CHUCK - Chuck comes from the cow’s shoulder. It’s a very flavorful region that can be cut and prepared in many ways, but it’s also typically a firmer cut of beef. Due to its versatility and cheap cost, chuck is probably what you’re most familiar with. It’s great for any type of cooking! The types of portion cuts you can find for chuck are ground chuck (hamburgers), chuck short ribs, shoulder tender medallions, chuck pot roast, shoulder steak, flat-iron steak, and stew meat.
RIB - As the name implies, the rib cut refers to meat cut from the cow’s ribs and backbone. Of the 13 pairs of ribs on a cow, only the last six are classified in this section – the rest are grouped with chuck and short plate! Rib cuts are notable for their fatty marbling, tenderness, and distinctive flavor. Rib cuts tend to be a little pricier than most and are often better slow-cooked than grilled. The types of portion cuts you can find for ribs are beef short ribs, ribeye steak, cowboy steak, ribeye roast, ribeye filet, and back ribs.
LOIN - This is where you’ll find your most expensive cuts of beef. The loin is located directly behind the ribs and, due to its location, is not a heavily used muscle. This makes loin very tender compared to more muscular cuts. The loin cut comprises two parts worth mentioning: sirloin and short loin. Sirloin is the rearmost cut of the loin region and the least tender of the two subregions (though arguably more flavorful). Sirloin is typically best for grilling and almost never used for slow cooking. Common cuts include sirloin steak, top sirloin, bottom sirloin, tri-tip roast, and tri-tip steak. Short loin is similar to sirloin cuts but is closer to the center of the cow and more tender than sirloin cuts as a result. Like sirloin, it dries out very fast so it’s typically best grilled or fried. Common short loin cuts include NY strip, T-Bone, porterhouse, tenderloin filet, filet mignon, and strip loin.
ROUND - The round region is an inexpensive, lean cut. Located near the cow’s hind legs, it’s typically a tough cut of beef. Due to the leanness of this cut, it’s important to thoroughly research how to prepare and cook the cuts of this region; sometimes it calls for high heat cooking (like top, bottom and eye round portion cuts), or slow-cooking (like rump and eye roast). The common round cuts you can expect are round steak, eye of round, tip roast, tip steak, top round and bottom round roasts.
FLANK - The flank cut is located just below the loin. This region has no bones but is flavorful despite its toughness. In the past, it was typically the least expensive cut one could find in a store. Typically you’ll only find one of two flank cuts: a flank steak or a skirt steak, both of which are best grilled at high heat.
SHORT PLATE - Often grouped with the brisket beef region, short plate cuts are found near the stomach of the cow. Its location in the cow lends to cheap, tough, and fatty cuts of beef. This is also where you’ll find your other source of marbled short ribs. The most common short plate portion cuts you can expect are skirt steak, hanger steak, beef bacon, pastrami, short ribs, and ground beef from this cut.
BRISKET - A barbecue favorite, the brisket cut belongs to a cow’s breast. Brisket is known for its fatty, tough texture, but if prepared correctly (low and slow) it can be cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Just be careful when slow cooking – with brisket, there’s a slim margin between juicy and dry! That’s why you should always tenderize and marinate this cut before slow cooking to soften it up. There are typically only two cuts of brisket you can expect: brisket point and brisket flat. They are both better slow-cooked, but the flat is distinguished by its leaner quality.
SHANK - Shank is arguably the toughest, cheapest cut of beef. Located in front of the brisket at the cow’s forearm, this beef cut is notable for its sinewy dryness. Because of its dry nature, it’s best cooked for a long time in moist heat. You’ll often find this cut used for stew or soup meat.