Beef is cut into large primal or wholesale cuts after slaughter, then brought to the butchers to be cut into smaller retail portions.
This leaner cut lies between the neck and the shoulder blade, which yields retail cuts like blade steak, chuck steak, chuck eye steak, shoulder steak and, most commonly, chuck tender, cut into cubes for braising or stewing. It is an inexpensive cut as it can be a little tough but offers good flavour. With a good meat-tofat ratio, it is great for making burgers.
From the underside of the forequarter, brisket is rich in flavour but tends to be less tender. It yields other cuts including point cut brisket and flat cut. The latter is less fatty and often used for making braised beef brisket. The layer of fat on the brisket is usually kept to enhance the flavour of the dish.
From the sixth to 12th rib of the cow, this primal cut offers some of the best retail cuts including short ribs, rib roasts and ribeye steak. Ribeye— which also goes by the name of Scotch steak—gives a rich, juicy, excellently flavoured steak as it is ringed by a layer of fat, with generous marbling within the meat. It is also only a little less tender than the tenderloin. In its uncut form, the ribeye is known as a rib roast (prime rib). Due to its marbling, it is perfect for grilling and roasting as well as cooked as a steak.
From under the ribs to the back of the brisket. A unique cut, it is often marinated first and grilled. It is gaining popularity as a steak for its juiciness and flavour, and it helps that it’s an inexpensive cut too.
A muscled cut from the back of the animal and contains the top, bottom and center cut sirloin. Tri-tip steak also comes from this section. Relatively lean with some marbling, sirloin can be chewier and less tender than those from the loin and rib. When buying sirloin steak, ask for ’top sirloin steak’, which comes with a mid-sized pin bone, or the long, flat part of the hip bone. This cut is best grilled or pan-fried to release the fat which then melts and coats the rest of the steak. Marinate it to tenderise.
One of the toughest cuts, the flank is a long flat cut from the belly muscle of the cow. Containing little fat, it is usually sliced thinly and marinated to tenderise before stir-frying or grilling. This is often used in Asian stir-fries or turned into Mexican fajitas.
This is the hind section of the animal, specifically from the outside thigh, which yields retail cuts like cube steak, eye of the round, top round and rump steak. Generally lean, this part of the animal is toughened by exercise, and as a result, is less tender. For the same reason though, some feel it gives the best combination of texture and flavour. This is best cooked over longer periods and under lower temperatures, using cooking methods such as stewing, braising or slow roasting.
From the leg of the cow, the shank is greatly exercised in life, and as a result, is a lean, tough and therefore cheap cut. It is often minced, or cooked over long periods.