A giant medium-rare steak, a mountain of garlic mashed potatoes and a stack of grilled asparagus sits on the plate in front of you. The steak is cooked perfectly, and as you cut into it you thank the courageous cow who sacrificed her life to provide you with such a beautiful hunk of meat. If you aren’t a meat connoisseur, you may not know that there are many different cuts and grades of meat. Your tasty ribeye was not cut from the same part of the cow that your friend’s filet mignon was cut from. Choosing your favorite cut of beef of course involves personal preference, but learning more about different cuts of meat and how they should be cooked may provide you with an awesome opportunity to branch out a try a new steak.
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If you are interested in learning more about the different cuts of beef and how to cook them, continue reading below. And after you finish this article and your mouth is watering, jump over to our weekly menus page and start ordering your gourmet meals today!
There are many different cuts of beef, but the following types are some of most commonly used in recipes and at restaurants:
- Short loin
ABOUT THE CUT: The sirloin is found on the back portion of the cow. Continuing toward the cow’s rear, the sirloin is behind the section where short loin is cut from. The most well-known sirloin cut is the top sirloin, which is a well-marbled, high grade cut. As the name implies, the top sirloin is cut from the upper part of the sirloin while the bottom sirloin is cut from—guess where—the bottom portion of the sirloin. Both the top and bottom sirloins are tougher, less tender steaks but are still incredibly delicious and flavorful. Bottom sirloin is typically the less expensive alternative to the top sirloin.
HOW TO COOK IT: Sirloin steaks can be cooked in a wide variety ways including grilling, broiling, roasting and pan-frying them. These steaks can be cooked with or without a marinade because while they do have a more chewy and coarse texture than other cuts of steak, they are not overwhelmingly tough. A nice, juicy sirloin steak pairs perfectly with mashed potatoes, pasta or a tasty vegetable medley. Sirloins can also be used in burritos, beef kabobs, stir fries and even beef curry! If you’re planning a backyard barbecue, toss a couple of sirloin steaks on the grill and cook them to your desired temperature—don’t forget a hearty slice of garlic butter on top of the steaks when it’s time to serve!
ABOUT THE CUT: The short loin is cut from the back of the cow, below the ribs and right before where sirloin cuts come from. It contains part of the spine and also includes the tenderloin and top loin. Well-known cuts of steak that come from the short loin include strip steak, T-bone and porterhouse. Short loin steaks are ultra tender with lots of flavor.
HOW TO COOK IT: Because steaks from the short loin pack so much flavor, it’s best to take a minimalist approach when cooking a meal centered around a short loin steak. The best ways to cook a steak from the short loin include grilling and pan frying, simply because these methods really help draw the steak’s beautiful flavor profile. A tasty pepper-crusted strip steak is always a hit—serve with grilled brussel sprouts (or your vegetable of choice) and a side of compound butter!
ABOUT THE CUT: Brisket is a cut of meat from the lower chest of a cow. In beef or veal, the chest muscles are used on a daily basis, making this a tougher cut of meat. In general, any cut that includes part of the cow’s muscle is going to be more tough than other cuts. Though it may vary depending on who you are chatting with, brisket typically includes parts of the inner and outer pectoral muscles.
HOW TO COOK IT: Like other tough cuts of beef, you will want to choose a cooking method that adds moisture to the steak. Many people slow cook brisket—braising is one of the most popular cooking technique. To braise your brisket, sear the exterior and then simmer until the steak meat is tender, juicy and flavorful. Another extremely popular way of cooking brisket is smoking it. The meat is marinated and then slow cooked over wood or charcoal until you can easily pull the meat apart with a fork. Smoked brisket is an incredible dish that everyone should try at least once in their life!
ABOUT THE CUT: Like brisket, shank comes from a part of the cow that is well-exercised and worked, making it a tough, dry and very lean cut of meat. The shank is taken from the upper leg area on the cow, and is commonly used as a component that enhances a meal’s flavor, rather than a stand-alone dish.
HOW TO COOK IT: Shank cuts are typically used in ground beef and other meal components like beef stock. Because the shank is a tougher cut of meat, you again want to implement a cooking technique that will add moisture to the steak. Braising is the most common method people use when preparing shank beef. Sear the shank and let it simmer until it is tender. The shank is sometimes used in beef bourguignon and is known for being an extremely lean cut of meat making it the perfect choice for homemade low-fat ground beef.
ABOUT THE CUT: Guess where on the cow this cut comes from. Yes indeed, a rib cut is carved from the center section of the ribs. Rib steaks, like rib roasts and ribeyes, are incredibly tender cuts with lots of flavor and beautiful marbling throughout. Because of their incredible flavor and texture, rib cuts are the most popular and most expensive cuts of beef.
HOW TO COOK IT: Beef rib cooks best when a dry-heat technique is followed in the kitchen. Because the meat is so tender, you can cook rib steaks without marinating them first. There really is no wrong way to cook a ribeye or rib roast—whatever you do, though, do not overcook this cut of meat! You will dry it out and miss out on tasting all of the characteristics that make these steaks so delicious and desirable.
ABOUT THE CUT: A flank cut is carved from the lower abdominal muscles of a cow. The cut is long, flat and characterized by the string-like fibers that run throughout the steak. Because flank steaks are cut from the cow’s muscle, they are typically much tougher than other steaks. Tough as they may be, they are also extremely flavorful and popular amongst carnivores who appreciate tasty food with lots of texture.
HOW TO COOK IT: Any cooking method that adds moisture to this tough steak is the way you want to go when dinner time rolls around. Braising is one of the most common ways flank cuts are prepared because the moisture helps soften the meat. If you purchased a flank steak and are set on grilling, make sure you marinate the steak first and watch it the entire time it cooks. Because the cut is long and flat, it is extremely easy to overcook a flank steak and may be difficult to remove from the grill if it burns. Add a few pieces of sliced flank steak to a pot of hearty stew for an amazingly warm and flavorful meal during the upcoming winter months.
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