This guide to beef cuts is here to help you understand more about the different cuts of beef available and where on the animal it would be found.
We feel it’s important to have a basic knowledge of butchery and cooking, so we have suggested the best cooking method each cut is suited to.
Different beef cuts have different uses; which is mostly determined by the fat content and tenderness of the beef as we will explain.
Shoulder / Clod / Chuck
This part of the animal works hard, so it’s full of muscle. This means it takes longer to become tender so it is usually boned and diced for use in stews (Braising Steak) or ground into mince.
Ribs & Rib-Eye Steak
Ribs are kept together to make a roasting joint or cut into individual ribs to serve two people. The centre of the rib is called the ‘rib-eye’. This can be filleted off the bone then cut into ‘rib-eye’ steaks. These have a marble of fat in the middle and can be pan-fried or barbecued.
This cut is often sold as Braising Steak. A little more tender than stewing steak. Use in casseroles, stews and to braise.
This is one of the tougher cuts and is generally sold as mince (ground) meat but the ribs can also work quite well marinated and barbecued.
Another tough but tasty cut of beef taken from the chest – because Cows don’t have a collar bone this area is very muscular and requires a long time to cook and break down the connective tissue – this does however help keep the meat tender during cooking.
Sirloin is one of the most well known beef cuts. Sirloin is taken off the bone, it can be cut into steaks for pan-frying or barbecuing, or it can be roasted (short loin) whole and carved.
This cut is always boneless and, although not as tender as other steaks, it’s very juicy and has a good taste. Rump works well grilled or barbecued, and has a good reputation for flavour – it’s usually much cheaper than Sirloin or Fillet steak too.
Fillet / Tenderloin
One of the more expensive beef cuts, the fillet is the long muscle you find inside a cow, running along either side of the spine. It’s very tender and soft and is often cut into ‘fillet steaks’ for pan-frying and barbecuing, or roasted in one piece.
Fillet is famously used in Beef Wellington and is one of the more expensive cuts – as it isn’t usually marbled it is cooked quite rare to prevent it becoming too tough.
Topside & Top Rump
One of the most popular beef cuts, topside is a large lean cut from the flank that is usually cut into joints and tied up with string for roasting. Usually the meat is sold “barded” which means it has thin strips of fat from the flank wrapped around and tied to it to keep this very lean meat moist. As a roast these cuts are both best served rare or medium-rare.
Topside is versatile and is perfectly suitable for use in Stir-Fry or prepared as thin steaks for flash frying.
Silverside is another tough meat from the flank, so it is often boiled or used to make corned beef.
Silverside can make a good roast if its well basted and cooked for a long time, but Topside or Top Rump would be a better choice.
Usually taken from the front of legs, this is the toughest cut of beef and is commonly sold as Stewing steak. When cooked slowly in a stew it becomes meltingly soft and delicious. The length of cooking is really important here; cook it in a slow cooker or at a low heat for several hours until it breaks apart easily. As the meat is quite fatty it produces a good beef stock or gravy too.
Like all my beef casseroles I usually brown the meat first in a pan, flour it and add it to a casserole dish with some red wine (I usually do this on a Sunday so I have some left from the night before!), some onions, and bay leaves then cover and put it in the oven at lunchtime to cook slowly until dinner in the evening.
This is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated beef cuts; its a very tasty and affordable way to enjoy beef.
This is one of the tougher beef cuts and is generally sold as lean ground mince.
Tip: You should always let the meat rest for a while after cooking so that the meat tenderises and is easier to carve because the beef will contract a little.
The importance of butchery
We hope you found this article interesting, as it’s unfortunate that many people don’t appreciate the skill and history of butchery.
Some Butchery guilds have been recorded as far back as the 13th Century in England, but the practice dates back to the earliest times of man when skilful preparation of meat was essential to survival.