This blog is part two of my five part beef series. In the fist blog I covered the basics: types of beef, breeds of American cattle, and the aging process. I am sure you found it all quite exciting.
The second order of business is to understand what part of the cow you are actually eating.
This meat is basically muscle, and the chuck happens to be a heavily exercised area. Luckily, this area contains a great deal of connective tissue, including collagen. Collagen melts during cooking, making the meat intensely flavorful. Cuts from this area benefit from slow, wet cooking methods like stewing, braising or pot-roasting.
Tender and flavorful ribs can be cooked any number of ways. Most recipes call for ribs to be roasted, sauteed, pan-fried, broiled, or grilled. If your beef ribs are coming out tough you aren’t cooking them long enough. Beef ribs need to be cooked at a low temperature for a long enough time to render the fat and tenderize the meat. Keep the smoker at around 225 degrees and cook them for about 6 – 7 hours and they will be melt in your mouth tender and not at all fatty or greasy.
③ Short Loin
This area boasts extremely tender cuts and can be prepared without the aid of moist heat or long cooking times. Cuts from the short loin may be sautéed, pan fried, broiled, pan broiled or grilled. This cut yields types of steak like strip steak (porterhouse, Kansas City Strip, New York Strip) and t-bone (a cut also containing partial meat from the tender loin.)
The sirloin is actually divided into several types of steak. The top sirloin is the most prized of these. The bottom sirloin is less tender, much larger, and is typically what is offered when one just buys sirloin steaks instead of steaks specifically marked top sirloin. The bottom sirloin in turn connects to the sirloin tip roast, which is generally considered to be a good, if somewhat tough, roast. Filet mignon is the beef steak cut from the lower portion of the ribs, continuing off the tenderloin. These tender cuts respond well to sautéing, pan-frying, broiling, pan-broiling or grilling.
The round is a kind term for the rear end of the carcass. Those muscles are well exercised, so round cuts tends to be a bit tougher and leaner than cuts from the loin. Round cuts do well if they’re cooked with moist heat, and many of them can also be roasted, as long as they’re not overcooked.
Fresh brisket is an inexpensive boneless cut that requires long, slow cooking to break down the collagen in the connective muscle tissues to achieve tenderness. The long piece is cut in half for marketing. You’ll find it sold as a flat cut or a point cut. The flat cut is leaner, but the point cut has more flavor due to a bit of extra fat. Traditionally this roast is used for corned beef. Suitable preparation methods include stewing, braising and pot-roasting.
From the front belly of the cow, just below the rib cut this short plate produces types of steak such as the skirt steak and the hanger steak. It is typically a cheap, tough, and fatty meat. The most common use for this steak is for fajitas.
Flank steak can be broiled or grilled, if it is marinated first. Flank steak is a lean, flavorful, boneless cut favored in Asian cuisines. This thin, flat steak comes from a well-exercised part of the animal, as evidenced by its striated muscle fibers and connective tissue. This meat is lean, muscular and very flavorful and can be used for kabobs.
Due to the constant use of this muscle by the animal it tends to be tough, dry, and sinewy, so it is best when cooked for a long time in moist heat. As it is very lean, it is widely used to prepare very low-fat ground beef. Due to its lack of sales, it is not often seen at retail. Although, if found in retail, it is very cheap and a low-cost ingredient for beef stock. Beef shank is a common ingredient in soups.
Other Types of Beef
If there are parts of beef that cannot be marketed as the above cuts then it is ground (for hamburgers and meatloaf), cubed (for stews or kabobs) or cut into strips for fajitas or stir-fries.
Now you will be a variable expert at the meat counter. You can proudly hold your head up high and say “Bring me a Top Loin Steak! The red one, he amuses me. No! The impertinent one on the right. Seize him!”
Of course the next step is figuring out how a good piece of meat differs from a bad one. In my next blog I will be covering the basics of finding that perfect melt-in-your-mouth steak. Hungry for beef yet? Look around Tasty Planner for excellent beef recipes! Happy Cooking!