Everything you need to know about cuts of beef

Adrian Richardson
14 January, 2014

Meat expert and chef Adrian Richardson explains the different cuts of beef, and what you should use them for.

Which cuts of beef to buy

As you can see from the drawing below, beef cattle are big animals and their muscles can be broken down into lots of individual cuts.

These muscles can be divided into two general types:

Each type suits different cooking methods, so you do need to understand the differences and choose carefully.

cuts of beef

A: Leg

This is also sometimes called the hock, and is cut from the top of the hindquarter legs. It is a lean and rather tough cut that is best for slow-cooked dishes, such as stews.

B: Silverside and Topside

Both these cuts come from the huge thigh of the cow. The silverside is made up of two overlapping muscles and gets its name from the silvery membrane that covers it. It is a hard working muscle, which makes it a tough piece of meat, best suited for slow cooking. Silverside makes a great pot-roast or can be cut into small pieces for stewing. The larger muscle is often cured in a brine and used to make corned beef, or it can be turned into bresaola. Topside is more  tender than silverside and can be slow-roasted as a whole piece, cut into strips for frying or minced for burgers.

C: Knuckle

The knuckle or round, is cut from the group of muscles above the knee. It is a tasty piece of meat that can be sold as a cheaper cut for oven- and pot-roasting or braising. Sometimes it is sold ready-diced and is great for slow-cooked casseroles and curries. Sliced, pounded and crumbed, it can make terrifically tasty schnitzels.

D: Rump

The rump is a particularly tasty piece of meat from lower down the animal’s back. It is made up of several muscles, separated by connective tissue and small sinews, and these are what account for its reputation as being a bit chewy. In fact rump meat itself is really quite tender. Rump can be sold as a large roast or sliced into steaks and medallions. Sometimes it is sold ready-diced for stewing and braising.

E: Tenderloin

This is also called the eye-fillet, and it is the prized and most tender muscle in the whole animal. There are two tenderloins that sit on the underside of the animal’s spine, tucked in below the striploin. Because this muscle does very little work it is very tender. It can be roasted as a whole piece in a hot oven, or cut into thick steaks for grilling or frying.

F: Flank and Skirt

The flank is cut from the belly of the animal, beneath the striploin. It is very fatty, but also very tasty. Flank needs to be cooked very slowly in a casserole. The skirt is a group of lean muscles from inside the flank of the animal. These pieces of meat are lean and tasty, but tough, so they are best suited to long, slow cooking. It is perfect for casseroles, stews and pie fillings.

G: Striploin

This is sometimes known as the sirloin. There are two stiploins, which are the long muscles that run along either side of the animal’s spine. Striploin can be cut into a large piece for roasting, or sliced into steaks. Boneless steaks are also called New York cut; while bone-in steaks are called Porterhouse and T-bone, depending from where they are cut. This meat is tender, and perfectly suited to grilling, barbecuing and roasting.

H: Cube Roll

This is more commonly known as the scotch fillet (off the bone) or the rib-eye (on the bone). A bone-in rib-eye is the equivalent of a rack of lamb, and makes a magnificent standing rib roast. The rib-eye can also be sliced into rib-eye steaks. These cuts have a good covering of fat, which keeps them moist. They are full of flavour and are wonderful for roasting and grilling.

I: Blade, Chuck, Neck and Bolar

Blade and chuck are often sold in large pieces as braising steak, or cut into small pieces for stews and casseroles. They are cut from the area surrounding the animal’s shoulder. The neck is sometimes called the clod and is usually sold as stewing steak. Bolar (sometimes called ‘butcher’s roast’) is part of the blade, and is a big muscle, layered with fat and gelatine. It is wonderful for slowbraising, but funnily enough, when thinly sliced and quickly grilled, it can make a very tasty steak. Any chewiness is far outweighed by the flavour.

J: Brisket

Cut from the belly of the animal, but further forward from the flank and skirt muscles. Brisket can be fairly fatty and tough and needs long, low-temperature, slow cooking. It is often sold in a roll, and is a great cut for curing in a salt brine.

K: Shin

A bargain-basement cut from the top of the animal’s foreleg. Beef shin can be cooked on the bone – in fact it can be cut into sections through the bone as for an osso buco. Off the bone it is usually sold as gravy beef, and is ideally suited to slow-cooked stews and casseroles.

How do you know when beef is cooked?

My preferred way of testing for doneness is to measure the internal core temperature of any cut of beef, using a digital instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat. Remember that the reading will rise by about 5°C as the meat rests, so begin checking the temperature about 10 minutes before the end of the recommended cooking time.

rare 35°C | medium–rare 45°C | medium 55°C | medium–well 65°C | well done 75°C

Things that love beef

Anchovies, bacon, brandy, carrots, chilli, garlic, horseradish, kidneys, leeks, mushrooms, mustard, olive oil, paprika, pepper, potatoes, red wine, rosemary, salt, shallots, sour cream, thyme.

This is an edited extract from Adrian Richardson's Meat. Read Adrian's guide to cuts of pork here.


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