Let’s talk about meat. As a teacher first and foremost I get really irritated by the packaging in grocery stores. It gets more and more confusing trying to figure out what’s what in the meat department with all of the marketing terms that they use. It seems like it’s meant more to fool you than to help you to make a decision about what you want to put on your table for your family.
Now that there are dozens of cuts that you can get you really have to know your stuff, or you just stick to the things you know really well and don’t venture into the land of strange names. Fair enough I don’t blame you one bit. There is a lot out there so I am going to tackle as much as I can and see if we can’t answer some of those burning questions I’m sure you’ve been dying to ask.
First let’s start with the cow. Anything that is in the high motion areas of the animal are going to be tough pieces of meat. Tough but flavorful! Tough, flavorful and CHEAP! So if you know how to cook them or prepare them properly, you are going to be able to have tastier and cheaper meat. Sounds like a win-win to me.
This is the first part, knowing where the cut comes from. If you know that the chuck, brisket, plate, round shanks and flank or tip come from the high motion areas you’ll know these cuts either need to:
1) Marinated or tenderized
2) Sliced very thinly (across the grain) or ground
3) Use a moist heat cooking method or long, slow cooking (roasting, smoking, BBQ)
For the rib or short loin, tenderloin, or parts of the sirloin you can use dry heat cooking methods. These are where your grilled steaks come from.
Now not to throw a wrench into the situation but there are a few exceptions to the rule and that comes with knowing that if a piece of meat is tucked up next to a bone sometimes it’s going to be tender without coming from the sedentary parts of the animal. That’s a whole other chapter I promise to cover later.
Here are some of the cuts you’ll see in the grocery store and where they come from
Chuck: chuck short ribs, chuck roast, chuck steak, stew meat, ground beef.
Rib: rib roast, rib steak, rib eye steaks, prime rib
Short Loin: loin steaks, T-bone steak, porterhouse, top loin steak, NY steak tenderloin
Sirloin: sirloin steak, wedge-bone steak, boneless sirloin, sirloin roast
Round: round steak, top round steak, bottom round steak, eye of round, heel, ground beef, rump roast
Shanks: cross cut, stew meat
Brisket: typically fresh or corned
Short Plate: short ribs, skirt steak, stew meat, ground beef
Flank: flank steak
Tip: tip steak tip roast (the tip is at the bottom of the sirloin into the round it’s not on the above picture)
If you are looking for the best tasting steak you are going to have to go to a butcher who actually cuts things up instead of pulling fabricated cuts from a box.
Ask for the chuck end of the rib you are getting closest to that high motion area and still having a tender piece of meat.
This is going to rub some of you wrong that really love that cross hatch on your steak, but if you really want a juice steak, flip it often, ever minute or so. I know I know it’s not going to be aesthetically pleasing. Put a pat of blue cheese butter on it and get over it. If you flip it often the meat doesn’t have a chance to dry out and overcook on the outside. If we had our way we’d have the same color all the way through rather than a brown ring all the way around.
All right that’s all for now, next time we’ll cover pork and a little more about the cooking of meat in general. Enjoy meat and please if you have any questions we’re happy to answer them!