Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Distinguishing Beef Cuts

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This blog is dedicated to learning where different beef cuts come from.  Do you truly understand what part of the bovine/cow a skirt steak comes from or a shell steak?  I always wondered what made a steak so tender and also wondered why particular cuts of beef were used for certain dishes.  I took the time to research and I learned and now truly understand why people, cooks and chef use certain beef cuts for different dishes.

First lets discuss what makes a cut of beef.  Beef is muscle tissue.  The muscles which are used daily create a more tough piece of beef and lesser used muscles create a more tender piece of beef.

Cuts of beef which have more muscle tissue are usually less expensive to purchase.  When  people purchase a tough cut of beef they usually cook the beef using a moist cooking method.  Boiling, braising and stewing let people purchase cheaper cuts of beef to create a delicious meal.  Using a boiling, braising and stewing method requires a long-slow cooking time.  Cooking a tough cut of beef using a long-slow method turns the less expensive cut of beef into a soft-tender enjoyable meal.  You can save money while still creating a fantastic delicious meal for your family.

 Click Here to view a larger image of the diagram above.

The most used muscle of the bovine/cow are the chuck, brisket and shank.

Another cut of beef which is considered very tough is the round.  There are five parts to the round.  The top-round, bottom-round, heel-round, eye-round and rump roast.  This part of the bovine/cow is used all the time which makes the muscle tissue tough.  London broil comes from the top-round which has the less muscle tissue which makes it the most tender part of the round.  London broil is considered a pretty good cut of beef considering it comes from the round.  It can equally be used for moist and dry cooking methods.  It's an affordable cut of beef.

Another tidbit of information about the round is the bottom-round also known as the eye-round is used for deli roast beef.  It is considered a tougher cut of beef but because it usually is sliced very thin for deli sandwiches it becomes tender to eat.  It's cooked using a dry method of cooking but because it's sliced thin for deli sandwiches, it perfect for a roast beef sandwich.

The shank is located below the round and is very tough in texture.  Using a braising method of cooking is suggested when cooking this cut of beef.  Braising means cooking the shank in a small amount of liquid for a long period of time so the shank cut of beef becomes very tender to eat.

The beef cuts which are considered medium toughness is the plate and flank sections.  It's semi toughness comes from the intra-muscular fat which maintains some tenderness.  Short ribs come from the short plate and skirt steak comes from the short plate section of the bovine/cow.  Flank and hanger steak come from the flank section.  To get the most enjoyment out of a flank or hanger steak marinate before cooking and cut against the grain for a more softer texture.

The rib, short-loin and sirloin are considered delicate cuts of beef.  They are considered top quality because of their tenderness.

The tri-tip roast and the tenderloin roast are boneless cuts of beef.  These two cuts of beef are cut from the bottom section of the sirloin.

From my experience of ordering and serving steaks the porterhouse and T-bone are the more expensive cuts of beef.   The NY strip, strip, top-loin and shell steak offer a tender texture.  The Filet Mignon is cut from the small end of the tenderloin and the tenderness of the Filet Mignon melts in your mouth.  Excellent quality cut of beef.

I hope the description of the different types and cuts of beef help you understand what you purchase or order at a restaurant.  Enjoy.

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