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How to Identify Beef Cuts
For Best Meat Selection

It Can Really Pay Off to Know Your Butcher Beef Cuts

At first glance, learning to identify beef cuts may seem like a waste of time to some. After all, that's what butchers are for. But most meat is purchased in grocery stores and supermarkets, where the butchers are not always immediately available.

If you will just take a little time to learn about the different beef cuts, you will not only be able to expand as a cook, but will be able to save money while you are cooking better beef dishes.

One thing that I always preach is, with many recipes, you should try to take some of the ingredients you already have try to adapt recipes using those ingredients. There are tremendous savings in doing this.

For example: You decide to cook a pot of beef stew for dinner tomorrow. But instead of going to the store to buy "stew meat", which is not on sale and costs a small fortune because it is already cut up, you forget about one of the chuck roasts that you bought last week and put in the freezer. You bought it because it was on sale for some outrageous "buy-one-get-one-free" price or something. And it was about half the cost of the stew meat.

If you know how to identify beef cuts and their different qualities, you will already know that the chuck roast would make great beef stew. Anyway, the stew meat might have been beef chuck itself, or maybe something even lower grade. I'm sure it will make good stew also, but how good is it at twice the price?

To identify beef cuts, probably one of the main things to familiarize yourself with is where the cut is located on the animal itself. Know that the most tender, "better" cuts of beef come from the muscle tissue that is used the least, or has to do little heavy work.

If you can imagine what cattle look like and what they "do" on a regular basis, you can probably get a general idea of which areas and muscles work the most and work the least.

The tenderloin or filet, as well as muscle that produces cuts of steak like the rib-eye and the t-bone or porterhouse, comes from tissue that does not get a great deal of the work load. Generally, they come from the back and rib cage area that does not get a lot of work on a regular basis.

On the other end of the scale, you can identify beef cuts that are "cheaper", fatty and/or tougher by noticing which muscle areas have to work the hardest.

With beef cattle, meat from the front and back legs and the shoulder area are generally the less desirable and less expensive cuts of beef. The chuck and round roast, and brisket, as well as our previously-mentioned and mysterious "stew meat", fall into this category.

Another good thing to know is the Quality of the beef.

Meat Quality Grading is an indication of tenderness, juiciness and flavor. It is determined on the amount of marbling and the age of the animal. The higher the grade, the more tender, juicy and flavorful the cut should be.

There are eight quality grades for beef, but only three are found in grocery stores or butcher shops.

Prime is the top grade in the U.S. meat grading system. Prime has the most marbling and is produced in limited quantities. Prime Beef is most commonly sold in fine restaurants and some meat markets.
Choice has less marbling than Prime but more than Select. It can usually be found found at your local grocery store at a higher price than Select.
Select has the least amount of marbling of the top three grades, making it leaner and probably less tender and juicy than prime or choice grade. Select is the most common quality grade at your local grocery store.

Quality grades are a great way to determine how much you will enjoy a steak. The higher the grade, the better the chance that the steak will taste great.

On the other hand, the quality grade of lower-end cuts of meat like chuck or brisket is not as important. Good cooking methods can are what will make these meats taste best. So don't feel bad about buying the lower quality grades of the lower-end meats

All cuts of beef have their own individual differences and qualities that make them perfect for certain recipes and dishes. Knowing all the ways to identify beef cuts will move you toward more economical and better tasting beef.

Here's the perfect Beef Chart in pdf form. Download this free Beef Cuts Chart. It makes it easy to see and identify beef cuts from a "whole cattle" perspective.

If you need the latest free Adobe pdf reader pick it up first below by clicking on the red Adobe button.

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