Your guide to beef
Selecting the right cut of meat for your recipe is important. It can make
a huge difference to the end result in terms of cost, time to cook and
Shopping for beef
When shopping for joints, allow 100-175g (4-6oz) raw meat per person for boneless joints and 225-350g (8-12oz) for bone-in joints. Buy beef from a good quality retailer where it should have been matured long enough to ensure optimum flavour and tenderness. Beef should be dark red in colour with no unpleasant or unusual smells. Look for joints with good marbling (streaks of fat that run through the leaner parts of the muscle). During cooking marbling helps to baste joints and add flavour. Any visible surface fat should be white or creamy in colour, feel firm, and should have a soft waxy texture.
As a guide, red meat will keep for between three to five days in the refrigerator at a temperature of between 0-4°C. Always ensure you follow any `use by’ dates on packaging.
Beef is divided into four quarters – two forequarters and two hindquarters. The forequarter runs from the neck to the loin.
The cuts from the forequarter can be less tender, as these muscles work the hardest. They often require slower methods of cooking, such as stewing, casseroling, braising and pot-roasting.
The hindquarter is the back end of the animal, with more tender cuts that are suitable for roasting and quicker cooking methods.
BEST BEEF CUTS FOR ROASTING
Topside, silverside and mini joint – Taken from the hindquarter and is a large, lean boneless cut of meat with little marbling and a fine-grained texture. Ideal for roasting as they are very tender and can be carved into lean slices. Mini joints are suitable for smaller households and will serve 2-3 people. These joints are often sold with added fat for roasting.
Fore rib, boneless rib – A premium roasting cut, this joint is evenly marbled with fat and covered with a layer of natural fat. Boneless rib may be sliced and sold as rib-eye steaks. If buying on the bone ask your butcher to chine the backbone as this makes it easier to carve.
Boneless rolled sirloin – The classic roast beef joint of England so called because, as legend has it, it was knighted ‘Sir Loin’ by Henry VIII. Great for a special occasion, this prized joint comes from the hindquarter and makes an impressive centrepiece for any table.
BEST BEEF CUTS FOR PAN FRYING, GRILLING & GRIDDLING
Rib eye* – Large and slightly rounded steaks cut from the eye of the fore rib. They carry a little more fat than other steaks, but have a wonderful flavour. These steaks may also be sold on the bone.
Sirloin* – Sold boneless, sirloin steak has a great flavour. Steaks are cut to about 2cm (¾inch) thick and have a thin layer of fat running along the top of the steak.
Rump* – Larger and with a firmer texture than sirloin steak, rump steak is often considered to have more flavour.
Fillet – This is the most lean and tender of all steaks making it the most prized of cuts. Typically 4cm (1½inch) thick, it cooks quickly and there is no waste, which makes it worth considering for a special occasion.
Frying/Minute steaks* (not illustrated) – This inexpensive steak is taken from the thick flank. Take care in the cooking of these steaks to ensure optimum tenderness and flavour. Great for a decadent sandwich or baguette.
Stir-fry strips – Rump cut into strips and ideal for stir fries, salads and wraps.
BEST BEEF CUTS FOR SLOW COOKING
Shin – A well-flavoured cut from the leg which is sold as bone-in or boneless medallion-shaped pieces of meat, perfect for rich and tasty stews and casseroles.
Boneless cubes, braising steak – These cuts are typically from the chuck or blade and are ideal for casseroling or braising.
Brisket – A popular economical joint, taken from the belly, and sold boned and rolled. Ideal for pot-roasting for tender, mouthwatering
Daubes – These are from the topside or silverside and trimmed to uniform size. They are perfect for stewing, casseroling or braising.
Oxtail – Generally sold as bone-in pieces, this cut is experiencing a revival. With gentle cooking it makes the most fantastic flavoured soups, stews and casseroles.
Ox kidney – Divided into many small lobes, the whole kidney weighs about 450g (1lb) and is perfect for slow cooking, particularly in steak and kidney pudding.