Beef - suitable cooking methods

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Main cuts
Illustrations of cuts normally available at a British butcher's shop

Cooking methods by cut

When buying beef, it is important to choose cuts appropriate for the chosen method of cooking. Common cooking methods are as follows:

  • Shin and leg - lean meat with a high proportion of connective tissue. Suitable for stews, casseroles, stock, soups and brawn.
  • Neck and clod - usually cut into pieces and sold as stewing steak or mince.
  • Chuck and blade steak - a large, fairly lean cut of high quality meat, removed from the bone and sold as chuck steak. Suitable for braising, stewing and pie fillings.
  • Thick flank aka top rump - a lean cut suitable for roasting, pot roasting and braising, or when sliced, for braising and frying.
  • Thin flank - ideal for braising and stewing. Often salted or pickles. Frequently sold minced.
  • Brisket - sold either on the bone or boned and rolled. It is suitable for braising or rolling, and is often salted. Good served cold with salad.
  • Thin ribs and thick ribs - usually sold boned and rolled. Ideal for braising and pot roasting.
  • Silverside - traditionally , salted and sold for boiling (boiled beef and carrots). Nowadays, more often sold for roasting, but because it is lean, needs constant basting. NB Uncooked salt beef is grey, but turns pink during cooking.
  • Fore rib - This is the traditional cut of Roast Beef of Old England. Sold on the bone or boned and rolled.
  • Wing rib - A popular roasting joint but often boned, sliced and sold as frying or grilling steaks.
  • Sirloin - A tender and delicious cut of beef, sold on the bone, with or without the fillet. for roasting.. The fillet is the smaller eye on the inside of the rib bone, which is usually removed. It is sold in slices as fillet steak, or whole for Beef Wellington. Sirloin steaks are slices of the larger eye of the lean.
  • Rump - Excellent large, lean and tender cut, always sold in slices for grilling and frying.
  • Topside - A lean cut of beef with little or no fat, often sold with a layer of fat tied round it. It can be roasted or pot roasted.
  • 'Flash fry' - A term used for slices of lean cuts which have been passed between knife covered rollers. This makes the meat more tender and reduces the cooking time, ie it can be flash (quickly) fried and is often called minute steak.

Types of steak

Steaks are slices of the most tender cuts of meat.

  • Rump, sirloin and fillet - see above
  • T-bone - from the lower middle of the animal, this cut is part sirloin and part fillet. Both cook at different rates, so you will have a problem cooking the perfect T-bone.
  • Porterhouse - the same as T-bone, except that it has more fillet meat than T-bone
  • Rib-eye - comes from the fore rib. It is marbled with a central piece of fat and, because of that, is very tasty. It probably has the best balance between flavour and tenderness of all steaks. Best cooked on the bone. As a joint, it can also be roasted.
  • Châteaubriand - the thick, centre part of the tenderloin. It can be sliced for steaks or roasted whole.
  • Entrecôte - basically, a thin, boneless rib-eye steak.
  • Filet mignon / Tournedos - steaks taken from the thinnest end of the tenderloin.
  • New York strip - an American steak very similar to the British sirloin.
  • Prime rib - a thick rib-eye steak, with bone.
  • Picanha - otherwise known as the top sirloin cap, this is a succulent and tender cut from the rump that is extremely popular in South America. Always cut across the grain and try cooking on a BBQ for a fantastic flavour.
  • Flat iron - an alternative steak from the shoulder, and very popular nowadays in the UK. It is tender with a moderate beef flavour and takes to marinade really well. Best rare or medium rare. Make sure you cook it on a red hot surface. Place a knob of butter on top of the steak and cover loosely with foil whilst resting.
  • Flank - from the underside of the animal, it overlaps the brisket at the front end, and the skirt at the back.
  • Feather blade - comes from the shoulder blade, so there are only two in every cow, and is small, It is full of sweet flavour and should only ever be cooked rare or else it will toughen. Inexpensive.
  • Onglet/Skirt (Hangar US) - a large, sausage-shaped strip from the centre of the animal, running next to the diaphragm. Almost fillet-like in shape, it has dark red meat, rope-like texture, and great depth of flavour. It is often butterflied to make it flatter. It is very tasty, and good if thinly sliced.
  • Point - from the pointed, thin end of the rump where it joins the sirloin. With a triangular shape, it has all the flavour of rump with the tenderness of sirloin and is good value and very quick to cook.
  • Goose skirt/bavette - from the end of the inner flank, just above the liver and kidney, this is a flat sheet of meat, well marbled, with a rope-like texture and a delicate flavour. Very popular in France, but can be a little coarse and chewy, therefore best to marinate first and then grill quickly on both sides.
  • Hatchet - a single steak from the fore-rib, still on the bone but with the flap removed so that the bone stands proud and partly bare, a bit like the handle of a hatchet.