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Buying Beef

January 12, 2011

The following post was written by nutritioulicious™ intern Megan Kian

When buying chicken or turkey, the choice is simple — whole bird, breast and wings (white meat), or thighs and legs (dark meat). However, buying a piece of beef is a little more complicated. There’s the chuck, the loin, the round, and a whole slew of other cuts. How do you know which one is the best nutritionally and for what you’re cooking? Until meat packages have nutrition labels, here’s a quick guide to decoding the different cuts of beef at your supermarket:

cuts of beef

  • Chuck: The chuck is located near the shoulder of the cow and is one of the most exercised areas, meaning the meat will contain a lot of muscle, making it a tougher cut of beef. In addition to the high concentration of muscle, there is also a presence of collagen, which melts during cooking and adds to the flavor of the meat. The best way to cook the chuck: stew, braise, or pot-roast.
  • Brisket: Brisket comes from the lower chest of the cow and contains a lot of connective tissue. Therefore, it is best to cook it slowly with moist heat.
  • Rib: The rib is a versatile cut of meat that tends to be fatty. Many people think of barbecued ribs, but there are other cuts that come from the ribs, including rib eye steaks, prime rib, and short ribs. The best way to cook these cuts: roast, pan-fry, or broil.
  • Short Loin: Within the short loin there are several cuts of meat: the porterhouse, the T-bone, and the NY strip. The tenderloin, sold as filet mignon, is the most tender of all the steaks, but is not as flavorful as a strip steak or rib eye.
  • Sirloin: The sirloin is located near the rear of the cow. The sirloin is not considered as tender as the short loin, but it can be more flavorful.
  • Flank: The flank is a lean cut of meat on the back underside of the cow. It tends to be tougher than the loins and ribs, but it contains great flavor. Flank steak and skirt steak are best marinated and cooked with moist techniques, such as braising. London broil, which is also from the flank, is very lean and best cooked rare and sliced thin.
  • Round: The round is a lean cut that is moderately tough and best cooked with moist methods, such as a pot roast. Some popular cuts from the round are the eye of the round and the top round.

As you can see, generally the more tender the cut of beef, the fattier it is (such as the rib and the loin), whereas the tougher meat comes from the leaner cuts (such as the flank and the round). This doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to tough cuts of meat. As usual, watch your portion sizes and enjoy any cut of meat in moderation!

What cut of beef do you like the best?

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