A Guide to Choosing the Best Cuts of Beef (And How to Cook Them)
Not all beef is created equally. Learn how to choose the best cuts of beef and the proper way to cook them so you'll have a delicious meal every time.
If you love beef, you know that not all cuts are created equally. Each cut varies in texture, toughness, taste, and how it should be prepared. The good news, of course, is that if it is prepared correctly, it will usually taste great!
The problem is, if you're new to cooking or don't prepare your own meat, you may not know where to start. Perhaps you have to cook some cuts of beef for an upcoming event or gathering and want to make sure you nail it. If that's the case, then you're in the right place.
In this guide, we'll look at how to choose and cook the best cuts of beef. By the time you're done, you'll be ready to impress whoever you are preparing a meal for!
Check out our variety of steaks on our website for more information. Let's get started!
What Cuts Of Beef Are Available?
The most important thing you need to learn first are the eight cuts of beef available on a cow. Once you know these and get to know their profiles, you'll be able to prepare them correctly.
The 8 cuts of beef are loin, brisket, chuck, shank, round, short plate, flank, and ribs. You may also find "subprimal" cuts that stem from these, but for all intents and purposes, these are the ones you'll want to remember.
Now, let's look at choosing the best cut for you.
Choosing The Right Cut Of Beef
When it comes to choosing the right cut of beef, you'll want to consider the dish that you plan to prepare. Begin with the end goal in mind so that you can work your way backward to the raw ingredients you'll be cooking with.
It's important to know the characteristics of each type of beef. Here are some guidelines:
- Loin- generally a tender, flavorful cut. A lot of loin cuts (tenderloin, T-bone steaks), are the expensive ones you see at nice restaurants or steakhouses.
- Brisket- Brisket is the breast of the cow, so it's typically rather tough. Therefore, most people opt to slow cook it so it gets more tender.
- Chuck- Chuck comes from the shoulder. It is tougher than the loin, but also incredibly flavorful. It is a versatile cut that can be used in a number of different dishes.
- Shank- Shanks are the "forearm" of the cattle. Full of collagen, you'll see shanks typically prepared with dishes that are hearty or come with a gravy or sauce.
- Round- Often what you'll see sold as ground beef, but also includes some of the tender cuts that cost a lot when you eat out.
- Short Plate- The shortcuts are found underneath the ribs. It's not a lean cut of meat, but can be used for things like fajitas or short ribs.
- Flank- A tough cut of beef that can feed many people. If prepared right, it's one of the most flavorful cuts.
- Ribs- Not everyone is a fan of beef ribs, but cooked correctly, they can be quite delicious.
Preparing Your Beef
When it comes to preparing your beef, you'll want to consider the cut you went with. If you choose a bottom round roast, for example, you wouldn't prepare that the same way you would prepare a porterhouse steak.
Here are some guidelines for cooking your cuts:
- Grill- Cuts like flank stank, top sirloin, and tenderloin go best on a grill. It's ideal to sear them on high heat and let them rest for several minutes before serving. When you do this, the juices resettle into the meat, which makes the final product more tender and flavorful.
- Slow Cooker- Any cut of beef will do well slow cooked, but there are a few that should probably only be prepared this way. Those are the brisket and short ribs, as both are tough and contain fat, that, once cooked slowly, will melt in your mouth.
- Slow Cooked In A Pan- Shanks contain a high amount of collagen, which makes them ideal for a gravy based dish like stroganoff. This makes clean up easy too, as you can start and finish the dish in one pan. Yum.
- Burgers- Chuck eye steak and round steak are typically ground up and made into burgers. You can do that at home or have your local butcher do it for you in the store.
- Cooking The Ribs- People who don't like beef ribs probably aren't cooking them right. It's a tender cut of beef that can be slow cooked, grilled, or done in the oven. The results are always good.
Other Things To Consider
Besides cooking and selecting your beef, there are a few other things you should take note of.
Salt and pepper are the easiest way to season a good steak. Especially for a loin, you probably don't need anything else. You can always look up recipes online for more complicated dishes so you don't ruin the natural beef flavor.
When choosing a good cut of beef, consider the butcher you are buying it from and how you'll store the beef. If you can buy from a local butcher with a good reputation, that's desirable. Take note of how they store the beef, and ask them questions about preparation or storage at home to ensure your beef is kept until you cook it.
It's also useful to understand the USDA beef grading system.
Cuts Of Beef - Wrap-Up
When it comes to choosing good cuts of beef, you really do have a lot of options. It comes down to what you're looking for and how you'd like to prepare it.
If you're planning to grill, go with a loin or flank steak. Lazy Sunday slow cooker favorites include brisket and short ribs. You can slow cook shanks in a pan and make a gravy to boot, simply because their high collagen levels will reduce down in the pan as it goes. And if all else fails, everyone likes a good burger.
Keep in mind who you buy from, how you're storing, and how you decide to season your beef. And if you're ready, check out our selection of steaks. Happy cooking!