Are you a beef connoisseur? Do you consider yourself a steak aficionado? Or are you someone who has stood in the meat department, staring awkwardly at the overwhelming variety of beef cut options? Let’s face it—at first glance, the different beef cuts can be rather confusing. We’ve compiled a general guide to give you a better understanding of steak cuts and grades. Follow along to improve your overall beef comprehension for the future.
Types of Beef Cuts
Every amazing steak you’ve ever had has probably come from a good cut of beef. A good steak is identifiable by its taste and texture alongside its grade and the particular cut used. The best cut isn’t necessarily the one with the highest price tag at the supermarket, either. Each type of cut differs by quality, and your favorite cut may not be the most expensive one. Picking out a perfect cut isn’t always possible, but you can be sure to pick out a good one.
Learning about the types of beef cuts is simple—you just need to know what to look for. Beef is traditionally cut in eight different ways from different parts of the cow’s body. These primal cuts are rib, flank, loin, round, chuck, brisket, shank, and short plate. From these cuts, beef is further divided into sub-primal meat cuts. Typically, a butcher will cut these sub-primal cuts even further into the individual-sized cuts we see in packages in meat departments. It’s a long process indeed, but the final cut of meat you purchase to cook with is appropriately portion-size.
Many of these beef cuts are popular for cooking steak. We’ll call them steak cuts, as they’re customarily associated with steak and not other dishes such as roasts, burgers, or fillets. There are about 15 types of classified steak cuts. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most well-known cuts.
This top-sirloin cut creates a popular form of boneless steak. Sirloin is perfect for grills and skillets over high, dry heat. It presents as a tender steak, but you must cook this cut of beef carefully for the best texture.
A T-bone steak is cut uniquely, as it contains a strip of the top short loin and a large slab of tenderloin underneath. This combination makes an impressive chunk of flavor and texture. A T-bone steak is a double-win of an experience—a real steak-lover’s dream.
This steak cut is taken from the rib of a cow, hence the name. As one of the tastiest cuts available, ribeye steak typically has higher marbling for impressive flavor. One of the most sought-after and world-famous ribeye cuts is Kobe beef, which originates from prized Wagyu cattle in Japan.
Fillet or Tenderloin Cut
This cut is one of the best meats from a cow that you can find. A steak with this cut from the tenderloin is incredibly tender and versatile. It may lack flavor compared to other higher-priced cuts, but it’s perfect for all types of cooking and extra pairings.
Differing Grades of Steak
Understanding steak cuts and grades as two topics linked together is fundamental. When you’re cooking one of the above steak cuts, the importance of beef grade knowledge is abundantly clear—you must not only have the right cut, but the right grade of beef influences overall taste, flavor, and texture.
In America, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades beef. “Grade” refers to the quality of the beef, based on its age and marbling. “Marbling” is a term that refers to the fat content inside the beef muscle. When the USDA grades beef, it evaluates the beef for tenderness and the overall amount of marbling in the meat. Not all fats are alike, and not all fats are good, but a good quality of marbled fat within a cut of beef is desirable.
Steak quality isn’t at all subjective. Rather, it’s entirely objective based on scientific terms and evaluation by the USDA. A quality grade of beef will be labeled based on its apparent level of marbling and other factors, such as the age of cattle and the color of the beef cut.
Because of beef’s distinctness and diversity, not all beef is alike. Everything in existence on this planet comes in all shapes and sizes, and animals aren’t excluded. Cattle’s bodies are not one-size-fits-all, meaning high marbling doesn’t equal the highest-quality steak. When the USDA evaluates beef quality, it look at the entire picture.
Prime is the highest grade of beef available for purchase and enjoyable consumption. Rich and tender, with juicy and beefy flavor, this grade of steak is in the Ivy Leagues. Prime-grade steak is mainly available at higher-end restaurants or reputable steakhouses rather than in stores and supermarkets. For high-end cooking at home, seekers must buy it online.
Choice is a middle-grade steak as well as the middle ground of steaks in America. The USDA labels the majority of beef on the market as choice-grade, which can be considered average and good-tasting. Fillet or ribeye cuts make excellent steak with this grade of beef.
Select is considered the lowest grade as a leaner cut of beef because it lacks marbling and intramuscular fat. This grade of beef is denser in texture and less juicy in flavor, but that doesn’t make it a total waste of money. Any steak can be considered a good steak; it just depends on your personal taste and pocketbook.
Why Beef Grades and Cuts Matter
Noticeable differences in the meat industry and the world as a whole can be subtle. But even subtle differences matter. Foodies and other people who are inclined to taste can notice the diversity in the cut and grade of their steaks. These individuals understand that eating isn’t only a way of nourishment and energy—it’s meant to be an experience.
At Lone Mountain Wagyu, we have high-quality, high-grade Wagyu beef available for purchase online. Our Wagyu cattle come from a prized bloodline to provide gourmet beef with refined flavor. This 100% full-blood Wagyu beef is one-of-a-kind in taste and texture because of the detailed care we take in our cattle breeding and production. Take a look at our mail-order steak cuts and sets, which we can deliver directly from our ranch to your front door. We’re passionate about beef to let customers eat their lives to the fullest.