Unless you are a butcher, a chef, or a steak connoisseur, you probably don’t know the answer to this question. While we all know what ground beef is and the difference between a chicken leg and a boneless breast, when it comes to the finer distinctions between this cut and that cut, many modern home cooks may wonder how big a deal it is to swap sirloin for skirt steak in that recipe they got from the magazine in the doctor’s office. We have such amazing access to beef, pork, and poultry here in Arizona that it would be a shame not to take full advantage of each and every delicious cut available. If you want to try and purchase locally-raised beef or pork, remember to go to fillyourplate.org.
To help you bone up on which cut is which and when each should be used, we put together a primer on the different cuts available in the most common types of meat.
Chuck is probably the cut of beef you eat most often, even though you may not even recognize the name. It is commonly used to make ground beef and can also be cut into several different types of steak and roast. Because chuck includes connective tissue it is best prepared, when it is not ground, by stewing, braising, or using some form of slow cooking. These techniques help break down the connective tissue and tenderize the meat. The best way to cook each cut of chuck however, depends on the specific cut.
- Blade or Flatiron Steak – Braise or Panfry
- Arm, Eye, Blade, or 7 Bone Roast – Braise or Roast
- Short Ribs – Braise or Cook in Liquid
One of the most common ways of using brisket is to use it to make pastrami or corned beef. The tough meat requires curing, braising, or smoking in order to make it tender enough to enjoy. Brisket can be purchased as a whole or as a partial cut but no matter how you buy it, plan to braise it in liquid or slow smoke it for the best result.
Short Plate and Flank
These two cuts are from the underbelly of the cow and consist of fatty meat with a tough texture but don’t let that turn you off. These cuts are full of flavor and can be a great base for your favorite beef dishes. These cuts, which include skirt steak, plate short ribs, and flank steak are very versatile and can be cooked almost anyway you like. Marinating this cut is one of the most common ways to make the meat tenderer while enhancing the natural flavor which is also why this cut is often found on the grill and in ethnic cuisine like Mexican and Asian dishes.
Another of the more economical cuts of beef, round cuts, have very little fat which makes them ideal for braising, smoking, or grinding up. Like chuck, the best way to cook each round cut depends on the cut.
- Round Steak – Braise or Panfry
- Top Round and Tip Steak – Broil or Panfry
- Boneless Rump, Bottom Round Roast, Eye Round Roast – Braise or Roast
- Top Round Roast – Roast