When visiting a steakhouse, whether it's the best steakhouse in Dubai or London or New York, what is your preferred cut of beef to order? Maybe it's the quick grill-to-plate skirt or flank steak. Or perhaps its a mouth-watering, wow-factor rib eye.
Meet the Meat
There are several cuts of beef that require different approaches and selections according to the recipe you’re making. If you don’t know your shank from your porterhouse, not to worry. Outlined below are all the major sections along with recommendations on how best to cook and serve them.
Beginning from the front portion of the cow, just below the neck yet encompassing the shoulder, lies the chuck section. This section of the cow produces several delicious steak cuts.
As the shoulder is the heaviest part of the cow, it provides more well-developed cuts than others. From the chuck section, one can grill a flat iron steak, Denver steak, and the eponymous chuck steak.
Its diverse range of cuts requires special attention when grilling. As a hard-working muscle, the cuts from a chuck section may take a bit longer to cook. But grill it for too long and it because as tough as a leather belt so caution is advised.
Depending on the butcher, the brisket can be categorized as part of the chuck section or as its own stand-alone cut. The brisket section is the lower breast of the animal, meaning it is another well-developed section of the cow.
While not necessarily the best section for a steak, the brisket is well loved for its melt-in-your-mouth texture and flavor. In fact, it’s a mainstay in many Asian-influenced dishes like those found in pho restaurants in Los Angeles and Japanese restaurants in Abu Dhabi.
To get the most out of this section of the animal and have tender, fall-off-the-bone meat, the best recipes will call for slow cooking methods like smoking, barbecuing, roasting or stewing. A brisket cut such as the foreshank is an excellent choice for stews, soups, curing for pastrami, or even corned beef.
Also known as the short plate, the flank can be found right in the belly, making it the perfect section for short ribs, hanger steaks, and skirt steaks. Marinade these weeknight go-tos to tenderize them and really bring out their flavor, and treat them to a quick sear on the grill before thinly slicing them to serve.
This preparation method is also known as the London broil.
If the name didn’t immediately give it away, the round section comes from the hindquarters such as the legs and rump. This section of the cow hosts several cuts perfect for roast-type dishes and steaks. The round section features the top round, bottom round, and eye of round; all great cuts for a slow roast.
The round is a leaner and moderately tough section of the beef. If grilling as a cut of steak, remember that the cuts found in the round section contain minimal marbling (due to its low fat), meaning that a lesser degree of doneness is required to avoid overcooking.
One of the most recognized sections of the animal, the loin can be further broken down into two subcategories; sirloin and short loin. These two categories produce many exceptional cuts of meat that are perfect for the grill. These cuts include porterhouse, New York strip, T-bone, filets, tri-tip and top sirloin.
The loin section delivers on incredible taste and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. Very little is required to bring out the full flavors of loin cuts; just season with salt and pepper. Alternatively, if one desires further enhanced flavor, the loin cuts do well with a rub or marinade.
Several exceptionally choice cuts are found in the rib section. Located right in the center of the cow, the rib section features highly sought-after cuts such as rib eye, prime rib, and back ribs. While the prime rib is best served as a roast, the rib eye is glorious as a pan-seared or grilled steak.
When ordering your rib eye steaks from the butcher, always opt for bone-in (tomahawk chop) with a considered amount of marbling. This will bring out the full flavor of the cut as fat produces a flavorful succulence while adding flair to the presentation when plating.
The Final Cut
Whether you’re cooking at home or dining out in a world-class steakhouse for a special occasion, it's important to know the differences between steak cuts and each section of the cow. These beautiful slabs of beef are so versatile, and it helps to know exactly what you’re ordering, regardless if it’s off a menu or at the butcher’s shop.
Jenene Bronwin Batts is the Senior Marketing Coordinator at Tourism Development & Investment Company or TDIC. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests' enquiries for the company's destinations, including KOI Restaurant & Lounge and Boa Steakhouse in Abu Dhabi.
Franck Mottais is the Operations Manager at Tourism Development & Investment Company or TDIC. With a true passion for food and beverage operations, Franck's personal goal is to consistently deliver the highest quality of guest service and effectively run distinguished establishments such as KOI Restaurant & Lounge and Boa Steakhouse in Abu Dhabi.