Beef Cut Basics

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Hungry for beef but don’t know what to whip up? A visit with Readfield Meats Manager Tim Munzy helps shed some light on what to expect when stepping up to the meat counter.

By Jamie O’Toole

Hungry for beef but don’t know what to whip up? A visit with Readfield Meats Manager Tim Munzy helps shed some light on what to expect when stepping up to the meat counter.

With more than 30 years as a butcher for the Bryan company, Munzy offers some general meat-buying rules such as the forequarters of the animal are usually going to be tougher than meat from the hindquarters. Ground beef, a product that Munzy estimated at least 80 percent of customers leave the shop with, is made with meat from the forequarters. Other cuts such as chuck and brisket come from this area as well and are good for dishes that require a long cooking time like pot roast or beef stew.

With the exception of rib-eye, most steak cuts come from the hindquarters. Munzy chose rib-eye as his favorite steak because of the flavor he says comes from the inner marbling, or the infusion of the fat throughout the meat rather than surrounding it.

“To put it simply, I like the fat,” he says. He admits that rib-eye can be a little more expensive than other cuts and adds the store’s bestseller is their center-cut beef sirloin, a less expensive cut that he assures is still full of flavor.

Readfield Meats’ website describes some of the most popular cuts used by home cooks and steakhouses alike.

Filet Mignon

Taken from the small end of the tenderloin, Filet Mignon has a mild flavor and is extremely tender because it comes from area not used much by the cow. Filet is very lean so it is often wrapped in bacon to add extra fat and juice to the meat. It pairs well with richer or more fatty side dishes that might otherwise be too heavy to serve with steak. Filet is one of the most expensive beef cuts.

New York Strip (Kansas City Strip)

New York strip, also known as Kansas City strip, is a well-marbled cut that is both tender and flavorful and comes from the top of the short loin. In the medium to high price range, New York Strip is considered a prime cut but not as tender, and therefore not as expensive, as rib-eye or tenderloin.

Rib-eye

Rib-eye is one of the few highly valued steak cuts that comes from the forequarters. Cut from the “eye” of the fore rib or the top of the animal’s rib section, it generally contains no bone. Though it has little fat around it, it is tender, juicy, and full of flavor because of the high degree of marbling. In the middle- to upper-price range, it is a good cut to use for grilling.

T-Bone

A T-bone steak is actually two steaks in one. Named for shape of the bone at the steak’s center, it is New York strip on one side of the bone and a tenderloin filet on the other. Cut from the front end of the short loin, an area just behind the rib, causes it to have less tenderloin than other “double” steaks. T-bones fall in the middle price range, but the addition of the bone to the weight of the steak does need to be considered when making a purchase.

Porterhouse

Porterhouse is another “double steak” and includes both New York strip and tenderloin. Cut from the rear of the short loin, it contains less bone and a larger portion of tenderloin than the T-bone. A favorite in many steakhouses because of its dual steak quality, it is also a great steak for the home chef to grill up or even broil. It falls into the middle price range and again, the weight of the bone should be considered when purchasing.

Sirloin

Sirloin is one of the most affordable cuts, in the lower price range while still maintaining steak-quality status. It comes from the area between the short loin and the round, a more muscular cut because of its proximity to the animal’s backside. Lean and less tender than some of the more expensive cuts, it is still flavorful and a great option for slicing thin to serve on a sandwich or cubing and skewering to grill with vegetables.