Not every piece of meat is cut from the same cloth, particularly with steak. You’ve got some that are great for grilling. Others that should simmer in a stew. And still others who belong on a clean white plate with a hefty price tag.
But for those less knowledgeable about the inner-workings of a good cut of beef, the cuts can get confusing. When you stand before the meat counter at the grocery store, how do you know which package to purchase? Reach for the wrong thing and your family might be gnawing on a tough bite of cube when they should be relishing the savory flavor of your mad meat-cooking skills.
Who better to straighten out these question marks than the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association? The organization creates long and daunting charts that detail every single cut of beef—mostly used by chefs or butchers—but they also provide a handy once-over on the top five most popular beef cuts among everyday shoppers. Here goes:
#1. Chuck Pot Roast. This is what you need when you want to braise and slow-cook a nice hunk of comfort food. Bon Appétit says this is the only type of meat you should use if you’re making beef stew.
#2. Top Loin Steak. Top loin is lean, but it’s also a mean meat machine. This is where New York Strip comes from. The taste is dynamic. According to grilling expert Derrick Riches, top loin is one of the most versatile steaks. It is tender and flavorful and can be cooked just about any way you want—as long as you want hot and fast. It’s great on a grill or in a pan.
#3. Top Round Steak. This is also a lean cut that works well in a stir fry or steak sandwich. You can grill it or broil it. According to the NCBA, it’s an economical choice that should be marinated before cooking. Cook it only to medium rare.
#4. Top Sirloin Steak. The Cattlemen’s Association claims that top sirloin would be voted "most likely to succeed” in steak school. This cut can be "cubed for kabobs, stripped in stir-fry or grilled straight up as a steak.” And it’s lean, too.
#5. T-Bone Steak. The T-bone is built for the grill, according to Riches. It’s got lots of fat, which helps keep it moist. This should be your choice for a backyard barbecue, and it doesn’t need a lot of seasoning.