We disassemble each piece of beef and how to properly cook it (2023)

Whether the basis of a heartyBolognesewho have favourited the punch line in an iconWendysAdvertising or the screen for aSalt Baekind of salt sprinkles,beefis a staple ingredient in many of our kitchens. You can find packaged beef in a variety of cuts at your local supermarket—chuck, round, ribeye, tenderloin, the list goes on. But unless you have formal cooking training or have butchered a cow yourself, it's hard to discern exactly what each part is and how to use it.

Luckily we're here to help. Choosing the cut of meat for your weeknight stir-fries or a romantic steak dinner shouldn't be a chore. We chatted with Hannah Mosquera, a veteran butcher who now works as a pastry chef atCharlie's von Bay Headin New Jersey to tell us all about beef.

But first we need to disassemble the whole animal. In every cow there are eight main cuts of meat, referred to as the main cuts, which are shown in the table below.

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While each range includes distinct subprimal cuts, the primary cuts are a good starting point for determining the meat's flavor, texture, and ideal cooking method. We'll take a close look at each one so you can make a more informed choice on your next shopping spree.


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The lining is near the front of the animal, forming the shoulder, neck and upper arm of the cow. These muscles are stressed with constant movement and carrying the cow's body weight, meaning the meat is generally on the tougher side. There's also a hearty balance of fat and connective tissue throughout the feed. Its texture makes it one of the more affordable cuts of beef out there.

But that doesn't mean the meat is undesirable. In fact, Chuck is great when recipes call for long cook times, such as B. slow frying or braising. After prolonged exposure to heat, the connective tissue and fat in your cooking liquid will dissolve, adding extra richness.

If you don't have the time to slow and low cook feed, another solution is to grind it up. Lots of store bought packs ofground beefare made with feed and supplemented with some extra fat. If the cuts of meat are fine enough, you can apply the feed to a variety of quick cooking methods without sacrificing texture or flavor.

Chuck is commonly sold as a chuck roast, chuck roll, chuck eye round, or simply as a stew. But if you do some digging, you might be able to find some inexpensive chuck cuts that mimic the experience of eating a fancy steak.

flat iron steaks,that come off the shoulder are enjoying increasing popularity. According to Mosquera, they are "good for dinner parties and serve multiple people as they are good steaks to cut and come in decently large sizes." However, when preparing a flat iron steak, it's important that you cut the steak against the muscle fiber to minimize chewing.

One of the Chuck's best kept secrets is the Teres Major, also known as the mock fillet. This lean cut from the top of the cow arm is similar to the more expensive tenderloin but without the added cost. "I would always recommend [the mock fillet] to customers because it's so similar to a filet mignon," says Mosquera.


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The shank refers to a section of the cow's legs. Because of the heavy lifting and constant movement, the meat along the thigh is extremely tough and meant for stewing. "Fast-cooking methods aren't enough to break down the tough muscles and fibers," Mosquera says, lots of braising liquid or sauce instead of the dryness that comes with overcooking meat."

In most supermarkets and butcher shops, this meat is sold as crosscuts, which have a slice of the leg bone in the middle. And in that slice of bone is a section of bone marrow. The pith gives the cooking liquid in dishes such as B. A luxurious glossy texture and finishbraised vealand other stews.


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Universally loved byGrillpit master, thebrisketis the cow's breast and one of the hardest cuts. The grains of the breast are much coarser than those of other parts of the animal, so the cut requires a very long cooking time. The high collagen content in the intramuscular fat of the breast eventually converts to gelatin, creating an extremely tender end product.

This cut is commonly used in grilling applications, as well as for salting and slow cooking in dishes such asCorned BeefandPastrami. It is not recommended for quick cooking methods such as frying or searing.


The rib comes from, you guessed it, the cow's ribs, but not all 26. It only contains ribs 6 through 12. The main rib is behind the chuck, one area of ​​the cow doesn't get much movement. This means the meat is extremely tender and contains lots of flavorful intramuscular fat (also known as marbling). Since you don't have to put in the extra time and effort to get to your ideal texture, prime rib cut meat is among the most expensive.

It's also the most versatile when it comes to custom cuts. Popular cuts you can find at the grocery store include ribeye, prime rib roast, tomahawk steak, and cowboy steaks. To take full advantage of the tenderness of the rib, don't overcook it. We recommend grilling and serving with steaksseasoned butter, cut them into thin slicesBulgogi, or make a nice medium-rareHochripperoast meat.

Short plate

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The short slab is a section of the cow's belly that contains a lot of flavorful fat. It's relatively inexpensive, especially considering how much flavor is packed into the small package. The short plate houses two of our favorite cuts of beef:short ribsandRocksteak.

Short ribs have a chewy texture and work beautifully in a casserole like oursSlow Cooker Short Ribs.It is also commonly thinly sliced ​​and usedKorean BBQ. Skirt steak, on the other hand, is a great quick cook steak that offers incredible flavor at a low price. Cut against the grain it is an ideal filling for e.gTacos.

On the side

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The flank primal gets its name from its position on the cow - the lower part of her abdomen. theFlankensteakrests just under the cow's lean loin and has a deep meat flavor. It's often compared to the nearby skirt steak because it's quick to prepare and sliceTacosorFajitas. However, it is significantly less fatty than skirt steak and trickier to prepare. It's important not to cook this steak over medium or it will be tough and dry.


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The loin is a complex primal cut that includes various popular cuts that you can find at the grocery store. The loin meat sits under the cow's backbone and makes little to no movement. For this reason, the loin contains soft, lean and tender meat that has a high price.

There are several different parts of the loin. The short loin, which sits closest to the rib, gives us cuts like T-bones, New York strips, and porterhouses. These expensive cuts have lots of marbling and tender flesh, so they're best prepared hot and quick on a grill or in a skillet.

"When I treat myself to a steak to cook at home, I love a New York strip," says Mosquera. "It has decent marbling and a nice fat cap, and is also a decent price compared to more expensive cuts."

The fillet gets its name because it basically stays still. It's a slim cut with a soft and silky texture. A downside to the lack of fat is that it dries out easily when cooked over. However, if cooked properly and served with plentyButter, the fillet is an extremely luxurious cut of meat. It is commonly sold asFilet mignonorChateaubriand.

Lastly, there is the roast beef. This part of the loin is divided into a top and a bottom roast beef, the former being leaner and more tender than the latter. Both are relatively affordable cuts of meat. The roast beef is often packaged astri tipor beef jerky. It's a great choice forStir fryand pan frying.


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The final cut of the beef is the round, which is at the rear end of the cow. This lean cut is used for much of the cow's movement, giving you tough and lightly flavored meat. The top part of the round, aptly named the top round, can be used forLondon is grillingand roast. However, they must be sliced ​​thinly or they will become too chewy.

The bottom round is extremely chewy and chewy, making it ideal for braising and slow frying.

What is your favorite cut of beef to cook? Let us know in the comments.

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Gabi Romero

editorial assistant

Gabby Romero is Delish's editorial assistant, where she writes stories about the latest TikTok trends, develops recipes and answers all your cooking-related questions. She loves spicy food, collects cookbooks and adds a mountain of parmesan to every dish.

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