Beef Cuts and How to Cook Them

Diagram of Beef Cuts

Where are the beef cuts on the cow
Where are the beef cuts on the cow | Source

How to Save Money When Buying Beef

If you are like me, you wonder about all of those cuts of beef; top sirloin, chuck, round steak, ribs, flank, plate, shank, the list just gets too overwhelming! Even if you can manage the list of cuts, how do you properly prepare each one so it won't turn out like an old rubber boot? Broiling, roasting, braising, and frying, how do you know which beef cut works best with what style of cooking? I had to rely on the honesty of butchers and/or market employees for these meaty answers. What I discovered is that most of the time, those employees don't really know the answer either, and getting an actual butcher to the meat aisle is not such a simple task.

Meat Frustration Meets Meat Education

With my frustrations front and center, I set out on a mission to learn for myself how to recognize and cook the many different cuts of beef, as well as learn which cuts are economical compared to those that are pretty darn expensive. This is what our lesson for today is all about, understanding the best beef cuts for your needs, as well as your wallet.

Primal Cuts
Primal Cuts | Source

Cheap Beef and Pork Cuts

(click column header to sort results)
BEEF  
PORK  
Chuck
Shoulder
Heel of round
Fresh shoulder butt
Brisket
Boneless smoked shoulder butt
Flank Steak
Smoked picnic
Plate
Shoulder steaks
Foreshank
End-cut chops
Short ribs
Spareribs
Neck
Ham shank
Liver
Hocks
Kidneys
Pig's feet
Heart
Liver
Oxtails
Kindneys
Sweetbreads (glands or testicles)
Heart
Some of the best dishes come from these cheaper cuts of meat!

Beef Cuts Guide (Primal Cuts of Beef)

Beef Cuts

While Some meat can be tossed on the grill for best results, other cuts should be prepared low and slow to maximize their taste and texture. Most home cooks would be creating fool-proof economical beef dishes if they actually understood the cuts of beef themselves.

Beef Guide

This article is more of a guide, a location to learn just which of the vast packages of beef in those butcher aisle are going to best serve your application and budget. You will find a diagram that shows you the cuts, a chart for the USDA grades of beef, which cuts are the most economical and which are the most expensive cuts. You will even find an easy to manage beef recipe with every budget in mind. From ears to hooves, if you only have a couple of bucks or even a whopping roll of cash to spend, understanding the many cuts of beef brings you the culinary home advantage!

How To Tell The Expensive From Cheap Cuts of Meat

To help obtain a clear understanding of beef—meat from a steer or heifer—it is important to know where each cut of meat is located on the cow. As you are probably well aware, the more expensive cuts are going to be the highest quality meat, the medium quality meat is going cost a little less, and the fatty meat with lots of connective tissue is going to be a pretty darn cheap cut of meat.

Basic diagram of the 4 quarters of beef cuts
Basic diagram of the 4 quarters of beef cuts | Source

How Are the Cuts of Beef Divided

As a general rule, wholesale beef will be cut into quarters; dividing the carcass down the middle at the spine, and across the short width of center mass to create the four quarters; two hindquarters, and two forequarters. From these quarters of beef a butcher will trim out the retail cuts we find in our market.

What Cuts Are in The Hindquarter of Beef

The Beef Hindquarter Consist of:

The hindquarter holds the most highly prized cuts of beef, like the porterhouse and sirloin steaks, which are also the most expensive cuts of beef. You will find the hindquarter to have the round, rump, loin, and flank. Let's see how each relates to quality and cost. It will be easier to see and understand the cuts if you refer to the large (color) "Beef Cuts" diagram below.

Beef Hindquarter Round Cuts

As you can see on the diagram below, this is the hind leg of the beast, and we find five specific types of meat here; top round, bottom round, sirloin tip, heel, and hind shank. Round steak is cut from the complete diameter of the leg. It's easy to recognize this cut because of the small round leg bone that is located at the center, while the meaty portion is one big muscle with three smaller muscles surrounding it.

Expensive and Medium Cost Beef Cuts

Let's take a look at a few of the cuts and how they fall into the beef pricing game;

Expensive Cuts of Beef

  • Rib roast
  • Tenderloin
  • All steaks (excluding full and bottom round, blade, arm, and flank steak).

Medium Cost Cuts of Beef

  • Full and bottom round steaks
  • Blade steak
  • Arm steak
  • Boneless rump
  • Standing rump
  • Blade roast
  • English cut
  • Boneless stew
  • Eye round
  • Boneless chuck

  1. Top Round - This is one large muscle, and is the absolute most tender of all the beef cuts. The best quality steaks cut from this part of the hindquarter are fantastic when broiled or braised.
  2. Bottom Round - Steaks cut from this section are not very tender, serving best as long braised steaks or pot roasts dishes.
  3. Sirloin Tip - Falls second in tenderness after top round, and is a distinctly noticeable boneless triangular wedge shaped chunk of meat. It has a bunch of different names depending on where you live; top sirloin, butt of the round, face rump, crescent, sirloin point, side bolar, and sirloin butt.
  4. Heel - This cut has a "V" shape that is easily recognized. The heel is one cut that no one seems to agree on when it comes to a name, having over a dozen to call its own—diamond cut, heel round, and horseshoe to name just a few. Do NOT expect tenderness from this 5 (or so) pound cut, as it has quite a bit of connective tissue. However the bit of fat and flesh brings really good flavors when pot-roasted low and slow!
  5. Shank - Below the round is the hind shank. You will find a great deal of connective tissue and bone with this cut. The best use for the shank is as stew meat or in long cooking soups or stews.

USDA Beef Grading Chart (From Best to Least Desired Quality)

BEEF GRADE
USDA Prime
USDA Choice
USDA Select
USDA Standard
USDA Commercial
USDA Utility
USDA Cutter
USDA Canner

Beef Hindquarter Rump Cuts

Located just above the round and generally weighs between 12 and 17 pounds (only about 20% of the overall round) is the hindquarter rump cut. When buying this cut, it is best to get it boned, as a great deal of bone mass resides in this cut. A wonderful surprise can be had on the sirloin side of this cut, where small steaks that offer fantastic taste and texture hide. These delicacies are fantastic when stuffed or braised, but are also perfect for rolling!

About "%CTBRC" in the Beef Yield Grades Chart Below

Daryl Tatum, PhD, at Colorado State University, defines USDA Yield Grades as the estimated cutability of a beef carcass. The combined yield of closely trimmed, boneless retail cuts (%CTBRC) from round, loin, rib, and chuck. This estimates the amount of lean edible meat from a beef carcass.

Beef Hindquarter Loin Cuts

This treasure of beefy goodness makes up a surprisingly large portion of the beast—right at 17%. The loin comes from the section of the animal located between the ribs on one end, and the round and rump on the other. It is butchered into two sections; the loin end, and the short loin. Each of these two cuts have many smaller retail cuts built in.

Beef Yield Grading

Yield Grade
% CTBRC
USDA Yield Grade 1
>52.3%
USDA Yield Grade 2
50.0 to 52.3%
USDA Yield Grade 3
47.7 to 50.0%
USDA Yield Grade 4
45.4 to 47.7%
USDA Yield Grade 5
<45.4%
Information derived from http://www.beefresearch.org

Beef Hindquarter Flank Cuts

Even though this cut is found at the short loin of the beef, it doesn't make a great meal because of the thick grain, unless you know its secret; it is simply packed-full of flavor! (Due to the low price of this cut, learning how to properly prepare it makes it well worth the task.) The flank is a flat oblong cut, that usually is bone free and will weigh a couple of pounds at most. This cut makes the best hamburger, but when cooked over super high-heat for a short (flash-style) preparation, or cooked low and slow, then most importantly, cut across the grain it can make the most amazing beef fajitas!

Labeling the Cuts of Beef

The 14 main primal cuts of beef labeled
The 14 main primal cuts of beef labeled | Source

What Cuts Are in The Forequarter of Beef

The Beef Forequarter Consist of:

The forequarters of the animal are sectioned out into four wholesale cuts, that are then butchered down into the smaller cuts we find on the meat aisle at the market. The four beef cuts found here are the rib, chuck, shank, and the plate. These cuts may be found to be a bit more budget friendly.

How Much Do You Know About Cooking The Cuts Of Beef

Beef Forequarter Rib Cuts

You will recognize this cut as the standing rib roast, rib steak, and rolled rib roast. The choicest cuts are found and cut from the location nearest the beef loin, but where the short ribs are removed. You will find the rib eye steak and "prime" rib here—which is technically miss labeled, as "prime" refers to the grade or quality of the meat and not the kind of cut—but don't be miss-led by the higher cost of these cuts. Be sure to look for the more economical cuts, too! You will find these labeled as rib ends and short ribs. When these budget friendly cuts are cooked like a pot roast or braised, the outcome is something very tasty!

Beef Forequarter Chuck Cuts

Familiar cuts like boneless chuck, English cut, arm pot roast, and the blade pot roast can all be found in the largest section of the beef forequarter, known as chuck. This section of meat may need some added fat during cooking, especially if you are using the more lean pot roast cut. Sometimes you find the arm or blade can yield what is labeled as "chuck steak" in the meat aisle, this cut requires a long braise (low and slow) for optimum taste and texture.

Beef Forequarter Shank Cuts

Think of lower legs and ankles here. This section has the shank knuckle, or the upper end of the foreshank (upper-lower front leg), as well as the cross-cuts—small pieces cut across the shank bone. The knuckle makes for great stocks and rich flavored soups and stews. When the knuckle is completely cooked down, the gelatin within the bones and connecting tissues bring flavor and texture found nowhere else. The cross-cuts are best reserved as little pot roasts (after boning), or are excellent in stews and soups.

How to Oven-Cook a Brisket

Beef Forequarter Plate Cuts

This has to be the most versatile cut of beef out of all of the selections. We find this cut butchered from the underside that runs along the ribs. This is the stuff we find boiling in pots across the country. It is what we prepare our corned beef with. The best way to recognize the brisket—which is part of the plate cut—is by noticing the breast plate (bone) and the appearance of fat and lean meat. The brisket is usually found in the butcher (or market) chill chest as a boneless cut, having the breast bone, and ribs removed. Even as the brisket makes a fantastic soup, you can cook the brisket with or without the bone by boiling, braising, or stewing.

Ground Beef is also a good choice for this cut, but adding in some fat (around 20% for best flavor and texture) makes it even better. Grinding this cut (and other not-so-tender or really tough cuts) into hamburger has long been the answer to its chewy nature. By doing so, we have discovered the rich flavor and vast variety and economy of even the toughest cuts of very low cost beef.

Nutrition Facts for 3 ounces (85g) Lean Beef (hamburger, ground chuck -- 80% lean meat, 20% fat )

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 3 ounces (85g)
Calories 133
Calories from Fat135
% Daily Value *
Fat 15 g23%
Saturated fat 6 g30%
Carbohydrates 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 0 g
Protein 23 g46%
Cholesterol 76 mg25%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Top Beef Cattle Producing States

show route and directions
A markerTexas -
Texas, USA
[get directions]

In January 2012, Texas counted over 4,365,000 head of beef cattle; down from 5,025,000 in 2011.

B markerKansas -
Kansas, USA
[get directions]

Down 3% from 2011, Kansas counts its head of beef cattle at 1,430,000 in 2012.

C markerNebraska -
Nebraska, USA
[get directions]

This month (June 2012) the Nebraska beef cattle industry found itself under a severe heat stress warning.

D markerCalifornia -
California, USA
[get directions]

The highest quality of beef cattle handling and production is found in the state of California.

E markerOklahoma -
Oklahoma, USA
[get directions]

If you are looking for the most weight on the hove, than Oklahoma is the answer! They're rarely beat when it comes to the size of their cattle.

Percentage of Dressed Weight in Beef

(click column header to sort results)
CUT OF BEEF  
% OF DRESSED WEIGHT  
COOKING APPLICATION  
Round
24%
Slow cooking steaks and roasts
*Loin
17%
Quick cooking Sirloin, porterhouse, and club steaks
*Ribs
9%
Slow and quick cooking Standing and rolled rib roasts
Flank
4%
Slow Cooking Steaks or stew meat
Chuck or Shoulder
26%
Slow cooking Pot roasts and slow cooking steaks
Plate
12%
Slow cooking Corned beef, brisket, stew meat, and short ribs
Shank
4%
Strickly soups and stews
Suet (fat)
4%
compliments ground beef and lean cuts
*Several cuts from the shoulder, round, plate and shank, generally retail at lower levels. 3/4 of a side of beef consists of these cuts. Some of the best dishes come from these cheaper cuts of meat!

Budget Friendly Beef and Snap Peas Over Steamed Rice

Beef and Snap Peas Over Rice
Beef and Snap Peas Over Rice
Beef and Steamed Rice
Beef and Steamed Rice | Source

Rate Budget Friendly Beef Over Steamed Rice

5 stars from 2 ratings of Beef Over Steam Rice

Cook Time for Budget Friendly Beef Over Steamed Rice

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 25 min
Ready in: 40 min
Yields: 4 main dish servings

Ingredients for Budget Friendly Beef Over Steamed Rice

  • 1 Pound Ground chuck, (or chunk cut)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • To taste Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1 rib Celery, diced
  • 1 Sweet red bell-pepper, diced
  • 3 tablespoons Butter, preferably salt free
  • 4 cups Cooked rice, basmati or plain white
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1 cube low-sodium bullion, crushed into the 3 cups of water
  • 1/4 pound Sanp peas
  • 1 tablespoon Honey, local when you can find it

Instructions

  1. Season meat with salt, pepper, and cumin.
  2. In a large pan brown meat over medium-high heat.
  3. Add in onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Cook until the edges of onions caramelize.
  4. Pour the water and bullion mixture into the pan. Add the low-sodium soy and Worcestershire sauces and bring ingredients to a boil.
  5. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes covered.
  6. Remove lid, and turn off heat. Add in the honey. Then, one at a time, add in the butter. Stir each tablespoon in until it is completely dissolved before adding the next.
  7. Toss in the snap peas and mix them into the ingredients. Check seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if needed.
  8. Place 1 cup each of steamed rice into 4 bowls or plates. Spoon 1/4 the beef mixture over each bowl of rice. Serve with a green salad dressed with a rice wine vinaigrette.
  9. Some people will want to add a dash or two of soy sauce, or hot chili oil to the dish, so make these condiments available on the table.

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Comments for "Beef Cuts and How to Cook Them" 9 comments

IslandBites profile image

IslandBites 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

Great hub!


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Simone~ LOL!! I love the beef (& batman-esque) comment! I hope it wasn't too much for the vegetarian sensibilities within you. Thanks for stopping by Ma'am! I am always thrilled when you do.

HubHugs~


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

Holy cow, this is a great reference guide!


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Pamela99~ Glad you found the beef cuts information interesting. It took a lot of research over several years to put it all together. But, it was a great refresher course (of sorts) putting it all down in a hub. Besides, I had a blast creating the graphics! Thank you for stopping by, I hope you are doing wonderfully these days ma'am.

HubHugs~


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

This is a lot of information and quite a few things were new to me. Very interesting hub.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Blissfulwriter~ Thanks! I really enjoy creating the graphics for this kind of stuff. I appreciate your comments greatly!

HubHugs~


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Jade0215~ I am glad you like the information in the hub! Thanks for making it by and commenting.

Cheers~


Jade0215 4 years ago

Great information!


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

I like the way you created the diagrams of the section of meats.

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