If you aren't a butcher, chances are you're not exactly certain where every cut of beef is on the cow. Which means you could be missing out on some of the best bites of beef of your life.
Many of the more obscure cuts take a backseat to more recognized names, but each has its place in specific dishes, often with even better results. After you read this handy guide, you'll be ready to confidently order these creative cuts at your favorite restaurant or market.
Flat Iron Steak
The Flat Iron Steak is one of the most tender parts of the cow, despite being sliced from the tougher shoulder section. Perhaps one of the best aspects is that it's well-marbled, leading to intense flavor that's rivaled only by the tenderloin. In Wagyu, the Flat Iron is prone to even more marbling, which brings out a beefier taste. It's best grilled or broiled and served whole or sliced thin for a great fajita or sandwich.
Image: Tony's Blog
The Culotte is gaining popularity throughout the country as a more economical steak cut. Cut from the top of the sirloin the Culotte steak is also known as the sirloin strip or the sirloin top butt cap. It's the most well marbled portion of the sirloin, generally lean but very flavorful. It has numerous uses in different types of cuisines, mainly served as a grilled steak, sautéed for Asian dishes, or cubed and used for shish kabobs.
Cut from the lower belly of the animal, the hanger steak was once thought an undesirable portion of the cow and often discarded. Far from a pretty steak, as butchers learned more about the animal, they'd keep this part for themselves, as many people were unaware of its delicious flavor.
It does take some work to get it ready to cook, such as removing the membrane that runs along the center. Once you've done this, the hanger steak is best when broiled or grilled over high heat. From there, enjoy it with a marinade or chop it up for tacos.
The Flap Meat or Flap Steak is often referred to by it's French name, Bavette, for obviously appetizing reasons. Similar to the Flank or Skirt, this tougher cut from the bottom sirloin tenderizes in marinades and is quite flavorful.
The Bavette is quite versatile and is a stellar selection for kabob cubes. It can also be grilled or seared whole for a flavorful steak.
Image: Lone Mountain Wagyu Short Ribs
Don't let the name fool you. Short ribs aren't called so because of their length, but rather because of their location on the steer. They're found in the short plate section of the cow and are also called "St. Louis style" ribs.
The main difference between short ribs and regular ribs is that the short ribs remove much of the other nearby parts, such as the brisket. These ribs are best when grilled or smoked and smothered in a dry rub or barbecue sauce. Adding a molasses or tomato-based sauce brings out the flavor, while liquid smoke also does wonders.
The Teres Major, AKA mock tender, or petite tender might be the best bang for your beef buck. This ultra lean cut, which comes from on top of the shoulder blade in the "Chuck" section of the cow, is almost as tender as a filet mignon.
Roast it, grill it whole, or slice into medallions for filet-like steaks and prepare as you would a traditional steak. In Wagyu, the Teres Major is (surprise, surprise) higher in marbling than most and shares the earthy rich flavor found in a chuck roast. This offers an experience many would prefer to a filet, at about half the price.
Like brisket? Then you are going to Beef Cheeks. This underrated cut has generally been available only by special request from a butcher. Why do people go out of their way to seek it out? Because these small pieces of heaven are arguably the best meat in the animal.
Beef Cheeks exactly what they sound like.... the cheeks of the animal. They are densely marbled and offer a rich, deep flavor. When slow-cooked, these "mini-briskets" if you will are meltingly tender...like the best pot roast you've ever experienced.
Image: Michelle@TNS via Flikr
Oxtail is the meat from the tail of an animal, historically the male cow (per the "ox") although now is from either gender of cattle. Generally available in small chunks with the bone-in with thick veins of fat. The flavor and nutrients come from the bones.
To allow the dense fat to melt and release the flavor, oxtail is best when braised in liquid for for a long period of time. Traditionally used in soups or stews, getting a new spotlight, featured in upscale dishes like red-wine braised oxtail.
Taking the First Bite
If the thought of delving into new cuts of beef scares you, try to push it to the back of your mind. Essentially, this behavior leads you to miss out on many new tastes that you may find more enjoyable than the regular cuts of meat you eat. Get a little adventurous the next time you're at the market or a restaurant. You may just get a great surprise.