Have you ever gone into the beef section of your grocery store, unsure of what cuts of beef to buy? Navigating through the variety of beef cuts available can be a daunting task, especially with different names and sizes. Fear not, this ultimate guide will equip you with the knowledge to confidently select the perfect cut for your next meal.


PRIMAL CUTS: Primal cuts refer to the major, primary sections of an animal carcass that are typically separated during the initial butchering process. These large cuts are the foundational divisions and include regions such as the loin, rib, chuck, round, and brisket. Primal cuts serve as the starting point for further butchering, eventually yielding smaller, more specific cuts that are commonly found at retail meat counters. They play a key role in meat processing, culinary traditions, and the categorization of various cuts based on their anatomical location.

SUBPRIMAL CUTS: Sub-primal cuts are intermediate cuts of meat derived from larger primal cuts during the butchering process. While primal cuts represent the major divisions of an animal carcass, sub-primal cuts further break down these sections into more manageable and specific portions. Sub-primal cuts provide a more detailed categorization, allowing for a diverse range of options for consumers and chefs when selecting meat for cooking.


  1. Chuck: The chuck primal is derived from the shoulder region of the cow and includes cuts such as chuck roasts and steaks. Known for its rich and flavorful meat, the chuck is often used for slow-cooking methods like braising, making it ideal for dishes like pot roasts and stews.
  2. Rib: The rib primal is situated between the chuck and loin and includes cuts like ribeye steaks and prime rib roasts. Renowned for its well-marbled and tender meat, rib cuts are often favored for grilling and roasting, showcasing their exceptional flavor and juiciness.
  3. Loin: The loin primal is located along the spine of the cow and includes prized cuts such as tenderloin and sirloin. Known for its tenderness and leanness, loin cuts are versatile and can be cooked using various methods, from grilling and roasting to pan-searing, offering a balance of tenderness and flavor.
  4. Round: The round primal is derived from the hindquarters of the cow and includes cuts like top round and bottom round. Known for its lean and less tender meat, round cuts are often used for slow-cooking methods, thin slicing, or grinding for lean ground beef, making them suitable for dishes like roast beef and jerky.
  5. Flank: The flank primal is situated in the abdominal area of the cow and includes the flank steak. Characterized by its robust flavor and long grain, flank steak benefits from marination and quick cooking methods like grilling or pan-searing. It is commonly used in dishes such as fajitas and stir-fries.
  6. Plate: The plate primal is located beneath the rib primal and includes cuts like short ribs. Known for its meaty richness, short plate cuts are often favored for braising, resulting in succulent and flavorful dishes. Short ribs are popular for their tenderness and ability to absorb flavors during slow cooking.
  7. Brisket: The brisket primal is situated in the chest area and includes the well-known brisket cut. Recognized for its tough texture, brisket benefits from slow-cooking methods such as smoking or braising, resulting in tender and flavorful meat. It is a favorite for barbecue enthusiasts and is often used in dishes like corned beef.
  8. Shank: The shank primal is located in the lower leg of the cow and includes cuts like shank crosscut. Shank cuts are rich in connective tissue, making them ideal for slow-cooking methods that break down collagen, adding depth and richness to broths and stews. Shank crosscut, in particular, is known for its marrow, enhancing the flavor of soups and stocks.
  9. Various: The lesser-known and often overlooked parts of beef, often referred to as "nose-to-tail" cuts, present a wealth of flavor and nutritional value. Cuts like oxtail or beef cheeks may not be traditional primal cuts, but they boast succulent dishes when slow-cooked or braised. Embracing these cuts aligns with a sustainable and holistic approach to consuming the entire animal. When you order from OutWest Beef, you have the unique opportunity to grab some of these lesser-known delicacies.



  1. Chuck Roll: The Chuck Roll, derived from the chuck primal, is a well-marbled subprimal cut featuring both the Chuck Eye and the Roll. Known for its flavorful and tender qualities, it is often used for pot roasts or cut into steaks for grilling, providing a perfect balance of richness and succulence.
  2. Chuck Shoulder: The Chuck Shoulder, another subprimal cut from the chuck, includes blade roasts and steaks. Recognized for its robust flavor, it's a versatile cut suitable for pot roasts, slow-cooking, or braising methods, ensuring a hearty and satisfying dining experience.
  3. Flat Iron Steak: The Flat Iron Steak, derived from the shoulder, is known for its tenderness and marbling. Often likened to more premium cuts, the flat iron is suitable for grilling or pan-searing, offering a balance of tenderness and rich beef flavor.


  1. Ribeye: The Ribeye, a subprimal cut from the rib, is celebrated for its exceptional tenderness and marbling. Whether grilled, pan-seared, or roasted, Ribeye steaks offer a luxurious eating experience with their rich flavor and juicy texture, making them a favorite among steak enthusiasts.
  2. Tomahawk Steak: is a type of ribeye steak known for its long rib bone, which is left intact and extended, resembling the shape of a single-handed axe or tomahawk. This bone, also called the "French bone" or "rib bone handle," is usually trimmed, leaving a clean, exposed bone that enhances the presentation of the steak
  3. Rib Short Ribs: Short Ribs, derived from the rib primal, are a meaty and flavorful subprimal cut. Often favored for braising or slow-cooking methods, they absorb flavors well and result in succulent, fall-off-the-bone meat, making them a delectable choice for hearty dishes.


  1. T-Bone: The T-Bone, a subprimal cut from the short loin, features both the tenderloin and the strip loin. Renowned for its versatility and combination of textures, the T-Bone is ideal for grilling or pan-searing, offering a dual culinary experience with the tenderness of the tenderloin and the robust flavor of the strip loin.
  2. Porterhouse steak: A Porterhouse steak is a large and premium cut of beef that is taken from the short loin of the cow. It is similar to a T-bone steak but has a larger portion of the tenderloin muscle. The defining feature of a Porterhouse is the T-shaped bone that runs through the meat, separating two significant cuts: the larger strip steak (or New York strip) on one side and the smaller tenderloin (or filet mignon) on the other.
  3. New York Steak: The term "New York steak" typically refers to a specific cut of beef known as the New York strip steak. This steak is taken from the short loin of a cow and is known for its tenderness and rich flavor. The New York strip steak is characterized by its leaner texture compared to cuts like ribeye.
  4. Sirloin: The Sirloin, a subprimal cut from the loin, includes various cuts like top sirloin and bottom sirloin. Known for its balance of tenderness and flavor, sirloin cuts are versatile and suitable for grilling, roasting, or pan-searing, providing a delicious dining option.
  5. Tenderloin: Also known as Filet Mignon, the Tenderloin is a subprimal cut from the loin. Recognized for its unparalleled tenderness, it is commonly prepared using dry-heat cooking methods such as roasting or pan-searing, creating a melt-in-the-mouth culinary delight.
  6. Top Sirloin: Top Sirloin, located in the sirloin subprimal, is favored for its balance of tenderness and robust flavor. Whether grilled, roasted, or sliced for stir-fries, Top Sirloin offers versatility and a satisfying beefy taste.
  7. Bottom Sirloin: Bottom Sirloin, another subprimal cut from the sirloin, includes cuts like tri-tip. Known for its rich flavor and tenderness, it is often grilled or roasted, providing a delightful combination of juiciness and beefy taste.
  8. Tri-Tip: Tri-Tip, a triangular subprimal cut from the sirloin, is favored for its balance of tenderness and flavor. Often grilled or roasted, the tri-tip is a regional favorite in certain parts of the United States, providing a juicy and robust beef experience.


  1. Round Steak: Round Steak, derived from the round primal, is a lean subprimal cut suitable for various cooking methods. Often used for thin slicing or marinating, it can be pan-seared or grilled to achieve a balance between tenderness and a leaner beef profile.
  2. Rump: The Rump, a subprimal cut from the round, is known for its lean and flavorful meat. Often used for roasts or sliced into steaks, the rump offers a robust beefy taste, making it suitable for those who prefer leaner cuts.
  3. Top Round: Top Round, derived from the round primal, is a versatile subprimal cut that can be roasted, sliced for steaks, or used for stews. With a balance of leanness and tenderness, top round is a popular choice for various culinary applications.
  4. Bottom Round: Bottom Round, another subprimal cut from the round, is often used for roasts, slow-cooking, or thin slicing. While lean, it can be tenderized through marination and slow-cooking methods, providing a cost-effective option for flavorful beef dishes.
  5. Eye of Round: The Eye of Round, a lean subprimal cut from the round, is commonly used for roasting or as a source for lean, thinly sliced deli meat. While it may be less tender compared to other cuts, its versatility and leanness make it a popular choice for certain culinary applications.


  1. Flank Steak: The Flank Steak, situated in the abdominal area, is a thin and flavorful subprimal cut. Often used for marinated and grilled dishes like fajitas, the flank steak offers a bold beefy taste and benefits from proper slicing against the grain for tenderness.


  1. Skirt Steak: Skirt Steak, another subprimal cut from the diaphragm area, is recognized for its robust flavor and loose texture. Ideal for grilling or pan-searing, skirt steak is a favorite for tacos and fajitas, offering a rich and beefy taste.
  2. Hanger Steak: Hanger Steak, located in the plate primal, is prized for its intense flavor and tenderness. Often marinated and grilled, the hanger steak's unique taste and succulence make it a favorite among those seeking a distinctive beef experience.
  3. Plate Short Ribs: Plate short ribs are a cut of beef taken from the plate primal, which is located beneath the rib primal. These ribs are known for their rich marbling and a higher proportion of meat to bone, making them flavorful and well-suited for slow cooking methods such as braising or smoking. Plate short ribs typically consist of meat and layers of fat and connective tissue.


  1. Brisket Flat: The Brisket Flat, from the brisket primal, is a leaner portion often used in barbecue. Slow-cooked or smoked, the brisket flat yields tender slices with a distinctive smoky flavor, making it a centerpiece in traditional barbecue cuisine.
  2. Brisket Point: The Brisket Point, another section of the brisket primal, is fattier and more marbled. Often used for smoked or braised dishes, the brisket point provides succulent, flavorful meat with a melt-in-the-mouth texture.


  1. Shank Cross Cut: Shank Cross Cut, from the shank primal, includes a bone with marrow surrounded by meat. Ideal for slow-cooking and soups, the cross-cut shank adds richness and depth of flavor, contributing to hearty and savory dishes.


  1. Ground Beef: While not a traditional cut, Ground Beef is a common and versatile form made by grinding various beef cuts. Used in countless recipes, from burgers to meatballs, ground beef allows for easy incorporation into a wide range of dishes, showcasing the adaptability of this staple in everyday cooking.
  2. Stew Meat: Stew meat refers to small, bite-sized pieces of meat that are suitable for slow-cooking in stews, soups, or casseroles. The meat used for stewing can come from various cuts of beef, such as chuck, round, or even stewing beef specifically sold for this purpose. The key characteristic of stew meat is its ability to become tender and flavorful when cooked over a longer period at lower temperatures.
  3. Beef Organs: Eating beef organs can provide a rich source of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and A. Organs like liver, heart, and kidneys are considered nutrient-dense foods and can contribute to a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Incorporating beef organs into your meals can add variety to your diet and offer unique flavors and textures.

Further Reading:

Images courtesy of Beef Checkoff. A great resource for this information is the beef checkoff website. They are a organization that all farmers pay into to create content:


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