"Beef: It's what's for dinner." The popular slogan from the '90s assumes that we're having beef for dinner, but more often than not we frustratingly can't find the cut we want at the supermarket. Whether you eat beef quite often or just here and there, the task of buying beef can be quite confusing, especially when you're not familiar with the countless cuts. But there's no need to become schooled in butchery to navigate the meat counter. All you have to know is that every cut has its best cooking method, and that every cut has a good substitute. We've put together a handy guide on the most popular cuts with substitution tips (see below). Once you recognize the most common cuts, it'll be easier to choose the right one for the recipe you're making.
For more detail on all the possible cuts of beef, see this beef chart.
Which cut of beef do you buy most often? Leave a comment.
Beef tenderloin, one of the most popular but also most expensive cuts, can be roasted whole or sliced into filet mignon for steaks. Tenderloin has the least amount of fat and connective tissue, so it doesn't need long to cook. In fact, it's best served rare or medium-rare -- it's the most tender that way. You shouldn't cook any of these cuts past medium-rare as they will become tough. <strong>Substitutes:</strong> Eye of round roast (for roasting) Rib eye roast (for roasting) Eye of round steak (for grilling) Rib eye steak (for grilling) Top loin steak (for grilling) Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuart_spivack/315483408/" target="_hplink">stu_spivack, Flickr</a>.
Chuck Roast Or Steak
Chuck is one of the most economical cuts of beef and one of the most flavorful. But since it comes from the shoulder/neck area, it is also one of the toughest meats. It's best for braising, stews, roasts and pot roasts. <strong>Substitutes:</strong> Top round (for stewing) Bottom round (for stewing) Sirloin tip (for roasting) Top sirloin roast (for roasting) Brisket (for braising) Short ribs (for braising) Shank (for braising) Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitneyinchicago/4378795805/" target="_hplink">whitneyinchicago, Flickr</a>.
Rib roast (a.k.a. prime rib) is one of the most impressive cuts of beef for a dinner party or any celebration. The meat is well-marbled and very flavorful. <strong>Substitutes:</strong> Ribeye roast Tenderloin roast Eye of round roast Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dongkwan/4144663693/" target="_hplink">VirtualErn, Flickr</a>.
Sirloin cuts are lean, full of flavor and are more affordable than their neighboring cuts, T-bone and Porterhouse. Many sirloin cuts have a piece of bone, but there is also boneless sirloin steak (a.k.a. rump or butt steak). The meat tends to be chewy, so cooking methods like grilling or pan-searing are the best. It's the preferred cut of beef for stir-frying. <strong>Substitutes:</strong> Round steak T-bone steak Strip steak Porterhouse steak Top round steak (for stir-frying)
Flank steak is lean, flavorful but tough. It comes from the underside of the animal. It's great marinated and then broiled or grilled and sliced thinly against the grain. A popular recipe is London broil. Flank steak can also be braised and shredded for use in chili or stew recipes or stuffed, rolled and roasted. <strong>Substitutes:</strong> Skirt steak (for grilling or broiling) Hanger steak (for grilling or broiling) Top round steak (for grilling or broiling) brisket (for braising) Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotoosvanrobin/6302673404/" target="_hplink">FotoosVanRobin, Flickr</a>.
Brisket is a tough yet flavorful cut of beef from the chest of the animal. It is best for lengthy cooking methods, such as barbecue, braising and pot roasting. The two cuts available are the lean flat or first cut, and the fattier point cut. <strong>Substitutes:</strong> Bottom round roast (for braising and pot roasts) Flank steak (for braising, pot roasts and barbecuing) Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/timomcd/4965255377/" target="_hplink">Timomcd, Flickr</a>.
Top Round Steak
Top round, a lean and flavorful cut, from the rear of the animal is great for broiling and grilling. It's popularly used in London broil. <strong>Substitutes:</strong> Flank steak Round steak Round tip steak Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lamenta3/4460847824/" target="_hplink">LaMenta3, Flickr</a>.
Bottom Round Roast
The bottom round (a.k.a. rump roast) is a tough but rather lean cut of meat from the rear of the animal. It can be roasted but is more typically used in braises like pot roasts. <strong>Substitutes:</strong> Chuck roast Eye of round roast Round tip roast Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.csumeats.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=23" target="_hplink">CSU Meats</a>.
WATCH: How To Choose The Best Cuts Of Beef
Here's how you can get the best cuts of beef the next time you go beef shopping.