With such nondescript names like chuck, sirloin and brisket, knowing where exactly each cut of beef began on the cow can get fairly confusing. To help better understand the cow and its different delicious cuts, it’s time to break down the steer.
Knowing the right steak terminology can help diners select the best cut for a particular dish. The cow is broken down into nine sections. Starting at the neck and working backwards, there is the chuck, shank, brisket, rib, plate, loin, flank and round.
The chuck section of the cow contains the shoulder bones and is best known for robust, flavorful cuts. This part of the cow has lots of connective tissue, which does well when cooked slowly, so stewing and braising cuts from this section are the way to go. Popular cuts include the chuck arm, pot roast, flat iron and shoulder steak.
The shank is a cut from a portion of the cow’s leg. This region traditionally is full of muscle, making the meat tough and best when slowly cooked with moist heat.
The brisket is on the lower chest or breast of the cow. There is a significant amount of connective tissue in this region, so it needs to be tenderized and cooked slowly for tenderness.
The plate section is best known for its flavor but is not particularly tender. Popular cuts from this section are the hanger steak and the skirt steak.
The rib is the section back from the shoulder. This section is known for well-marbled, tender and flavorful cuts that are perfect for grilling. Cuts from the rib are Delmonico, the prime rib and the rib-eye. The Delmonico is a boneless cut and the prime rib is served with the bone-in. It is cut from ribs 6-12 and despite having the name prime in its title, this doesn’t mean that the grade of the beef is prime. The rib-eye is similar to the prime rib except that the bone has been removed.
The loin is behind the rib section and it features the tenderest meat on the cow but it is not as flavorful or marbled as the rib section. The cuts from the loin tend to be the most expensive. Cuts from the loin are the tenderloin, T-bone, porterhouse and NY strip. A chateaubriand is cut from the tenderloin, which is on the short end of the loin. This cut is large enough to serve at least two diners. The filet mignon also comes from the short end of the loin. A New York strip, also known as a Kansas City strip, is the marbleized larger end of the loin. A porterhouse features two steaks, the New York strip and the filet mignon, combined together. A T-bone is essentially the same cut as a porterhouse except the filet mignon side of the steak is typically smaller on the T-bone. A tri-tip steak is triangular shaped cuts of meat from the loin.
Located on the lower underbelly of the cow is the flank section. This part of the cow is popular for grinding but the meat is moderately tender and offers a decent amount of flavor. Popular cuts include the flank steak and London broil.
The round is situated on the hind leg of the cow. This region is known for being very flavorful but less tender than other parts of the cow. Common cuts from the round include the top, bottom and eye of round.