Understanding Cuts of Beef

Knowing which cuts of meat are suitable for which method of cooking can be a minefield especially when cookery books, butchers and restaurants often use different terminology.  On a very basic level, knowing whereabouts on the animal the cut of meat is from should give you a clue as to how it should be cooked:­ muscles on the neck of a grazing animal are working constantly so will have more fibre and sinew, whereas the fillet, which runs on either side of the back bone is a very tender cut (when did you last see a cow pole dancing?) and as such is suitable for very quick cooking. Joints suitable for longer cooking are generally cheaper but have more flavour and will produce their own juices to enhance the dish. Although modern butchery methods often remove excess amounts of fat from meat joints for reasons of health, fat gives meat added flavour and succulence so a marbling of fat throughout the cut is desirable.

Butchers are a mine of information about the best way to cook a cut of meat, ask and they are often more than happy to give advice. Some cuts of beef (with their various names) and suggested cooking methods are listed below:­

Chuck & Blade

Often sold as braising steak (or flatiron steak) this is from the shoulder of the cow and requires long slow cooking to break down the denser fibres. It can also be used for mince.

Ribs & Fore­rib

Can be used as a roasting joint or the ‘rib­eye’ can be removed and sliced into steaks for frying or barbecuing. It’s the tastiest steak as it has a good quantity of fat.

Sirloin & Fillet

Can be boned and rolled as a Sunday roast or cut into steaks – ‘T’­bone, Porterhouse and Entrecote – and cooked quickly. Fillet steak is very tender and lean and larger pieces are ideal for Beef Wellington. This cut is also known as Filet Mignon, Tenderloin, Tournedos and Chateaubriand.

Rump

Not quite as tender as sirloin and fillet, it is often cheaper but it can be much more flavoursome.  Suitable for the barbecue, stir fry and grilling.

Silverside & Topside

These joints are from the leg and are used for roasting. Silverside was traditionally used for salt beef. It is very lean so needs to be basted regularly when roasting. Also known as minute steak when cut thinly.

Shin

Is also from the leg but is very sinewy and is sold as stewing steak. It is suitable for long slow cooking in a stew or casserole and produces thick, tasty gravy. Sold with the bone in it is alternatively known as Osso Bucco.

Oxtail

Generally one of the most inexpensive cuts of meat often cut into individual vertebrae. Long slow cooking will bring out the excellent flavour.

Brisket

Another tough but tasty cut of beef it was traditionally used for corned beef and can be used for slow roasting or pot roasting.

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