Planning to try some beef recipes but have no idea which cuts of beef you need?
A complete beef recipe states which sub-primal cut is required, and it would come in handy to learn the primal cuts from which they come from.
What are the different types of beef – Primal Cuts
In the US, beef carcasses are cut into eight primal divisions for wholesale to local butchers and public markets.
A skilled butcher takes cuts of beef from these primal divisions to make subprimal cuts.
For classification, you can divide a beef carcass into two portions: the forequarter and the hindquarter.
Let’s look at each of the divisions of a beef carcass, starting from the forequarter cuts before heading to the hindquarter cuts.
Forequarter cuts include the chuck, brisket, foreshanks, ribs, and plate, while hindquarter cuts comprise the loin, flank, round, and hind shanks.
The beef chuck is a large primal cut from the shoulder section of the forequarter.
It runs from parts of the neck and the upper arm to the first five ribs closest to the forelimbs.
An entire chuck makes up about 30% of a carcass side, and it can weigh more than 100 pounds.
Your local butcher grinds whole boneless chucks and trimmings for ground beef and prepares the bone-in chuck cuts or clod slices.
Beef chuck has many connective tissues, which make it relatively lean meat.
Chuck subprimal cuts include the chuck tender, the chuck roll, the shoulder clod, and the square-cut chuck.
Beef brisket is a primal cut in the front of a cow, below the chuck, and around the breastbone area.
Because it comes from a muscle that cows use every day, brisket lacks saturated fat, but it is flavorful.
This property makes brisket great for slow-cooking, and you can use it primarily for barbecue, pastrami, and corned beef.
Butchers divide brisket into two subprimal cuts: the point half and the plate or the flat half.
A beef shank is the section of a cow’s four legs.
Cuts of beef shanks are, in fact, the toughest of all the cuts and are usually used only for slow-cooked meals.
The shank has only one subprimal cut. It is called the shank cross-cut, well-known for the Italian recipe, osso buco.
As its name suggests, the primal rib cut runs from the upper portion of the sixth to 12th pairs of ribs.
The lower portion of the ribs is not included in this division, as these parts belong to the short plate primal cut.
Subprimal cuts from the rib division are famous for their marbling, taste-improving saturated fat and tenderness.
That is why these cuts tend to cost more.
The subprimal rib cuts include the ribeye steak, cowboy steak, ribeye fillet, back ribs, and short ribs.
The plate, or short plate, is found near the stomach, where the meat is tough and has the most saturated fat.
The best way to prepare subprimal plate cuts is by quick dry heat cooking.
Subprimal cuts include the hanger steak, inside skirt steak, outside skirt steak, short plate ribs, and flanken-style short ribs.
You can find the most expensive cuts of beef on the primal loin cut.
The loin muscles sit behind the ribs, and its location prevents cows from using it heavily.
Its location makes it the most tender meat.
The short loin holds the most tender meat, but it does not have the bolder taste of other subprimal loin cuts.
This part of the cow produces the T-shaped bone steak, porterhouse steak, loin steak tail, and the strip steak.
It also houses the filet mignon, which is part of the tenderloin muscle extending over the short loin.
Sirloin is the rear part of the loin.
It is a little less tender than the short loin, but it has the most flavorful meat of all the cuts.
Sirloin steaks are rarely used for slow-cook recipes because it is best for dry heat cooking.
As its name implies, the tenderloin provides the most tender steak cut.
It is a long and narrow piece of muscle right between the sirloin and the top loin.
You use the narrow tip tucked inside the short loin to make the very famous filet mignon.
The top loin is right under the tenderloin and above the bottom loin.
It tastes much like ribeye steak, and it can be as tender as a filet mignon if cooked quickly over high heat.
Bottom loin meat is the source of the flap and tip steak.
The beef flank is a boneless part of the meat located right below the loin.
Butchers use the flank cut to produce flank steaks, which are also called the London broil.
Other than that, beef flank is also an excellent choice for ground beef.
The round is the rear portion of the cow by the rump and its hind legs.
Much of the work done by a cow makes the round very lean, so it is quite inexpensive.
We do not recommend this lean meat for dry heat cooking.
Subprimal cuts belonging to the round cut include the bottom round, the eye of round, sirloin tip roast, and the top round.
What are the best types of beef?
The best beef should have marbling saturated fat to give it exceptional flavor.
Choosing the best beef cut depends on what recipe you have in mind since each type of beef cut has its own recommended preparation technique.
There is also the difference between grain-fed and grass-fed beef.
If you have extra money to spare, go for the grass-fed beef, which is the healthier and more delicious kind.
What is the most expensive cut of beef?
Generally speaking, the most expensive cut of beef from any cow variety is the filet mignon.
It is very scarce because it is only a small part of the tenderloin.
On another note, the most expensive prepared and cooked slice of beef is the Vintage Cote De Boeuf rib steak from the Polmard Boucherie in France.
A slice of Polmard’s Vintage Cote De Boeuf costs $3,200, and you can only buy it in two restaurants: one in Hong Kong and another in Paris.
Knowing your cuts of beef can help you create exceptional dishes.
If you are looking for the most tender cuts of beef, go for the tenderloin, but prepare your wallet for more expenses.
If you are gunning for flavor and tenderness on a steak, the rib eye is your best bet.
Don’t forget to look for some marbling.