Know your beef

Which bits of the cow to order when

Unsure about which cuts of meat you should opt for? MJ’s Steakhouse chef de cuisine Robin Little helps you distinguish your flank from your shank.

Chuck: The typical chuck steak is a rectangular cut, containing parts of the shoulder bones, and often known as the ‘7-bone steak’, which refers to the shape of the bone. A thicker version is usually cooked as a pot roast.

Brisket: One of nine beef prime cuts, the muscles in this meat support about 60 percent of the cattle’s body weight, and as a result the meat must be cooked correctly to tenderise the connective tissue.

Shank: This refers to the leg portion. In the UK, the corresponding cuts of beef are the shin (foreshank) and the leg (hindshank). This meat tends to be tough, dry and sinewy, and is at its best when cooked for a long time in moist heat – it’s ideal for a beef bourguignon.

Rib: The rib contains part of the short ribs, the prime rib and rib eye steaks. These meats can be roasted, grilled and braised. The rib eye steak was originally the centre best portion of the rib meat, without the bone.

Plate: This is the other source of short ribs, used for pot roasting, and the outside skirt steak, which is used for fajitas. The remainder is usually ground, as it is typically fatty meat.

Sirloin: Continuing off the short loin from which T-bone, porterhouse and club steaks are cut, the sirloin is divided into several types of steak. Cuts marked top sirloin are the most prized, while the bottom sirloin (less tender and much larger) is usually marked as ‘sirloin steak’.

Tenderloin:
Known as an eye fillet in New Zealand and Australia, fillet in South Africa and the UK and filet in France and Germany, the tenderloin is cut from the loin of beef. As the name suggests, it’s the most tender part of the beef.

Round: This meat is lean, moderately tough and typically lower fat (less marbling), and requires moist or rare cooking. A rump steak is from the round primal cut of beef, and will dry out if cooked using methods such as roasting and grilling. Round steak is commonly prepared with slow, moist-heat methods, or sliced thin and then dried or smoked to make jerky.

Flank: Used mostly for grinding, except the long and flat flank steak, and the inside skirt steak. Flanks were once the most affordable meats, because they are substantially tougher than loin and rib steaks. A new interest in the cut’s natural leanness has increased its price.

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