Following are descriptions of some of the more common cuts of beef. There may be additional cuts available, so don’t hesitate to ask.
1: CHUCK – The typical chuck steak is a rectangular cut, cut about 1” thick, with parts of the shoulder bones, and is known as a “7-bone steak”. The bone-in chuck steak or roast is one of the more economical cuts of beef. Hamburger is also often made from this part of the cattle.
2: RIB – The entire rib section comprises ribs 6 through 12 of the animal; a standing rib roast can comprise anywhere from 2 to 7 ribs. It is most often roasted in a standing position, that is, with the ribs stacked vertically. Common steaks cut from this part of the cattle include ribeye steak, and prime rib (rib roast). It is also used to make short ribs.
4: TENDERLOIN – The most tender cut of beef. This cut yields a type of steak known as tenderloin steak or “filet or filet mignon”, the softest, and most expensive cut of beef.
5: SIRLOIN – Of the steaks typically considered to be premium steaks, the sirloin is the cheapest, because the muscles still do a lot of work. This makes the steak somewhat tougher.
6: TOP SIRLOIN – The top sirloin is the most prized of the sirloin. It is the most tender part of the sirloin.
7: BOTTOM SIRLOIN – The bottom sirloin is less tender, much larger, and is typically what is offered when one just buys sirloin steaks instead of steaks specifically marked top sirloin. The bottom sirloin in-turn connects to the sirloin tip roast, which is generally considered to be a good, though somewhat tough, roast. It is also known as a “ball-tip” steak.
8: ROUND – This is a lean cut, and is moderately tough. Lack of fat and marbling does not allow round steak to tenderize quickly, or of its own components. Commonly cooked through slow moist methods including braising in order to tenderize the meat. Top round is often used to make carpaccio and steak tartare.
9: BRISKET – Brisket can be cooked many ways. Popular methods include smoking and marinating the meat and cooking slowly, not directly over the hot coals or wood. The tenderness from this normally tougher cut of meat comes from the fat cap often left attached to the brisket.
10: PLATE – Also known as “skirt steak”, it is a long, flat cut that is flavorful, but tougher than most other steak cuts. It is the cut of choice for making fajitas. Skirt steak should be sliced across the grain for serving.
11: FLANK – It is substantially tougher than the loin and rib steaks, and so many recipes using it marinate the steak, or use moist cooking methods such as braising. It is often used for stir-fry.
12: SHANK – It is tough, dry, and sinewy, so is best when cooked for a long time in moist heat. As it is very lean, it is widely used to prepare very low-fat ground beef, so it is not often seen at retail. It is also used in stew.