Know Your Meat: Everything You Need To Know About Beef

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The average 1000 pound steer will produce an average of 403 pounds of retail meat. That’s enough red meat to last a family over a year. But all the meat is not the same: leaner cuts need to be cooked differently than fatty meat. Some cuts are perfect for steaks, while others are better for roasts. Knowing where each cut comes from and the variety of cuts available to you will help you pick the best ;perfect of meat for every cookout, dinner, camping trip, and holiday reunion.


If you don’t know the head from the tail when it comes to beef, this video is a huge help. It not only will help you understand where all the meat comes from anatomically, but also is full of great tips. For example, you can make a tough cut more tender by cutting it across the grain and thereby shortening the muscle fibers.

There are four major sections of the cow, from head to tail: the chuck, the rib, the loin, and the round. From there, each section is divided into smaller unique cuts with particular flavor and uses. In all likelihood, you will rarely encounter a lot of these cuts in your supermarket. On average, your grocer will carry about a dozen cuts:

  • Chuck – The neck, shoulder, blade, and upper arm great for ground beef, stews or roasts.
  • Brisket – Another tough cut available as top brisket and bottom brisket. This is great for slow roasts and commonly used for corned beef and BBQ brisket.
  • Plate – Typically referred to as short ribs and skirt steak used for delicious Latin dishes like carne asada. It can also be used in ground beef.
  • Rib -The very tender and fatty center cut of the steer. This is where the ribs and ribeye are found.
  • Short loin – This is the location for most of the very desirable tender cuts: T-bone, porterhouse, strip loin, and strip steak.
  • Flank – Notably tough, requiring it to be marinated and used for braising and/or ground beef.
  • Sirloin – The perfect general cut for roasts and BBQ. The top of the cut yields the coveted filet mignon, the rest is labeled as sirloin or tenderloin.
  • Tenderloin – tenderloin cuts include the chateaubriand cut and tenderloin subprimals- they are less well known and probably only found at good butcher shops.
  • Sirloin – The sirloin is typically divided into top and bottom cuts that are a little tough, but delicious. The top sirloin is not much different than the bottom, just slightly more fragrant and a little tougher.
  • Round – lean and tough, and great for stews or crockpot dishes. Cube steak is made from this.