Type Of Beef Cuts and how to make the best out of each morsel.

Thinking cow for dinner? Moooo it sounds delish!

Going to the local market, you’ll see various cuts of beef.

And each cut requires a certain cooking style to bring out its best taste!

Some cuts work fine on the grill, while some taste best if tenderly slow-cooked for the whole day.

Yes, the whole day.

But it's so worth it.

So, to help you cook the yummiest, juiciest and most tender dinner, here’s a comprehensive guide on the different beef cuts and the best way to cook them!

It will sound daunting at first, but I am going to clearly explain each cut of beef and the best method for cooking it.

I promise that you will be able to differentiate each cut just by looking at it at the end of this guide.

Just like a butcher.

Let's begin!

There are mainly 8 cuts of beef, these are also known as the primal cuts.

Here are the eight cuts of beef:

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

Chuck

Best known as the 7-bone steak (due to its bone shape), the chuck is located near the neck and shoulder area of the cow. This cut offers some of the more economical parts of the beef like the flat iron steak, chuck arm roast, and chuck roast. 

The chuck features a good amount of connective tissue, so it has a lot of collagen making it a bit tough but brings out great flavor.

This cut is best cooked slowly in an oven with liquid under low temperatures, also known as braising or with a crockpot.

You can use wine ( use only red wine! ) or even beef stock to enhance the meaty nodes in your beef.

Chuck ribs are best when coated in a wet or dry rub and sometimes marinated. It can be smoked over an indirect heat smoker for hours for gentle cooking while imparting the signature smoky flavor.

Use your favorite wood, there are no exceptions to chuck.

If you are looking to fry your steak, here's another trick.

Chuck filet and chuck steak are typically tenderized and pounded then coated with breading and egg to make roulade or chicken fried steaks. 

Brisket

This is taken from the lower portion or from the breast of the cow. It also has a lot of connective tissue like the chuck and can be quite tough unless it is properly cooked. The most popular part of brisket is brisket point cut and brisket flat cut. 

Brisket is the favorite of every BBQ’ers. However, it is also best cooked braised, smoked, pot-roasted, stew and slow cooking. 

This cut is best prepared with a robust and dark marinade for at least 4 hours. A dry pepper rub of seasoning and spices can be used to coat the beef, creating a dark and crispy exterior known as the “bark”.

Predictably, my absolute favourite is the burnt ends.

Shank

One of the toughest meat, shanks are the legs. Since leg muscles are constantly used, shanks are the toughest and leanest cut. This makes it the less popular cut an also the cheapest. 

Shank does not offer many cuts— just the shank cross-cut or shank. It’s also used in low-fat ground beef. 

The shank needs to be cooked for long periods of time either at higher temperatures in the oven or at low temperatures in crockpots. This should help break down its structure. Shanks also make great stews, soups and beef stock. 

When preparing shanks, you’ll need to break down the meat with a mallet or meat tenderizer seasoning. Using a marinade also helps bring out extra flavors.

By this point, you will already realise the simple formula.

For tougher meats, cook it low and slow.

For tender cuts, sear it and keep the middle pink to your preference.

Rib

This cut includes some of the finest beef cuts and is well-known for its tenderness, juiciness, great flavor and superb marbling. It refers to ribs 6 – 12 on the cow.

Ribs are typically not portrayed as the image above. These ribs have undergone a french trim to show the bone mostly for aesthetic purposes.

Some of the cuts you can obtain from a rib include short rib, prime rib, rib-eye roast, and rib-eye steak. 

Rib cuts are typically cooked over dry heat for longer periods of time. BBQ’ers also love it for smoking or grilling. 

Prime ribs are best cooked at high temperatures for a short period for a rare center with a crispy exterior. Ribeye steaks, on the other hand, do well on direct heat grill with charcoal adding a good amount of flavoring. 

Back ribs are best when rubbed with wet or dry rub them smoked at low temperatures for a longer period of time. Short ribs are great for braising, breaking down the meat structure. 

Short Plate

This one is located on the front belly, just below the ribs. The short plate contains a lot of cartilage, making it tough and fatty.

It features several cuts such as hangar steak, short ribs, and skirt steak

The short plate is best known for making carne asada. Because of its toughness, the short plate is best braised. 

Hangar steaks are known for their tenderness when properly cooked. It does not need any prepping, only a bit of salt and pepper or seasoning to offer flavors. Skirt steak, on the other hand, is typically marinated overnight or for 12 hours then coated in a wet or dry rub and grilled over direct hear. 

Loin

Taken from the back of the cow, the loin is usually a portion of the hindquarters behind the ribs.

The loin is one of the most desirable and tender cuts of beef, best-known for producing the porterhouse steak, filet mignon, T-bone steak, tenderloin roast, KC strip, and the shell steak. 

Loin cuts are best cooked over dry heat like on a grill and most commonly serve medium-rare.

If you would like to know more about different methods, read this guide on how to the perfect steak.

If you are adventurous, I would recommend you to eat it blue.

However, it is important to sear the outsides of the loin to make sure that all bacteria is killed off. The insides of the meat are typically safe as the beef muscle fibers are too tight for bacteria to enter.

I would also recommend trying it chopped up and served raw as a beef tartare to fully savor the natural tenderness of the beef.

Flank

This is the long flat cut from the cow’s abdominal muscles and is one of the toughest beef cuts.

The flank is typically cut into flank steaks or flap steaks and is usually used in Mexican and Asian cuisine as fajita beef or stir-fried dishes. Flanks can also be used in London broil. 

It is typically marinated with a highly acidic marinade containing juice from lemons and limes overnight then coated with a dry rub, the flank can be grilled to medium and cut to bite-sized strips. However, due to its excessive toughness, flank is best cooked with moist methods such as braising. 

Round

Also called the rump, the round is a lean cut with very little fat. This cut is located at the back near the rear leg. It is a tough cut like the shank due to the constant use of the legs. 

Despite its toughness, the round produces several popular cuts of meat. These include bottom round roast/steak, top round roast/steak, sirloin tip center roast/steak and the eye of round roast/steak. 

Round cuts are best when cooked slowly and in low temperatures in an oven with liquid. It can also be cut thinly and dried out to create jerky. A ground-up round is also lean and requires extra fat mixed into it such as eggs so that it does not dry out when cooking. 

Here's my challenge to you

Now that you know how to identify each cut of beef as well as the recommended cooking methods for bringing out the best of this meat.

Here's a challenge.

Instead of buying your meat directly from the supermarkets. Go to your local butcher shop and make friends with your butcher.

You will be surprised at the potential each cut of meat can bring to the table.

Still confused? Here's a helpful video from youtube.

About the Author
Hi, my name is Antonio Ricci.

I am passionate about butchery and my mission is to help others fall in love with the art form through education.

If you are visiting my shop, feel free to ask me any questions :)