Beef has always been a staple in the American diet. It is extremely high in protein, iron and B12 vitamins. What's more, many people find there is nothing quite as satisfying as a steak, piece of roast or hamburger on their dinner plate.
Cows are large animals and they produce a variety of cuts of meat, from lean steaks to beautifully marbled roasts. The variation in cuts means not all beef can be cooked the same way. Some meat must be quick-cooked over high heat while other pieces should be allowed to simmer over low heat to bring out the best flavor.
Different cuts of beef
There are literally dozens of different cuts of beef available in grocery stores and butcher shops. However, they typically fall into one of four categories.
- Roasts: Roasts are large cuts of beef that can originate from several parts of a cow. Round roasts are cut from the rump while chuck roasts come from the shoulder. Tenderloin and ribeye roasts are leaner and taken from the back and rib section of a cow.
- Steaks: The best cuts of steak, such filet mignon and porterhouse, come from the loin section of the cow which is located behind the ribs. Some steaks are also cut from the flank, or underbelly, and chuck steaks are tougher cuts from the shoulder. Round steaks come from the rump and also tend to be on the tough side.
- Ribs: Cow ribs include back ribs and short ribs.
- Brisket: In a category all by itself, brisket comes from the front of the cow and is a tough cut that becomes flavorful and tender with slow cooking.
Most common ways to cook beef cuts
Despite the vast number of cuts on the market, you only need four basic cooking methods if you want to know how to cook beef . Once you know which type of cut works best with which method, you'll be able to deliver delicious meal after delicious meal to your family's table.
Grilling and broiling
- Grilling and broiling is best for steaks of all kinds as well as tenderloin roasts, tri-tip roasts and London broil.
- This method cooks meat quickly to lock in flavor and moisture.
- To grill or broil beef, season or marinate the meat and then cook, flipping once halfway through the cooking time. Steaks that are at least one inch thick are best for grilling or broiling.
- Grilled and broiled beef can be cooked to desired doneness, but cooking to well done typically results in dry or bland meat. Medium or medium rare may produce a better texture and taste.
- Sauteing is best for steaks, stir fry beef and ground beef.
- Like grilling and broiling, sautéing sears meat and locks in moisture, important for lean cuts like steaks.
- Meat can be seasoned or marinated first. Then, oil should be added as the pan preheats. When the pan is hot, add the steak and cook for several minutes on each side until done.
- Steaks can be prepared to the desired doneness, but ground beef should always be cooked until well done.
- Roasting is best for roasts of all kinds, including ribeye roast, eye of round roast, prime rib and ball tip roast.
- This method works best for lean cuts that come from the loin and rib section since these roasts are already tender.
- Cook in the oven to the desired level of doneness. Marinate or season first and use a roasting rack for more uniform cooking.
- Meat cooked to an internal temperature of 125 degrees will be rare while 145 degrees will be medium and 160 degrees will be well done. Remember, the ends of a roast will cook slightly more than the center.
- Braising is best for short ribs, chuck ribs, brisket and tougher roasts such as chuck roast and bottom round roast.
- The slow cooking and wet heat of braising helps break down tough fibers found in shoulder roasts, rump roasts, brisket and other fatty cuts.
- Cooks often braise beef alongside root vegetables or other ingredients for a one-pot meal.
- Braised meats should be cooked until well done for the best flavor and texture.