Meat is not just meat; there’s a difference between a carefully selected piece of sirloin and silverside. The type of cattle also makes a huge difference as do all the things that go into rearing and processing meat.
Beef, a prized variety of meat that’s forbidden to be eaten in some cultures, is a versatile product that can lead to delicious preparations like filet mignon, steak and pot roast. Originally slightly tough, tenderizing and marinating can bring out the juices of this red meat which, incidentally, is claimed by many to be the best meat there is. You judge for yourself by sampling these cuts.
The shin/leg: Part of the leg, the shin naturally contains less meat and fat as is the case with most types of meat. Even so, those favoring a less fatty cut can still find plenty of ways to make it work. Soups and stews are tried and tested recipes especially in cold weather.
Silverside and topside: Part of the rump but located more toward the rear (hindquarter), silverside and topside are lean, tender cuts. Since they have very less fat, they’re usually sold with a sheet of fat around them which prevents the meat from drying out. Corned beef is the most popular recipe made out of silverside/topside. It may also be stewed for people who don’t favor fatty cuts.
Rump: The rump is fattier than the hindquarters and also a little softer. It covers a large area which makes it perfect for roasting and frying. Cut it into large strips or small chunks to get the most flavor.
Tenderloin: Considered an expensive cut no matter where you eat, tenderloin is the tender part of the hindquarters from which is made filet mignon and tenderloin steaks. The reason tenderloins are tender is because that part of the body is not overworked so the muscles aren’t tough.
Located near the tenderloin region is the sirloin which is about as tender as tenderloin but more moist. It’s perfect for a tender roast or a steak.
Brisket: The brisket is part of the breast and is considered a prime cut. It’s ideal for pot roasts, corned beef and pastrami. The cut is high in fat. Being a tough cut of beef, it benefits from slow cooking after a good marinade. Brining also helps as the salt creates moisture.
Blade and chuck: Blade and chuck are derived from the fore ribs. They can be roasted, made into steaks, stewed, grilled and pot roasted. More on the tough side, slow cooking can bring out the flavor and soften the cut.
Flank: Last of the prime cuts is the flank (the belly) which is quick to cook, affordable and perfect for meals you don’t have time to slave over. Lying somewhere tender and tough, overcooking can cause it to toughen even more so keeping an eye on it while cooking is a must.
Cut isn’t the only factor that influences how tender or tough and how flavorful beef is. Marbling also plays a part. This refers to the layers of fat inside fat which gives it a juicier, tender and more distinct flavor. Grades 8 to 12 are excellent while 5 to 7 are good. 3 and 4 are average and anything less is considered sub-par.