Understanding a bit about common beef cuts will go a long way in giving you the confidence to experiment cooking new beef cuts. In the process of butchering an animal, the meat is taken off the carcass in large sections commonly referred to as "primal cuts". The primal cuts are muscle, fat, and bone which are further broken down to sub-primal and then retail cuts. Depending on the location in the animal’s frame, some muscles get a great deal of use, like the shoulder, and their tissue tends to be leaner and often very flavorful. However, the muscle is also a bit tougher and needs slower cooking and perhaps marinading to soften the tissue. Other primal cuts like the tenderloin get very little exercise and tend to have a good deal of fat marbled throughout... These are the most tender cuts produced by the animal.
Knowing where a cut of meat comes from is important when cooking your meat. You will want to know the proper preparation method (braising, stewing, grilling, broiling, etc.) to assure that your meat is cooked to the correct temperature and presented at its best possible flavor and texture. For even more detailed information regarding beef cuts visit Beef It's What's For Dinner.
BEEF CUTS - CHUCK PRIMAL
This large primal comes from the shoulder area and yields beef cuts known for their rich, beefy flavor. The chuck features several roasts ideal for slow-cooking as well as more tender, grill-ready cuts such as the Flat Iron Steak.
Common cuts that come off the Chuck Primal:
Arm Chuck Roast – Flavorful and best when slow cooked.
AKA: Arm Roast; Chuck 7-Bone Pot Roast; Chuck Arm Pot Roast; Chuck Blade Pot Roast; Chuck pot roast; Clod Heart; Cross Rib Roast; Roast; Chuck Pot roast; Chuck, Shoulder (Clod), Arm Roast; Clod Heart; Cross Rib Roast
Blade Chuck Roast - Moist and tender when slow-cooked.
AKA: Beef Pot Roast; Chuck 7-Bone Pot Roast; Chuck Blade Pot Roast; Chuck Roast 1st Cut; Chuck Roast Blade Cut; Shoulder Pot Roast
Chuck Eye Roast - Roast to highlight natural tenderness and flavor.
AKA: Beef Chuck, Boneless Chuck Fillet; Boneless Chuck Roll; Chuck Center Roast; Chuck Eye Roll; Chuck Roll; Inside Chuck Roll.
Chuck Eye Steak / Delmonico - A low-cost alternative to the Ribeye Steak. A tender and savory cut great for grilling.
AKA: Boneless Chuck Filet Steak; Boneless Chuck Slices; Boneless Steak Bottom Chuck; Chuck Filet; Chuck Roll; Delmonico Steak; English Steak; London Broil; Shoulder Steak; Shoulder Steak Half Cut.
Chuck Bone-in Short Ribs - Known for their richness and meatiness. Flavorful, moist and tender when slow-cooked.
AKA: Beef Ribs; Braising Ribs; Short Ribs
Country Style Ribs - Meaty, boneless ribs that work best in a slow-cooker or slow-cooked and finished on the grill.
AKA: Boneless Country-Style Ribs; Chuck Ribs; Country-Style Ribs, Boneless.
Flat Iron Steak - Extremely tender, well-marbled and flavorful and great for grilling.
AKA: Boneless Top Chuck Steak; Book Steak; Butler Steak; Lifter Steak; Petite Steak; Shoulder Top Blade Steak; Top Blade Steak.
Ranch Steak - Good for grilling or broiling.
AKA: Arm Steak; Beef Shoulder Center Steak, Boneless; Chuck Steak Center Cut; Ranch Cut; Shoulder Center Steak; Shoulder Center Steak, Boneless; Shoulder.
Shoulder Roast- Good flavor and good for roasting.
AKA: Shoulder Clod Roast
BEEF CUTS - BRISKET PRIMAL
This the animal's breast, so it can be tougher because it is used for movement. An ideal cut for cooking low and slow on the barbecue or in a slow-cooker.
Common cuts that come off the Brisket Primal:
Brisket Flat - The leaner half of the whole brisket, also known also as the “first cut,” this full-flavored meat can be sliced or shredded.
AKA: Beef Brisket Middle Cut, Boneless; Boneless Brisket; Brisket Center-Cut; Brisket First Cut; Brisket Flat Cut; Brisket Front Cut; Brisket Middle Cut; Brisket Nose Cut.
Brisket Point - The less lean half of the whole Brisket that’s juicy with full flavor.
BEEF CUTS - RIB PRIMAL CUT
Situated under the front section of the backbone and used primarily for support.
Common cuts that come off the Rib Primal:
Back Ribs - A great value and beef’s signature ribs for the BBQ, this flavorful cut is great with a dry rub on the grill.
AKA: Beef Rib Back Ribs; Beef Riblets; Beef Ribs; Dinosaur Ribs; Finger Ribs; Rib Bones.
Ribeye Filet - An unquestionably tender but smaller Ribeye Steak. Perfectly ideal for the grill.
AKA: Ribeye Filet, Boneless.
Ribeye Petite Roast - A smaller and leaner, yet still flavorful, alternative to the Ribeye Roast.
AKA: Split Ribeye; Split Ribeye Roast.
Ribeye Roast – Meaning eye of the rib, savory and fine-textured with generous marbling. A classic holiday roast.
AKA: Newport Roast; Prime Rib; Rib Roast; Rib Roast Bone-In, Small End; Rib Roast, Oven-Ready; Standing Rib Roast.
Ribeye Roll - This exceptionally tender and flavorful boneless roast consists of three muscles that are fabricated into the Ribeye Steak, Ribeye Roast, and sometimes Ribeye Filet and Ribeye Cap Steak.
AKA: Beef Rib, Ribeye, Lip-On; Prime Rib; Ribeye Roast, Boneless.
Ribeye Steak - This steak is rich, juicy and full-flavored with generous marbling throughout. Sold bone-in or boneless.
AKA: Ribeye Roll Steak; Ribeye Steak, Bone-In; Ribeye Steak, Lip-On, Boneless; Beauty Steak; Market Steak; Delmonico Steak; Spencer Steak; Scotch Filet; Entrecôte.
Short Ribs - Full of beef flavor and fall-off-the-bone tender, also available boneless. Grill or slow-roast for a succulent beef dish.
AKA: Beef Ribs; Ribs; Short Ribs.
BEEF CUTS - PLATE PRIMAL
This section is located right under the rib primal and has a higher fat content. The Short Plate is a source of Short Ribs and Ground Beef. It's also the home of the Skirt Steal, a thin, flavorful cut that's best when marinated and seared over high heat.
Common cuts that come off the Plate Primal:
Hanger Steak - A thicker cut within the Short Plate that’s full of flavor with a coarse texture. Marinate and grill for best eating.
AKA: Butcher’s Steak; Hanging Tender.
Inside Skirt Steak - Opposite the Outside Skirt Steak, this cut is known for its robust flavor profile. Marinate and grill hot for fajitas or use for stir-fry.
AKA: Beef Plate; Boneless Diaphragm; Fajita Meat; Fajita Steak; Inside Skirt Steak; Outside Skirt Steak; Philadelphia Skirt Steak.
Outside Skirt Steak - Opposite the Inside Skirt Steak, this cut is known for its robust flavor profile. Marinate and grill hot to tenderize.
AKA: Beef Plate Skirt Steak, Boneless; Outside Skirt Steak; Philadelphia Steak
Plate Short Ribs - Good beef flavor. Good braised or on the grill with your favorite rub.
SHORT LOIN SUB-PRIMAL
The area below the backbone is home to some of the most tender and popular cuts of beef, such as the Tenderloin, Strip Steak, T-Bone and Porterhouse. Loin cuts are great prepared on the grill or under a broiler.
Common cuts that come off the Short Loin Sub-Primal:
Porterhouse Steak - Big flavor, this is an ideal steak for sharing. Simply season this sublime combination of Strip and Tenderloin for the grill or oven.
AKA: King Steak; Porter House.
T-Bone Steak - Smaller than the Porterhouse, but it delivers the same optimal tenderness and satisfying flavor – all in a lean package that’s ready to be grilled or broiled.
AKA: Loin, T-Bone Steak
BEEF CUTS - FLANK PRIMAL CUT
The Flank is located below the Loin. Cuts from this area are lean, very flavorful, and best when braised or marinated and grilled.
Common cuts that come off the Flank Primal:
Flank Steak - Lean and boneless with lots of intense beef flavor. Best when marinated and grilled or sliced thin and stir-fried.
AKA: Beef Flank; Flank Steak Filet; Jiffy Steak; London Broil; Plank Steak.
BEEF CUTS - SIRLOIN PRIMAL
The Sirloin is home to popular fabricated cuts but is first separated into the Top Sirloin Butt and Bottom Sirloin Butt. In the Top Sirloin, you’ll find steaks great for grilling, while the Bottom Sirloin provides cuts like Tri-Tip and Sirloin Bavette, which are good for roasting or grilling.
The sirloin primal is divided into the Top Sirloin and Bottom Sirloin Sub-Primals. Detailed information regarding the common cuts that come off these sub-primal cuts can be found below.
A long, narrow, and lean muscle located within the Loin, this is the most tender cut of beef available. The Tenderloin is the source of Tenderloin Steak or Filet Mignon and is a component of T-Bone and Porterhouse Steaks.
Common cuts that come off the Tenderloin Sub-Primal:
Tenderloin Roast - The most tender beef roast that is well known for being lean and succulent. Easy to carve with its fine texture.
AKA: Chateaubriand; Filet Mignon Roast; Full Tenderloin Roast; Tenderloin, Full, Side Muscle Off, Defatted; Tenderloin, Full, Side Muscle Off, Skinned.
Tenderloin Steak / Filet Mignon - This is the most tender steak, lean yet succulent, with a fine buttery texture. Sold boneless. This steak also meets government guidelines for lean.
AKA: Beef Loin, Tenderloin Steak, Side Muscle Off, Skinned; Beef Tender Steak; Butt Tenderloin; Chateaubriand; Chateaubriand Filet De Boeuf; Filet De Boeuf; Filet Mignon; Filet Steak; Fillet de Boeuf; Fillet Steak.
Tenderloin Tips - Nicely trimmed, extremely tender and flavorful ends of the Tenderloin. Perfect for the center of the plate, kabobs, stews, and stir-fry.
AKA: Tenderloin Tail; Tournedos.
TOP SIRLOIN SUB-PRIMAL
Located behind the Short Loin on the top back end of the animal, the Top Sirloin is usually fabricated into individual boneless steaks. Top Sirloin Steak is less tender than cuts from the Short Loin, but still very flavorful.
Common cuts that come off the Top Sirloin Sub-Primal:
Coulotte Roast - With plenty of marbling, this is a juicy and savory roast. Best roasted in the oven or smoked slowly on the grill.
AKA: Beef Loin Top Sirloin Cap, Coulotte, Boneless; Beef Loin, Top Sirloin Cap Roast, Boneless; Beef Loin, Sirloin Cap.
Coulotte Steak - With plenty of marbling, this is a juicy and savory steak. Great on the grill.
AKA: Beef Loin, Top Sirloin Cap Steak, Boneless (IM); Top Sirloin Cap Steak.
Top Sirloin Filet - Tender, thick and perfectly portioned from larger Top Sirloin Steaks. Season simply with salt and pepper or your favorite rub before grilling.
AKA: Baseball Cut; Center-Cut Top Sirloin Steak; Top Sirloin Butt Steak; Top Sirloin Filet Boneless.
Top Sirloin Petite Roast - Lean cut that is a smaller version of the larger Top Sirloin Roast, ideal for roasting.
AKA: Top Sirloin Petite Roast, Boneless.
Top Sirloin Steak - A flavorful cut that’s versatile and juicy. Serve as a steak or cut into kabobs.
AKA: Boneless Sirloin Butt Steak; Boneless Top Sirloin Steak; Loin, Top Sirloin Butt Steak, Boneless; Sirloin Butt Steak; Top Sirloin Butt Center-Cut Steak; Top Sirloin Butt Steak, Boneless; Top Sirloin Steak Boneless Cap Off; Top Sirloin Steak Cap Off.
BOTTOM SIRLOIN SUB-PRIMAL
This lower portion of the Sirloin section of the Loin contains three muscles that vary in tenderness. Sold as the Tri-Tip, Petite Sirloin/Ball Tip, and Sirloin Bavette/Flap, all of which can be roasted or grilled.
Common cuts that come off the Bottom Sirloin Sub-Primal:
Petite Sirloin / Ball Tip - Small roast section of the Bottom Sirloin opposite the Sirloin Tip in the Round. A boneless cut that tastes best when sliced thinly across the grain after cooking.
Petite Sirloin Steak - A great value steak. Grill after marinating.
AKA: Ball Tip Steak; Loin Ball Tip Steak, Boneless
Sirloin Bavette - A boneless cut with a hearty texture that’s a good source for fajita meat. Marinate and grill or broil.
AKA: Bottom Sirloin Butt, Flap Steak, Boneless; Bottom Sirloin Flap; Bottom Sirloin Flap Bavette; Flap Meat.
Tri-Tip Roast - Boneless and fairly tender with full flavor. Roast or grill then slice across the grain.
AKA: Bottom Sirloin Roast; Tri Tip; Triangle Roast.
Tri-Tip Steak - Boneless and fairly tender with full flavor. Grill then slice across the grain.
AKA: Santa Maria Steak; Tri Tip; Tri-Tip; Triangle Steak.
BEEF CUTS - ROUND PRIMAL
Sometimes referred to as the beef hip, the round consists of lean, inexpensive cuts that come from the rump and hind legs. The muscles in this area are used for movement, so the beef is leaner and less tender. Often sold as roasts, steaks for marinating, or ground beef.
Common cuts that come off the Round Primal:
Braison Cut - A small, round, boneless cut that makes an Osso Buco-style roast after slow-cooking.
Bottom Round Roast - Great value and very lean. Best for roasting or slow-cooking and slicing thin.
AKA: Bottom Round Oven Roast; Bottom Round Pot Roast; Bottom Round Rump Roast.
Bottom Round Steak - A good everyday cut, boneless and lean. Marinate and broil or grill and slice thin.
AKA: Western Griller; Western Steak; Western Tip Steak.
Eye of the Round Roast - A lean, flavorful cut often used for roast beef at the deli. Can be roasted or slow-cooked at home for an everyday meal.
AKA: Round Eye Pot Roast
Eye of the Round Steak - A tremendous value cut that is lean and boneless. Ideal for marinating then grilling or skillet cooking.
AKA: Beef Round or Eye Round Steak
Merlot Steak - Similar in appearance to the Flank Steak, but with a finer texture. Grill quickly over high heat.
Santa Fe Steak - Steak cut from the thin, lean muscle that covers the Top Round. Can be used as an alternative to Skirt or Flank Steaks. Benefits from tenderization.
AKA: Top Round Cap Steak
Sirloin Tip Roast - This boneless, lean cut is a great value. Best when roasted and carved into thin slices.
AKA: Ball Tip Roast; Crescent Roast; Face Round Roast; Full-trimmed Tip Roast; Knuckle Peeled; Knuckle Roast; Round Tip Roast; Round Tip Roast Boneless; Sirloin Tip Roast; Tip Sirloin Roast.
Sirloin Tip Steak - This boneless, lean cut is a great value. Makes good Kabobs, Stew Meat or Cubed Steak.
Top Round Roast - A lean roast that should be slow-cooked to improve its tenderness and then sliced thinly across the grain.
Top Round Steak - Thick and versatile weekday cut. Typically broiled or slow-cooked to bring out its best.
AKA: Beef Round, Top (Inside) Round Steak; London Broil; Short Cut; Top (Inside) Round Steak; Top Round London Broil; Top Round Steak (Center Cut); Top Round Steak Boneless.
BEEF CUTS - SHANK PRIMAL
A portion of the leg, which is used extensively for movement. As a result, it is typically cut into cross sections called Shank Cross-Cuts which are braised to make flavorful, fork-tender dishes such as Osso Buco.
Common cuts that come off the Shank Primal:
Shank Cross-Cut - A cross-section of the leg, which is used extensively for movement. As a result, it is typically braised to make flavorful, fork-tender dishes such as Osso Buco.
AKA: Center Beef Shanks; Cross-Cut Shanks; Fore Shank for Soup.