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beefchart

How To Choose Beef: A Primer On Cuts of Meat, Beef Marbling & More

We started our summer blog series with a “How To Grill The Perfect Steak” guide, full of great tips and tricks on how to get that perfect crust, succulent texture and juiciness, every time.  Now, get your knives sharpened, because we’re continuing our series with an essential meat primer. Today: “How To Choose Beef”. Discover all there is to know about different cuts of beef, marbling, texture and more!

How To Choose Beef: Grilling Steak Cuts

Succulent steak cuts! Clockwise from the top, NY Strip, Rib Eye and Filet Mignon. Photo: GourmetFoodWorld.com

There is an incredible selection of meat cuts to choose from nowadays, and new ones seem to be popping up every day. Choosing a steak cut can be intimidating, when the selection includes same-sounding items like sirloin, toploin or tenderloin. How do you choose beef and steak cuts?

We once again turned to our favorite all-around cooking expert, Gary Jones, otherwise known as “The Reluctant Gourmet”.  If anyone could steer us in the right direction of the meat section, it was him.

BOVINE REAL ESTATE

How To Choose Beef: Beef Chart

Cheat sheet: It’s easy to choose beef when you know your cuts of meat!

The Reluctant Gourmet’s secret for choosing the right cut of meat?  Location, location, location. Specifically, the location ON the cow. We’re talking premium cow real estate here!

In very broad strokes, the meat that is cut from the chuck, brisket, plate, round and shank will be much tougher than the meat cut from the rib, loin and flank sections,” says Gary, “this is because those cuts are comprised of muscles that work hard.”

Essentially, muscle is tough, and fat is tender. Fat is what causes that beautiful marbling, the white webbing on the meat. The more tender sections of the animal are, generally, in the middle, where there is less muscle and more fat. Once you get closer to the legs and head, that’s where you get the muscle. So that leaves you essentially with two categories of cuts, ones that require a lengthy cooking to “soften” them, and those that you can “flash-cook” by grilling. If you choose beef that is tender (usually more expensive), you’ll want to grill it.

So the first question you should ask yourself when you go out and choose beef is, “how do I want to cook it?”

CUTS OF MEAT FOR GRILLING

How To Choose Beef: New York Strip

Left: New York Strip Ph: GourmetFoodWorld.com

How To Choose Beef: Rib Eye Steak

Right: Rib Eye Steak Ph: GourmetFoodWorld.com

If you’re going to be grilling, you’ll want a steak cut that has a good amount of fat and marbling, and that comes from the middle/center section of the cow, the Loin, Rib, Flank and the Plate. The steaks cut from this section are tender and have some or a lot of marbling. Steak cuts from the center area include therib eye, porterhouse, strip steak, tenderloin, sirloin, t-bone, top loin, tri-tip, filet mignon, flank, skirt, and hanger steak.  Any of these are tender (some more than others, of course), flavorful, and don’t require lengthy cooking.

Top Steak Cuts For Grilling:

  • Ribeye
  • NY Strip
  • Porterhouse
  • Strip steak
  • Tenderloin
  • Sirloin
  • T-bone
  • Top loin
  • Tri-tip
  • Filet mignon
  • Flank
  • Flatiron
  • Hanger (butcher’s) steak
  • Skirt

CUTS OF MEAT FOR ROASTING, BRAISING & OTHER SLOW COOKING

If you’re choosing beef for slow-cooked dishes like stews, roasts, chillis, or braising, you can use cuts that are very flavorful but tend to be too tough for grilling. These cuts benefit from the extended cooking time, which breaks down the tissue, tenderizes the meat and renders it soft and eminently chewable. For this style of cooking, you’ll want to choose beef cuts from the ends of the animal, like the Chuck, brisket, shank, rump, and blade.  They also are usually more inexpensive than center cuts. Look for anything that says rump, round or roast on the name. Of course, you can always use premium meat cuts as well, but it’ll end up costing you more. You can get similar results with the less expensive cuts.

MEAT BUYING TIPS

Things to looks for when choosing beef, according to Gary, are fat and marbling, “look for a steak that has marbling. It is the thin threads of fat running through the meat that makes it Prime and gives it that incredible flavor”. He also advises to, “ look for steaks with fine texture and firm to the touch; you want the color to be a light cherry red color, not deep red.

Our grilling expert: The Reluctant Gourmet is Gary Jones, a self-taught chef and stay-at-home dad from Philadelphia, attempting to overcome his own “reluctant” tendencies in the kitchen. You can find more great cooking info on his website, www.reluctantgourmet.com.

 

Products from this post:
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