Where’s the Beef?
Location tells you a lot about taste and texture. The rules are pretty simple: The more a muscle is worked, the tougher it gets. And the more fat in the meat, the better it tastes.
Chuck: The upper section is tough, as the shoulders and breast get daily movement. Good news: The area has a lot of connective tissue that melts during cooking, adding flavor. Pot roast, short ribs and stew meat come from here and love a long braise, which softens the meat. Ground meat often comes from this section.
Rib: Yields ribeye steaks (a.k.a. Delmonico), rib roasts (called prime rib when sliced) and, of course, ribs. Steaks and roasts from the rib area are quite tender and very flavorful. Grill the former, roast the latter.
Short Loin: The least worked and most tender area. This is where we get the tenderloin (called filet mignon when sliced) as well as the porterhouse (tenderloin/strip combo) and t-bone (smaller tenderloin/strip combo). New York strips are also taken from the upper portion of the short loin: high on flavor because it’s got more fat, but still quite tender. Grilling works best.
Sirloin: Just behind the tenderloin lies the sirloin from which— surprise!—sirloin steaks are cut. These cuts are chewier than the center loin but have more marbling, which means great flavor. Grilling is optimal.
Round: Cuts are often referred to as rump and round roasts. Meats from this area are usually tough and require braising, though some larger cuts can simply be roasted.
Brisket: Lots of exercise, tough meat. This section produces traditional brisket, corned beef and some stew meat. Marinating and braising bring out its best.
Plate: Hanger and skirt steaks are cut from this center section. Because of their connective tissue and higher fat, they can be grilled more successfully than their neighbors that need liquids before or during cooking.
Flank: The flank is lean and extremely muscular. Marinating is the key to flavorful meats that can be grilled or broiled and sliced against the grain.