperature. When it’s finished cooking, always slice the meat thinly and against the grain for the tastiest results. 

 

5. Brisket

Cut from the breast, brisket is known for its tough texture that, when prepared correctly, tenderizes into melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

How to prepare it:

Beloved by pitmasters everywhere, brisket benefits from a low and slow cooking method. But if you don’t own a smoker, don’t fret – you can master a flavorful brisket in the oven or slow-cooker as well.

 

6. Short plate

Cut from the belly, short plate is often fatty, tough, and inexpensive.

How to prepare it:

When it comes to the short plate, the sub-primal cut should determine your preparation method. Short ribs are ideal for braising, while hanger and skirt steaks are best grilled.

 

7. Flank

Cut from the abdominal muscles, flank is one of the toughest cuts of beef.

How to prepare it:

Marinating flank before grilling at a high heat can produce a flavorful piece of meat (if you don’t overcook it). Alternatively, you can pan-sear flank in a skillet or broil it in the oven. Flank is also a go-to cut for stir-fry recipes.

 

8. Shank

Cut from the upper section of the leg, shank is very tough and full of connective tissue.

How to prepare it:

Shank is best cooked over a long period in moist heat, so it’s a popular choice for stews, soups, and Italian dish osso buco. It’s also a great base for making beef stock. 

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