Have you ever gone to the store in search of that perfect cut of meat…the kind that would be tender yet flavorful when you place it on the table for dinner? The purpose of this post is to start with the basics of meat; where it comes from on the cow, whether it’s a tender or tough cut and the best cooking method for each.
Hopefully I can shed a little light on the matter so your next dinner will be the best it’s ever been!
The Chuck: This cut of meat, because it is the animal’s shoulder and constantly used, contains a high amount of connective tissue which causes the meat to be quite tough. While chuck meat is tough, it is one of the most flavorful cuts. What you may find in the store from this cut are Cross Rib Pot Roast, Chuck Sort Ribs, Cubed or Tenderized steaks, Stew meat, and ground chuck.
The best cooking method for these cuts are stewing or braising. When meat is cooked in moist heat for longer cooking times, the connective tissue that causes the toughness will begin to break down making the meat more tender.
The Brisket and Shank: The brisket is a boneless cut that is also very tough and contains a high percentage of fat. This cut is best suited for moist heat cooking such as simmering or braising. It is also often pickled or corned to make corned beef brisket or cured to make pastrami.
The Shank on the other hand is very flavorful and full of collagen – most often used for making soup and stocks.
The Ribs: This cut is not just for the meaty beef ribs we all know and love. It also produces the roast prime rib, rib eye roast and beef short ribs. All of which are very flavorful and can be cooked with a dry heat cooking method. Roasting would be my method of choice!
The Short Plate: The short ribs and skirt steak are the cuts that come from the Short plate cut. This cut contains the rib bones and is high in connective tissue. Therefore, it can be tough if not cooked properly. The skirt steak is often marinated and grilled as fajitas. Short ribs are very meaty and best braised so the moist heat and cooking time will break down the connective tissue into a nice and tender rib.
The Short Loin: This cut is where many of the most popular, tender cuts of meat come from. They are generally the most expensive cuts as well. Here is where the Porterhouse, T-bone, strip loin steaks and tenderloin can be found. All of these tender cuts are excellent for grilling or broiling for a short amount of time with the exception of the tenderloin – that can be roasted, grilled or broiled to perfection.
The Sirloin: Just like the short loin cuts, these cuts can also be grilled, broiled or roasted with great success. These are also very flavorful and tender and consist of top sirloin butt andtri tip.
The Flank: Here is where the flank steak comes from. Even though this is one of my favorite cuts of meat, it isn’t as tender a cut as others are. This cut is high in connective tissue thereby making it a potentially tough piece of meat if not cooked correctly. The type of cooking method generally used for the flank is grilling, broiling or braising works very well too.
The Round: Once again, a very flavorful and fairly tender piece of meat, this cut produces the top round, eye round, outside round and bottom round. The round family is best suited for roasting or braising. A longer, slower cooking time is the best choice for these cuts!
So there you have it, the basics of meat…and I mean basics. While I could go further into how to cook each piece of meat, I think this will help you better understand some of the choices of meat and how to choose a cut depending on tenderness and flavor.