U.S. Beef Cuts Guide

Click on any of the primal cuts to see a list of steaks and roasts
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The meat case at your local supermarket, with its near-dizzying array of beef cuts, can be a confusing place. While most of us are familiar with popular cuts like a porterhouse, ribeye, sirloin, filet or brisket, few of us can keep track of the more than 60 different cuts commonly merchandised today. For example, how does a Hanger Steak differ from a Flap Steak? Which cuts are generally best for pot roasting and braising? And what exactly is a Delmonico steak?

Some of this confusion is only natural. Cattle are large animals, and there is more than one way to cut a steer, and how beef is merchandised determines how it’s broken down. Beef intended for restaurant use is cut, or fabricated, somewhat differently than beef intended for retail.  To further complicate matters, most cuts can be marketed under several different names. A knuckle, sirloin tip, and ball steak are all essentially the same thing.

Beef cuts are also constantly evolving. Producers and marketers are always looking for new ways to fabricate beef in order to improve profitability. It’s fair to say there are several cuts of beef sold today that your parents never heard of when they were your age. In the past 10 years alone, the industry has introduced more than a dozen cuts through a program known as the Muscle Profiling Study.  New cuts are often in response to changes in tastes and dietary requirements. Several leaner cuts, for example, have been developed to meet the heart healthy requirements established by the American Heart Association.

Wouldn’t it be nice to enter a butcher shop or supermarket meat department with a strong understanding of beef cuts? To understand the unique characteristics of each cut and how best to prepare it?

This interactive guide was designed to help you navigate the vast sea of beef cuts with greater confidence.  Nothing can beat the expertise of a good butcher, but with this tool, you’ll be able to speak the same language and make better choices.

Beef is first cut down the middle into two sides. The sides are then divided into 8 pieces known as primal cuts—the chuck, ribs, loin, round, plate, flank, plank and brisket—from which steaks, roasts and ribs will be portioned. In our diagram above, we have further broken down the loin into five sub-primal cuts–the short loin, sirloin, tenderloin, and top & bottom sirloin.  Additionally, we’ve highlighted the front shank, which is cut from the brisket, and the rear shank, which is cut from the round.

Click on any of the highlighted areas in the diagram above to see a list of the steaks and roasts from that region along with detailed descriptions, full color pictures, recommended cooking methods, and alternative names for each cut. See also a listing of specialty cuts that come from multiple primal and sub primal cuts.

Sources:

The Beef Checkoff Family of Sites. http://www.beefboard.org/library/140928COWebsites. Web. 24 Feb.2016. Certified Angus Beef LLC. https://www.certifiedangusbeef.com. Web 24 Feb. 2016.
Green, Aliza (2015-04-28). Field Guide to Meat: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Meat, Poultry, and Game Cut. Quirk Books. Kindle Edition.
LaFrieda, Pat; Carreño, Carolynn (2014-09-02). MEAT: Everything You Need to Know. Atria Books. Kindle Edition.
North American Meat Processors Association.The Meat Buyers Guide. New Jersey: Wiley, 2007. Print
Underly, Kari (2012-07-31). The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising. Wiley. Kindle Edition.
Photo Credits: Except where noted, all photographs courtesy Cattlemen’s Beef Board.   Funded by the Beef Checkoff. Copyright 2016.