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The many different cuts of beef can be confusing. In general, any beef cut that lists loin or rib as part of the identification will be the most tender.
According to the US department of Agriculture Originally "Corned Beef and Cabbage" was a traditional dish served for Easter Sunday dinner in rural Ireland. The beef, because there was no refrigeration at that time was salted or brined during the winter to preserve it, It was then eaten after the long, meatless Lenten fast.
Corning is a form of curing; it has nothing to do with corn. The name comes from Anglo-Saxon times before refrigeration. In those days, the meat was dry-cured in coarse "corns" of salt. Pellets of salt, some the size of kernels of corn, were rubbed into the beef to keep it from spoiling and to preserve it.
All beef must pass USDA inspection based on the age and health of the animal and the appearance and cut of meat after processing.
Some cattle, usually steers, are more desirable than others for producing quality beef. Top breeds include Angus and Charolais. It is helpful to know which part of the cow you are buying to understand why beef is tender or tough.
Loin – This portion of the cow is very tender and more expensive. Familiar names include fillet, tenderloin, T-bone, Porterhouse, and sirloin.
Chuck – This is from the shoulder and neck and tends to be more muscled and tough, but excels in flavor. These meats benefit from marinating and slow cooking. Cuts include roasts, stew meat, top blade steak, and ground chuck.
Rib – Meat around the rib section is tender with good marbling. While these may not always reach the “prime” classification, they are sold in stores as prime rib.
Round – This section is actually the back of the cow. Because it is well-muscled, these cuts will be tougher than most.
Breast/Flank – The breast and flank area produce steaks, short ribs, and brisket. Some of these are tough.
Miscellaneous/Specialty – All other parts of a cow fall into this grouping including tongue, liver, and bones.
Beef (with the exception of ground) should be firm to the touch. Any signs of graying, sliminess, or fat that has yellowed means the meat is past its prime. Aged and vacuum-packed beef products are always darker than commercially packaged types.
Marbling adds flavor and tenderness to cooked meats. In lesser-quality cuts, the white veining will be tough and stringy or nonexistent.
When cooking within 2-3 days after purchase, leave beef in its original wrapper. Check for leakage and double wrap or place on a tray if necessary. Roasts and steaks should be used or frozen within 4 days; hamburger within 2 days.
Don’t be alarmed if a package of hamburger is grayish in the middle. Beef reacts to oxygen in the air, which gives it a deeper coloration.