Exploring the Different Cuts of Beef

When it comes to ordering large quantities of beef, many people wonder about the specific cuts they’ll receive. It’s important to understand that a steer is composed of much more than just steaks. In this article, we’ll delve into the various cuts of beef, highlighting the best ones and shedding light on where they come from. Whether you order a quarter, half, or whole cow, you’ll get a variety of cuts that are perfect for grilling, roasting, stewing, or even slow cooking.

Unveiling the Primal Cuts

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifies a steer into eight main regions called primal cuts. These eight cuts serve as the foundation for labeling beef cuts. Here are the essential eight:

  • Chuck
  • Rib
  • Loin (short loin and sirloin)
  • Round
  • Flank
  • Short Plate
  • Brisket
  • Shank

From these primal cuts, subprimals are derived, which are then further divided into individual steaks, roasts, and retail cuts. These cuts are carefully wrapped and ready to be cooked, ensuring you get the most succulent flavors.

Exploring the Best Cuts

You may be wondering which cuts are considered the best and most tender. The answer lies in the center of the steer, specifically the loin and rib sections. Here, you’ll find the most expensive and flavorful cuts of beef, including the tenderloin (also known as filet mignon), ribeye, strip, and T-bone steaks. The muscles in these sections do minimal work, resulting in exceptionally tender cuts.

The Confusion of Beef Cut Names

One of the reasons beef cuts can be confusing is that they vary depending on the store or region. Grocery stores and butchers have their own ways of cutting and naming beef, often leading to over 60 different beef products. At Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ, we label our beef cuts with the most common names for easy identification.

Further reading:  Corned Beef Seasoning: Elevate Your Favorite Dish with Homemade Flavors

Understanding Where Beef Cuts Come From

To simplify the process, here’s a breakdown of the different cuts:


The chuck, located in the shoulder area, is a flavorful but tougher cut. Ground chuck, flat-iron steak, chuck short ribs, and chuck pot roast are just a few examples of the various cuts derived from this area.


Found in the breast area, brisket is a tough cut with a significant amount of fat. However, when properly marinated and slow-cooked, it becomes incredibly tender and is often used for barbecue, corned beef, or pastrami.


Located in the forearm, in front of the brisket, the shank is one of the toughest cuts. It’s commonly used for dishes like Osso Buco, where braising is necessary to achieve tenderness. The shank is perfect for stews and soups.


The ribs, along with the backbone, comprise this section. The last section of the ribs (6-12) is considered the primal section, offering flavorful cuts with ample marbling. Delmonico steak, boneless ribeye roast, and beef short ribs are some of the options from this section. The Prime Rib Roast, known for its size and marbling, is also a highly sought-after cut.


Also known as the short plate, this section is the source of short ribs. It is found near the abdomen and is slightly fattier. Plate cuts are perfect for fajitas, pastrami, skirt steak, and short ribs.


The loin is home to the most expensive cuts of beef. Located directly behind the rib, it is tender and packed with flavor. The loin consists of two parts: the shortloin and the sirloin. Filet mignon, tenderloin steak, T-bone, Porterhouse steaks, strip steak, New York Strip, and KC Strip are all popular cuts from the shortloin. The sirloin, while slightly less tender, offers tremendous flavor and includes cuts like sirloin steak, top sirloin steak, and Tri-Tip Roast.

Further reading:  The Irresistible Outback Steak Dip: A Creamy Delight


The round, found at the rump and hind legs, is a lean and cost-effective cut. While it can sometimes be tough, it is commonly sold as ground beef. Other cuts include round steak, eye of round, tip steak, and tip roast.


Located below the loin, the flank is boneless and highly flavorful but also tough. Flank steak and London broil are popular choices from this section. Flank steak has increased in popularity due to its leanness.

What to Expect with a Quarter or Half Beef

At Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ, when you order a quarter or half beef, we follow a standard cut list to ensure fair distribution among customers. With a quarter beef, you’ll receive approximately 50 pounds of ground beef and 60 pounds of steaks, roasts, brisket, and more. The specific cuts included are:

  • Ground Beef
  • Steaks: Filet, Ribeye, Sirloin, Skirt, and Strip
  • Brisket
  • Roasts: Chuck, Arm, Rump, and Round
  • Stew Meat
  • Kabob Meat
  • Beef Ribs
  • Soup Bones
  • Miscellaneous: Liver, Heart, and Tongue (availability depends on your specific order)

Exploring Unique Cuts

We occasionally receive inquiries about more unique cuts like Delmonico and Club Steaks. While these cuts may not be on our standard cut list, it’s important to note that the number of steaks a steer can yield is relatively limited. For instance, a T-bone steak can be modified to create a tenderloin and strip steak. Similarly, a Porterhouse Steak is essentially a larger T-bone steak. Due to the limited amount of beef from each animal, it’s challenging to have multiple types of steaks from a single order.

Demystifying Stew Beef and Kabob Meat

You won’t find specific beef cuts labeled as “stew meat” or “kabob meat” on a beef chart. These terms refer to meat that has been cubed and packaged together. Stew meat is typically made from trimmings of roast and chuck sections, while kabob meat comes from primal cuts like sirloin. Kabob meat tends to consist of larger chunks. Both options offer versatility and affordability.

Further reading:  Outback Steakhouse Specials: Irresistible Combo Deals

The Benefits of Ordering a Whole Cow

If you decide to order a whole cow, you’ll have more cutting options as you won’t be sharing with other customers. Additionally, you can specifically request one-per-animal parts like tongue and heart.

The Composition of a Quarter or Half Beef

Technically, a side of beef refers to one side of the carcass, split through the backbone and halved between the 12th and 13th ribs. However, at Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ, we use a mixed quarter or mixed half method. This ensures that you receive cuts from both the front and back of the cow, providing a diverse selection.

Exploring Offal Cuts

Certain parts of a cow, such as the tongue, oxtail, and heart, are limited to one-per-animal. If you’re interested in these offal cuts, please inform us when placing your order, and availability will be confirmed.

Tips for Cooking Different Cuts

To bring out the best flavors, each cut of beef requires a specific cooking method. High-heat methods like grilling and broiling are ideal for some cuts, while slow-cooking methods like braising and stewing are better suited for others. By matching the cut with the appropriate cooking technique, you’ll be able to enjoy tender and delicious beef.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the various cuts of beef can enhance your appreciation for the meat you consume. At Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ, we provide high-quality beef that is carefully cut and packaged to ensure optimal flavor and tenderness. Whether you’re grilling steaks, slow-cooking roasts, or experimenting with different cooking methods, our beef will deliver exceptional results every time.

Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ