Shopping for chicken is pretty streamlined: on the bone or off the bone? Breasts, wings, thighs, or drumsticks? Skin on or skin off?
With beef, it’s a little more complicated. If you’ve ever scratched your head in the meat department, agonizing over which cut is best for a recipe, or wondering which is healthiest, here’s a handy dandy guide to the most popular cuts of beef.
I’m a big steak fan, but I understand that meat can be intimidating! If you have a few minutes and want to learn more about the confusing land of the meat department, I’ll moo-ve on over so you can have a seat. (Yes, that was a cow joke. Not sorry.)
The chuck region of a cow, located in the front “shoulder section” just behind the neck, contains cuts from the shoulder, neck, and “upper arm”. Cuts originating from the chuck region include Flat Iron Steak, Chuck Steak, and Ground Chuck.
Chuck meat contains a lot of fat and a lot of connective tissue, making it great for braised dishes (which allow the meat to become more tender), as well as the aforementioned ground meat. Ground chuck is perhaps the most popular choice for burger patties, especially in restaurants.
Nutritional Information: Per 3 oz cooked, 185 Calories, 9g fat (Chuck Steak)
The rib region is located just beyond the chuck region. From the rib region, we get Prime Rib (also referred to as Rib Roast) and Rib Eye. This area is very tender, which makes them great for dry cooking methods- no braising needed here. Rib Eye, for example, is typically prepared on a grill or by pan searing, whereas Prime Rib is roasted in the oven.
Because this region contains more fat (hence its marbled appearance), it also tends to be higher in Calories. For those who are watching their weight, or those with high cholesterol, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, cuts from this region should be consumed only occasionally.
Nutritional Information: Per 3 oz cooked, 200 Calories, 11g fat (Rib Eye)
Just beyond the rib region but before the hind region of the cow (called the round, but we’ll get to that in a minute) lies the loin region. Personally, my favorite cuts (Tenderloin and Sirloin) come from this region. From this region, we also derive the T-Bone Steak, Strip Loin Steak (also called New York Steak), and the Porterhouse Steak.
This region is relatively lean, albeit tender. Preparation varies widely in this region depending on specific cut, but all methods for this region utilize dry heat: grilling and roasting are both extremely common.
Nutritional Information: Per 3 oz cooked, 160 Calories, 8g fat (Top Sirloin)
The round region is the hind region of the cow. We’re talking cow booty, folks. From the round region we get very lean, tough meat, including Top Round, Eye of Round, and Bottom Round. Cuts from the round region are best roasted.
Nutritional Information: Per 3 oz cooked, 160 Calories, 4g fat (Top Round)
Working our way to the underside of the cow, located just below the round region and loin region, we have the flank region. As you probably guessed, Flank Steak originates here. Flank Steak can get tough if it’s cooked too long, so your best bet is to marinate it (this is a tough cut, marinating increases tenderness) and then grill it fast and hot. Always, always, always slice against the grain to avoid chewy meat!
Nutritional Information: Per 3 oz cooked, 160 Calories, 7g fat (Flank Steak)
Located just under the Rib Region, the plate is fairly fatty, and home to short ribs and skirt steak. There is a lot of connective tissue in skirt steak in particular, as this steak is actually a component of the diaphragm. Grill hot and fast. Short ribs, however, are best braised.
Nutritional Information: Per 3 oz cooked, 200 Calories, 12g fat (Skirt Steak)
The brisket region, located just under the chuck region, contains- you guessed it- brisket. This area is fairly fatty and commonly used for pot roast and corned beef. Brisket is also commonly prepared in a smoker or on a barbecue.
Nutritional Information: Per 3 oz cooked, 240 Calories, 22g fat (Brisket)