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Shopping Guide: Different Types of Beef Cuts For Every Occasion

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April 26, 2023

From BBQ to tacos, filet mignon to T-bone steaks, beef is what’s for dinner! Whether you eat meat regularly or just want to better understand the different types of beef cuts at your grocery store, this guide will help you figure out which beef products you need when shopping at your local CHEF’STORE.

What’s the Difference Between Tender and Tough Cuts of Beef?

The most tender muscle is known as the tenderloin. It’s in the middle of the back and is part of the cow that is so tender because it sees little exercise, so the muscle fibers are lean with no connective tissue and fat.

Fat, collagen, and connective tissue also play a significant role in tender versus toughness when cooking. Cuts with higher fat content can help tenderize meat as it cooks. Fat and collagen also break down and distribute throughout the meat, creating melt-in-your-mouth beef. The key, however, is to use a low-and-slow cooking method with tougher cuts of meat, like brisket. The extended cooking time allows the fat to melt and collagen to completely break down, producing a gelatin-like consistency.

The Main 8 Different Types of Beef Cuts

These are the eight primal cuts, starting at the shoulder and moving toward the hoof.

1. Chuck

Chuck is the largest primal cut and comes from the shoulder muscles. These muscles do a lot of work, so the meat is fatty, and the fibers are thick. Since this cut is tougher, home chefs will benefit from braising, slow roasting, and sous-viding whole beef chuck for longer times.

Chuck can be broken down into flavorful flat iron steaks that don’t need the same treatment as the whole chuck. The flat iron comes from the top muscle blade, which gives it excellent fat marbling. Grilling is a great way to cook flat iron. Cutting against the muscle grain after the steak rests shortened the fibers, making the bites more tender. 

  • Region: Shoulder
  • Taste and Texture: Flavorful, slightly chewy
  • Subprimal and portion cuts: Stew meat, shoulder steak, pot roast, chuck short ribs, ground chuck
  • Cooking Methods: Low and slow, grilling

2. Rib

Cows have 13 ribs starting at the shoulder and moving toward the belly. The rib primal, which is most often used in recipes, contains ribs six to twelve. This cut experiences less exercise than chuck, making it more tender. However, it also contains a good level of fat, making it high on the flavor scale. 

Ribeye filets and steaks, beef short ribs, cowboy steak, and back ribs are among the individual cuts from the rib section. They do best when slow-cooked. 

  • Region: Last six ribs
  • Taste and Texture: Rich and tender
  • Subprimal and portion cuts: Beef short ribs, cowboy steak, back ribs, rib-eye filet, and roast
  • Cooking Methods: Low and slow

3. Loin

The most tender of cuts, the beef loin primal cut sits right behind the ribs. Sirloin and short loin are the most common parts carved from the beef loin.

Sirloin is slightly less tender than short loin but comes packed with flavor. Due to its lean muscle fiber, you’ll want to grill or pan-sear this meat. Sirloin cuts include sirloin steak, top sirloin, bottom sirloin, tri-tip roast, and tri-tip steak.

The short loin is closer to the center of the cow, making it incredibly tender. Short loin wants to be grilled, fried, or quick-seared like sirloin. Popular short loin cuts you are likely to find are New York strip, T-Bone, porterhouse, tenderloin filet, filet mignon, and strip loin.

  • Region: Behind the ribs
  • Taste and Texture: Succulent and extremely tender
  • Subprimal and portion cuts: Sirloin (sirloin steak, tri-tip roast and steak, top and bottom sirloin) and short loin (NY strip, T-Bone, tenderloin, porterhouse, and filet mignon)
  • Cooking Methods: Grilled and high-heat

4. Round

Round is found on the cow’s hindquarters and comes with lots of connective tissue and not much fat. Round covers a relatively large area, so cuts from this primal portion require different cooking techniques to coax flavor and tenderness. 

Top, bottom, and eye round portion cuts require higher heat-style cooking. Rump and eye roast prefer low and slow cooking methods.

  • Region: Hind leg
  • Taste and Texture: Lean and sometimes tough
  • Subprimal and portion cuts: Eye of round, round steak, tip steak, tip roast, and top round and bottom round roasts
  • Cooking Methods: High heat for top, bottom, tip streak, and eye round. Low and slow for rump and round roasts

5. Flank

Flank cuts are boneless and flavorful from just below the loin. While the meat is on the tough side, it still makes for a superb steak. You’ll likely find skirt or flank steak carved from this primal cut. Both love to be grilled or cooked over high heat. Flank cuts should be sliced against the grain like flat iron to maximize tenderness.

  • Region: Loin
  • Taste and Texture: Boneless, well-flavored and toothsome
  • Subprimal and portion cuts: Flank steak and skirt steak
  • Cooking Methods: High heat and grilling

6. Brisket

Brisket is fatty with a chewy texture but responds well to classic BBQ cooking. This cut comes from the breast of the cow. Like other tough cuts of meat, briskets shine from slow, low-heat cooking, but it does tend to dry out if not properly monitored. 

  • Region: Chest
  • Taste and Texture: Toothsome with high-fat
  • Subprimal and portion cuts: Brisket point and flat
  • Cooking Methods: Low and slow

7. Short Plate

Some people often group this cut with brisket; however, the short plate comes from near the cow’s stomach area. The cut is tough and fatty, yielding great marbled meat. Hanger steaks, pastrami, and short ribs are derived from the short plate. 

  • Region: Belly
  • Taste and Texture: Fatty and chewy
  • Subprimal and portion cuts: Hanger steak, short ribs, and ground beef
  • Cooking Methods: High heat and grilling for hanger steak. Low and slow for short ribs

8. Shank

Shank is likely the toughest, cheapest cut of beef. It comes from the front of a cow’s forearm and is dry and fibrous. While it might not seem worth it for a home-cooked meal, shank does wonders to bump up a stew. Bone and cartilage are rich sources of nutritional minerals, and as beef shank cooks, the minerals are released giving the beef shanks a deep flavor, which some may consider “gamey”.  You can prepare it Osso Buco-style, which brings out bone-marrow flavors and renders the meat fork-tender.

  • Region: Forearm
  • Taste and Texture: “Gamey” with lots of beef and mineral flavors
  • Subprimal and portion cuts: Stew meat, lean ground beef, and Osso Buco
  • Cooking Methods: Low and slow

Popular Beef Products at CHEF’STORE

Pick up these popular beef brands at your local CHEF’STORE.

ibp Trusted Excellence® Beef

Star Ranch Angus® Beef

Willamette Valley Meat

Find the Best Deals on Bulk Beef Products

Whether you are searching for beef brisket worthy of a family BBQ or a gorgeous ribeye for an at-home date night, US Foods CHEF’STORE is your go-to for exceptional meat at budget-friendly prices. 

Stop by one of our convenient locations near you and check out our great products—from wholesale meats and seafood to fresh produce, beverages, and more! Don’t have time to shop in-store? Then get any of our fantastic items delivered straight to your door.


Culinary guide to all cuts of beef.

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