Once you know cuts of meat for beef, you're ready to cook pork and lamb, too. The basic principles of butchering hold true no matter which meat you choose. By and large, the more expensive the cut is per pound, the more tender it is. But oftentimes, tougher cuts carry more meaty flavor. Choose from tender muscles from the backs and ribs that don't get a lot of work, or go for the hard-working cuts of muscles around the shoulders, thighs and legs.
Cuts for Grilling and Pan Frying
Steaks of all kinds work well for grilling, with the bone in, bone out or cut into chunks for kabobs. Beefy T-bones, sirloins and porterhouse steaks all satisfy. But don't ignore the tri-tip from the tender, bottom part of the steer's hindsection. Filet mignon is a very tender cut with less saturated fat than other steaks, but some beef lovers complain that it has a less beefy taste than more fatty cuts. With lamb or pork, choose rib or loin chops from the animal's back or pork spareribs from the midsection. Pork blade steaks come from shoulder roasts and have lots of tasty, but fatty, marbling.
Cuts for Marinating
Beef flank steak from the underside of the steer, bottom round steaks from the back end of the animal and skirt steaks from underneath the ribs all work well for grilling or pan frying, but only after marinating to help break down the muscle. Because these steaks are lean, they're lower in calories and saturated fat than more tender cuts. Small in diameter and very tender, pork tenderloin benefits from the flavors you infuse into the meat from marinating because it has such a mild taste on its own.
Cuts for Roasting
Lean tenderloins cook quickly in the oven. Try beef tenderloin, shoulder petite tender roasts and pork loin roasts or tenderloins. Fatty and meaty-tasting roasts for special-occasion dinners take longer to cook. For lamb, these include leg of lamb, rolled loin roast and the impressive crown rib roast similar to a beef standing rib roast. Beef roasts include ribeye, sirloin tip and eye of round. Pork roasts encompass hams, pork rib roasts and very fatty but flavorful pork belly, which you can also cook by braising.
Cuts for Stewing
Stewing and braising use moist heat to tenderize tough cuts of meat – this is the perfect time to use your slow cooker or Dutch oven. For beef stew, choose cuts such as chuck or blade roasts. For pork, choose an arm pork roast, blade pork roast or the unfortunately named Boston butt roast, all from the animal's shoulder region. You can also braise lamb shoulder roasts and shoulder chops, named either arm chops or blade chops.
Flat iron steak, from a steer's shoulder region, is tender, well marbled and good for grilling. A bavette steak from the lower back of the animal also works for grilling or for stir-fries if you marinate it first. Or, walk on the wild side and try beef tongue with its rich meaty flavor, or beef neck to braise in a hearty beef stew. And, if you dare, try deep-frying lamb sweetbreads, the meat from the thymus gland and pancreas. For pork, go for some ham hocks to braise with beans or in soups to add flavor with less fat than the whole hog.
- Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association: Explore our Cuts Collections
- Thrillist: The Most Overrated and Underrated Cuts of Beef
- National Pork Board: Pork Steak
- Thrillist: Everything You Need to Know About Every Cut of Beef
- Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst, The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion
- Kitchn: What Are Sweetbreads, and Why You Should Try Them?