The key factor in preparing excellent beef is choosing the right cut of meat for the job. “Tougher” cuts of meat come from harder working areas of the cow – areas where the muscles are used more, like the shoulder (called “chuck”) and brisket (from the chest). This meat, while tougher, is also very flavorful. Tougher cuts are best suited to slow moist cooking like braising and stewing which tenderize it and make it melt-in-the-mouth smooth. Think of a beautiful beef stew (beef Bourguignon anyone?) or the best pot roast ever.
Cuts of meat from areas where the muscles are not used as much, like the ribs and loin, are more tender. They are best suited to quick, dry heat cooking methods like grilling and roasting. Think of a perfectly cooked bone-in rib eye steak, tender and flavorful… or a filet mignon with a red wine sauce to compliment the filet’s mild flavor and maximum tenderness.
With the wide selection available and the varying names for cuts in different parts of the country, buying meat can be a bit confusing. Keep in mind the guidelines above, and always ask the butcher when you have a question – you’ll be buying meat with confidence in no time.