Beef Cuts: The Complete Guide to the Most Common Cuts of Beef

December 10, 2022 11 min read

Beef Cuts: The Complete Guide to the Most Common Cuts of Beef

The 8 Basics of Beef Cuts

There are many different types of beef cuts available, each with its own set of unique properties. It is important to be aware of these different cuts and what they are best used for before cooking - some are suitable only for slow cooking, some are best for grilling, some are perfect for bbq and smoked.

We'll talk about all the common cuts of the cut in two parts - the forequarter of the cow, and the hindquarter.

1. Forequarter Cuts - Ribs

graphic illustration of a cow with body parts divided up, the ribs section highlighted in red

Ribs are a tender and flavorful cut of meat that comes from the cow's ribs and backbone. The cow has 13 rib bones, and only the last 6 are classified in this area (the rest are with the "Plate")

  • Ribeye
  • Sirloin Steak
  • Cowboy & Cowgirl steak

cowboy steak thickly cut with label on top at butchery

Ribs are a tender and flavorful cut of meat and tend to be the expensive cuts -such as ribeye steak, and prime rib. There are several different types of beef rib cuts, including ribeye, rump roast, and sirloin steak. Each cut has its own unique benefits. Ribeye steaks, for example, are known for their rich flavor and tender texture. Rump roast is a less expensive option that is perfect for slow cooking or roasting. Sirloin steak is a leaner option that is ideal for grilling or pan-frying.

The sirloin steak is located near the shoulder and has a bit more fat than other steaks. This makes it ideal for grilling, as the extra fat helps to keep the steak moist and juicy.

piece of large ribeye on wooden cutting board

The ribeye steak is located in front of the loin and has a lot of bone in it. It is very well marbled. It can be served bone-in or boneless.

Love grilling ribeyes and steaks? It's perfect on any one of our walnut wood cutting boards made in USA.

Beef ribs are a popular cut of meat because they are easy to cook and take flavor well. They are very well marbled and tender - they are typically served at steakhouses in 12-16 oz cuts (or larger).

You might even find Cowboy steaks and Cowgirl steaks - which are very thick cuts, up to 1 and 1/2 inch bone-in cuts of the ribeye.

2. Forequarter Cuts - Plate

illustration of cow with body parts divided up in lines, this image has the plate colored in red

The cow has 13 bones in the ribs and backbones - the last 6 is in the above section under "Ribs", the plate is the first 7 ribs. They are flavorful but not quite as expensive, and tend to be a little tougher cut of meat.

  • Short ribs
  • Ground Beef
  • Skirt Steak
  • Hangar Steak
  • Bacon
  • Pastrami

short ribs in a display case at the butchery

Short ribs, ground beef, and skirt steak are all popular plate portion cuts.

The short ribs, which are very flavorful, can either be slow cooked (when you get it as as bone-in short-rib), or it can be "korean cut" - which is when they slice it against the bone in 1/4" thick pieces.

The skirt steak is located on the beef plate primal and is used in common dishes such as carne asada at Mexican restaurants.

The beef plate is a thin, inexpensive, and easy-to-cook piece of meat. The beef plate is a good choice for braising or making ground beef.

3. Forequarter cuts: Brisket

illustration of cow with body parts divided up in lines, this image has the brisket colored in red

  • Corned beef
  • pastrami
  • stews
  • brisket

man holding 8lb piece of beef brisket

The beef brisket is a cut of meat that comes from the breast or lower chest of a cow. The brisket is made up of two main cuts, the flat and the point. The flat is the larger and lower of the two, and is separated from the point by a layer of fat.

Sometimes you might find a brisket that is ready to be cooked, sometimes the fat has to be trimmed first.

The brisket comes in different sizes, but can be VERY large - around 12-15 pounds. If you buy one of these bad boys, make sure to check out our guide on how to trim a brisket before cooking.

If you're going to season, trim and cook a brisket, make sure you have a cutting board that is large enough to accomodate the size of a brisket - such as our 18x24 extra-large cutting board. (Bonus: it's reversible. Use coupon code WELCOME10 for 10% off your first purchase)

The cost of a brisket is moderately expensive, and best suited for low 'n' slow BBQ. When slow-cooked, the beef brisket becomes very tender and flavorful due to its high fat content.

Beef brisket can be used to make corned beef, pastrami, as well as other dishes such as stews, chilis, and sandwiches.

4. Forequarter Cuts: Beef Shank

illustration of cow with body parts divided up in lines, this image has the shanks colored in red

  • foreshank
  • hindshank

The beef shank is a tough and full-bodied cut of meat that is used in making osso buco, a luxurious Italian dish. The beef shank is inexpensive to buy and is best used for low and slow cooking.

The cuts of beef shank include the foreshank and the hindshank. The foreshank is a leaner, tougher cut of meat that is best suited for braising or stewing. The hindshank is a fattier, more flavorful cut of meat that is best suited for slow roasting or braising.

  • Shanks are a Primal or Sub-primal zone: The Shank is a lean, tough cut found at the top of the legs.

5. Hindquarter Cuts: Round

illustration of cow with body parts divided up in lines, this image has the round colored in red

Round cut is the area near the cow's hind legs - it's where you'll find cheap cuts suitable for slow cooking.

  • Top round
  • Bottom Round
  • Eye Round
  • Round Roasts

bottom round roast

This area is very lean and typically tough meat - these cuts include top round, bottom round, eye of round, and top or bottom round roasts.

The Round Beef Cut is inexpensive and tough and is often used for hamburger.

The Top Round Beef Steak is versatile and can be used in many different ways, such as in ground beef, or thinly sliced and most often found in Vietnamese Pho noodle soup such as this one (it's that thinly sliced meat you get in Pho noodle soup)

6. Hindquarter Cuts: Short loin

beef cuts with body parts divided up in lines, this image has the short loin colored in red

Beef short loin is one of the most desirable cuts from the hindquarter. The cow doesn't use this area much therefore it's very tender and has amazing marbling. This is where you'll find all the expensive cuts of beef.

  • sirloin
  • tri-tip steaks
  • bone-in strip steak (Club Steak)
  • T-bone
  • Porterhouse
  • Filet Mignon

 

SHORT-loin cuts:

The first-cut steaks are club steaks or bone-in strip steaks. There are six or seven center-cut T-bones, and two or three porterhouse steaks at the sirloin end.

The t-bone steak is located between the strip steak and sirloin and has a little bit of both muscle and fat in it. This makes it one of the most versatile steaks for grilling, as it can be cooked to perfection regardless of how you like your meat cooked.

Porterhouse,almost known as "king of the steaks" is a large cut that can weigh up to 32 ounces. It comes from the lower rib of the cow close to the loin. It contains a t-shaped bone and includes tenderloin steak and strip steak.

T-bone steaks closely resemble a porterhouse steak, but a T-bone contains less of the tenderloin and is typically thinner (about 0.5 inches), whereas a porterhouse is much thicker (1.25 inches)

Filet mignon, sometimes referred to as "tenderloin steak" is a cut from the tenderloin - this highly expensive cut of beef only represents 2-3% of the cow. Extremely lean with almost no fat in it - the most tender piece of cut you'll find. 

filet mignon at butchery

Most filet mignon cuts are sold in 6oz, sometimes called "petite sirloin" on restaurant menus. The most common is 8oz, but it also sometimes served as a 10oz portion.

Is "filet" short for a filet mignon? No, a "filet" is really any cut of meat that is boneless, although you might find your friends refer to the filet mignon simply as "filet" for short. 

filet mignon medium rare cut in half to show the middle pink reddish color

Related Reading:What is Club Steak?

7. Hindquarter cuts: Beef SIR-loin

cow cuts with body parts divided up in lines, this image has the sirloin colored in red

The cow's loin is located right behind the ribs on the cow - it's a muscle that the cow doesn't use very much, therefore it's very tender and has amazing marbling. There are two distinctive areas: the SIR-loin and the SHORT-loin

The sirloin is the rearmost of these two regions and includes cuts such as sirloin steak, top sirloin, and tri-tip steak.

top sirloin at butchery

8. Hindquarter Cuts: Beef Flank

  • Flank
  • London Broil

The flank cut is a lean and popular cut of beef. The flank cut includes flank steak and London broil.

flank steak cooked and sliced against the grain

The flank is a moderately tough cut of beef. When cooking flank steak, it is important to use a tenderizing method, such as marinating, to help make it more palatable.

It is most often served thin sliced and/or stir fried.

Flank steak is typically used in dishes like PF Chang's Mongolian Beef.

This cut of beef is also relatively lean, so it is a good choice for those watching their fat intake.

Other Cuts

Let's recap real quick, and let's talk about other less-common steaks and cuts you might have heard of.

Round-up of the steak cuts

The most common type of steak is the strip steak, which is located near the spine of the animal. This steak has a good amount of fat, which helps to keep it juicy and flavorful.

The sirloin steak is located near the shoulder and has a bit more fat than other steaks. This makes it ideal for grilling, as the extra fat helps to keep the steak moist and juicy.

The ribeye steak is located in front of the loin and has a lot of bone in it. This gives it a bolder flavor that some people prefer.

The t-bone steak is located between the strip steak and sirloin and has a little bit of both muscle and fat in it. This makes it one of the most versatile steaks for grilling, as it can be cooked to perfection regardless of how you like your meat cooked.

PRO TIP: looking for an awesome display of serving your steaks? Our small 8x12 boards is the perfect size for good ole piece of steak - no worries it has a juice groove on one side (it's reversible) so there is no spillage when you cut your juicy steak!

What part of the cow is "Tomahawk steak"?

tomahawk steak on large serving tray with asparagus already cut up

The tomahawk steak is cut from the rib primal of the cow, specifically from the ribeye muscle along the spine. It gets its name from the fact that it is often cut with a long bone that resembles a tomahawk axe.

The tomahawk steak is known for its rich, beefy flavor and tender texture. It is often considered a premium cut of meat and is well-suited for grilling or broiling.

Tomahawk steak is the most expensive steak that is meant to be shared. If you're cutting and serving this steak, the best jaw-dropping display of it would be our medium end-grain cutting board.

Most steakhouses do not even have this type of steak except for very high end ones. It is characterized by a large curved bone that is typically served with the steak for an eye-catching experience at the steakhouse. It truly is a show-stopper. Notice the bone one this one, seared with the Restaurant's logo:

bone from tomahawk steak seared with restaurant logo: RARE STeakhouse

If you visit online forums, you might find chatter about how "overpriced" this steak is.

In terms of price - this is not the best bang for your buck. Meats are being sold per pound, and this bone is quite large so you're paying for the bone as well. Also, ounce for ounce, it costs more than a ribeye steak but you get less meat.

PRO TIP: if you're going to order this at the steakhouse, ask for the steak to not be cut up. I find that it's a lot more fun to cut my own steak. Unless otherwise specified, most of the time the steak will come out already cut up. Unless you prefer it this way, of course - it is definitely easier. I personally prefeer cutting it up myself.

tomahawk with large bone cut up on serving dish at restaurant setting

What cut is best for slow cooking, grilling, or stir fry?

The grade of beef you choose affects the taste and texture, so keep this in mind when selecting it. The higher the grade, the more tender and juicy the beef will be. There are different methods of cooking beef (slow cook, grill, smoke, stir fry, etc..) which will result in different textures.

For slow cooking: brisket, round roast, shank, rump, or chuck. (Make sure you have a large cutting board for these types of BBQ and smoking projects! Such as this extra large one)

For grilling: porterhouse, filet mignon, sirloin, t-bone, london broil, tomahawk

For stir fry: flank, london broil

What are the different grades of beef?

The hiercharchy of quality goes like this: Prime > Choice > Select.

Prime beef has the most marbling and is the highest quality.

Choice beef is also high quality, but has less marbling than Prime.

Select beef is a lower grade of meat that has little to no marbling. Different types of beef include Chuck Roast, Rump Roast, Sirloin Steak, T-Bone Steak, and Porterhouse Steak.

    How long does beef last in the freezer?

    You should individually vacuum seal each portions and freeze immediately - use within 3 months for best flavor, or keep up to 1 year. If vacuum sealed well and frozen well, it will last for up to two years in the freezer. You'll know to throw it out when the red beef starts to turn gray.

    What is the most expensive cut?

    • Tomahawk is the most expensive cut.
    • The "best" cuts are from the loin and rib section: Cuts like ribeye and filet are generally considered to be the "best" cuts because they are tender and expensive.
    • There is a good rule of thumb to remember: As the distance from horn and hoof increase, the meat gets more tender (and expensive).

    What is Kobe beef?

    Kobe beef is a type of Japanese beef that comes from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle. It is known for its high level of marbling, or intramuscular fat, which gives it a unique flavor and tenderness. Kobe beef is considered a delicacy and is typically served as steak or sukiyaki. It is named after the city of Kobe in Japan, where the cattle were originally raised.

    What cut of meat is roast beef?

    Roast beef is typically made from a cut of meat from the upper part of the hindquarters of the animal, known as the round.

    The most common cuts of beef used for roast beef include the top round, bottom round, and eye of round. These cuts are lean and have a mild flavor, which makes them well suited for roasting.

    What is the most tender steak?

    The most tender cuts of steak come from the rib and loin areas of the animal. These cuts include the ribeye, tenderloin, and sirloin. These cuts are known for their tenderness because they come from muscles that do not get a lot of exercise, which makes the meat more tender.

    The short loin, in particular, is the most tender cut of steak because it comes from the muscle that runs along the spine and does not do any work at all. This cut is sometimes referred to as the "filet mignon."

      What is Angus beef?

      Angus beef is a type of beef that comes from cattle that are raised using the Angus breed. Angus cattle are known for their black hair and sturdy build, and are prized for the high quality of their meat.

      Angus beef is known for its rich, robust flavor and tender texture, which makes it a popular choice among consumers and chefs alike. This type of beef is often considered to be some of the best in the world and is commonly used in high-end steakhouses and restaurants.

      What is Hanger Steak?

      Hanger steak, also known as the hanging tender or bistro steak, is a cut of beef that comes from the diaphragm of the animal. It is a long, narrow strip of meat that hangs from the steer's ribcage and is attached to the last rib and the spine.

      Hanger steak has a robust, meaty flavor and a tender, juicy texture, which makes it a popular choice among steak aficionados. It is typically cooked over high heat and served rare to medium-rare, sliced against the grain to maximize tenderness.

      Hanger steak is often used in dishes such as steak frites and bistro steak salads.

      The Best Cuts of Beef for Stews

      beef stew

      The best cuts of beef for stew are typically those that come from the tougher, well-exercised muscles of the animal. These cuts include the chuck, shoulder, brisket, and shank.

      These cuts are tougher and have more connective tissue, which breaks down during the long cooking time of a stew and helps to create a rich, flavorful broth. They also tend to be less expensive than other cuts of beef, which makes them a more economical choice for stew. 

      cow cuts chart

      So, what's your favorite part of the cow? What's your favorite steak? 

      Related Articles You Might Like

      How to Trim a Brisket

      What is Club Steak?

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