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Beef Steaks: Selection and Processing

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Beef Steaks - who doesn't like steak?!  


There are many 'standard' cuts of beef steaks, and there are what is termed as 'value added' cuts of steaks that have never been promoted before, but, nonetheless, have good flavor and tenderness.  We will start off with the Round:


First is the Round Steak:



This is a cut commonly used for swiss steak, cooking it in liquid for gaining tenderness, and being involved in the locomotion of the steer (from the hind leg), it produces the inherent toughness of the cut.


But, it was discovered in the late 50's and 60's, when cooked with the London Broil method, cut 1½" :- 2½" thick, it became tender enough to  consume, sliced thin across the grain and medium rare to rare.  

(The term "London Broil" refers to a method of cookery done with a flank steak in London, England originally.  However, today, it applies to any thick cut piece of beef.)



The round steak can be very thin cut (for braciole) to medium to very thick.


Then, you can divide the steak into its parts - top round, eye round, bottom round, in all thickness varieties, and can be pan fried, broiled, simmered, saute'd, smoked, boiled - practically any cooking method you wish to tenderize it and make it edible (or inedible, as some would attest, lol!).  Bottom round is the least tender, eye round next, and top round the most tender, but still below sirloin.


Beef top round thin:



Beef top round medium:



Beef top round thick:



Beef eye round steak thin:



Beef eye round steak medium:

Beef eye round steak thick:



Beef bottom round steak thin:



Beef bottom round steak medium:



Beef bottom round steak thick:



(...which curiously looks like a bottom round roast....or thick cut steak..... or thick cut bottom round for London Broil....! All the same, just different nomenclature!)


Again, the top round is most tender (but not as tender as sirloin or sirloin tip), then eye, and lastly bottom round, all done medium rare to rare.  Anything more the fibers contract and toughen up considerably.


Beef round for Braciole:


There is an Italian dish that requires very thin cut beef, it is called Braciole - stuffed beef rolls, tied in thin string, browned, then cooked in Italian gravy (red sauce):


Beef rolls:



Very thin top round sliced for braciole:



Beef braciole in sauce:



Flank is used, but can be substituted with round, sirloin, sirloin tip, chuck, chuck shoulder, etc.  It is delicious!  (My descent is Scottish, but my stomach is pure Italian!).


Of course, all cuts can be 'tenderized' with a 'cubing machine'


The machine part on the bottom are interlacing tines that rotate and make small slices in the meat, breaking up the meat fibers.  The cubing mechanism fits tight in the body of the machine, under the dark plastic guard.  The guard is there for a reason, to prevent fingers from reaching the tines.  But, meat cutters being as they are, try to speed up the process and circumvent the safety features and put a magnet on the machine, leaving the tines exposed, making it easier to drop cube steak material through faster.  I personally saw a meat cutter get his fingers and hand sucked into the tines, stalling the machine.  Once that happens, the mechanism is impossible to get apart and is jammed solid in the base; you have to call the Fire Dep't to use their Jaws of Life to break apart the machine to get his hand out, and was not a pretty site - he lost his fingers, thumb, and half his palm, had just a stub left on his arm.  DEFINITELY not worth the little bit of extra time saved doing that 'trick'.


Cubed Steak:




Sirloin Tip (also known as knuckle):


The sirloin tip can be cut into steaks and are more tender than the round, as it is not involved as much in locomotion.  There is the sirloin tip steak with cap:




and sirloin tip without cap:



Then it can be merchandised into "petite steaks":



or divided into 'silver side' sandwich steaks and small sirloin tip steaks:



and of course, Sirloin Tip For London Broil:



or thin sliced for sandwich steaks:





Next on the hindquarter is the rump, usually a roast:


However, you can cut steaks from this roast - be sure to cut them across the grain, which runs diagonal:




And this leads us to the loin:




There are several cuts of bone-in steaks in the loin.  round bone sirloin, flat bone sirloin, hip bone sirloin, porterhouse, t-bone, club:


beef round bone sirloin steak:



beef flat bone sirloin steak:



beef hip bone sirloin steak:



beef porterhouse steak:



beef t-bone steak :


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Now, one would ask, "What is the difference between a t-bone and a porterhouse?".  The delineation between one and the other is in the tenderloin side (smaller muscle on the left).  When the tenderloin begins to curve back upward like a teardrop, then it is a porterhouse!  


beef club steak:  (no tenderloin)



That is the "bone-in" sections of the beef loin.   The boneless sections are actually simpler.


First, is the beef bonelss sirloin top butt:



Sliced into steaks:



Next is the beef boneless strip loin:



Beef boneless strip sliced: club, t-bone, porterhouse strips:



beef boneless tenderloin:


Of course, all of these, bone-in and boneless can be cut to customers' expectations - thick, medium and thin.


Last in the hindquarter is the flank:


There are a couple of important steaks in the flank.  Of course, the flank steak:



and, the inside skirt steak:



and the flap steak:


Sometimes the flap steak is left on the bottom sirloin next to the flank, or is left on the flank, depending how it is broken down.  They are all coarse grained and thin, best cooked medium rare to rare and sliced on the diagonal across the grain.


And, from the hind or fore, is the elusive "hanger steak":



This is again the diaphram muscle, like the skirt steak, but it "hangs" from either the hindquarter or forequarter, partially detached during slaughter by the gutting operation, along with the kidney and suet fat.  It is prized in Mexican cookery.  There is a tough center line, but the rest is edible.  It has made its way from being kept by the slaugherhouse cutters to now gracing some of the world's finest dining tables.  


Also, from the hind, you get Suet and kidneys:





Beef Suet comes from the interior of the steer; it is interior, very dense fat surrounding the kidneys.  It is unlike outside fat.  It is much richer.  If you try to feed birds beef fat, they don't touch it; but beef suet they love, because they know it will protect them in the winter.  And, is indispensable for Suet Pudding at Christmas!  I used to take as many orders for suet as I did rib roasts at Christmas! 


Beef kidneys can be prepared many ways, classic English dish Kidney Pie, fried kidneys, and so on.  


Also, another delicacy is beef sweetbreads: (thymus glands)



You can get beef, but calf are sweeter and more tender.  Either way, there is a membrane you have to separate them from, soaking in cold salt water and it comes off.  Then, cut them into individual nodes and fry them up in butter.... delicious, they taste just like their name - pieces of sweet bread!


And of course, another offal (internal organs) is beef liver:



as well as calves liver:



Look alike, just one is smaller.  In comparison is pork liver:


Which has several 'leaves' to it.  Calf liver, to me, is the best.  But others will debate!


The beef tongue:



(sorry, couldn't resist!)



The beef tongue is a very good organ meat; it has a lot of flavor and cooks up well.  Also is very good cured and smoked, too!



Virtually EVERY part of the steer is salable - from the nose hairs to the tail (nose hairs are harvested from the skulls and average over $7,500 per lb., used in fine Japanese brushes).  And of course you've heard of oxtail soup?!  There is a market for every aspect of the animal!



This brings us to the forequarter:



As in roasts, we start with the rib and plate:



Note on the plate, the membrane with meat on it.  That is one of the skirt steaks (outside skirt).  You remove it from the plate and peel off the outer membranes and expose the inner striated meat:



This, years ago, got tossed into the meat lug for trim.  Today, it is a "value-added" cut demanding $9 or more a pound!  Many of the same "Value Added'" cuts now gleaned from the forequarter, merchandised into many flavorful cuts.


Then, we proceed to the rib roast.  This can be cut into many different sized rib steaks, first trimming the corner of the chine and even shallow-cutting the feather bones:




Examples of rib steaks.


There is a variation to this steak recently introduced called a "Cowboy Steak" (beef rib cowboy steak):



This cut is usually past the 1st rib (higher value steak) further towards the center or even near the larger end of the rib, with the 'tail' cut from the bone, but the bone left on like a 'handle'.  A great example of getting less for more, lol!


Of course, the bones can be removed and you have a boneless roast or cut into rib eye steaks; from paper thin to 2" or more thick.  (It is said that the best philly steak sandwich is made only with very thin sliced rib eye steak!):



Rib eye boneless roast...




...cut into steaks!



Doesn't that look like a party?!  I used to work in Alexandria Bay and Clayton, NY on the St. Lawrence River with boat docks.  Customers would come off their boats in the summer into the store (very well-to-do gigantic boats) and casually order 20 rib eye steaks 1½" thick for a "little off-shore breakfast party" at 7am in the morning, lol!  And they'd give me a $20 tip to boot for hand-cut, personalized service!


Next, the Chuck section:



From this, you have to divide the chuck into separate parts:



The first section is the blade chuck section.  Just like roasts, a stab'n'slab method would be to cut the entire section into steaks;



of course, trimming the chine, removing the strap, etc. into first, center, and 7 bone steaks:


first cut chuck steak:



beef center cut chuck steak:


7 bone steak:



These are the 'old way' to merchandise chuck into steaks.  From this, came 'semi-boneless' and 'boneless' full cut steaks, removing one or both bones (blade and back bones).

Then, the 'box beef' craze caught on and chucks got separated differently into 2 and 3 pc bone in and boneless chucks.  


however, blade steaks today are full cut, as above, or boneless:


And, what happened to the rest?  It got "merchandised"!


Top Blade Steak (also known as Chicken Steak or Flat Iron Steak):



and the 'other part of the top',


Beef Mock Tender Steak:





Top blade:



mock tender:



The next steak from the chuck is the 'chuck eye' steak; most notably, this comes the first one or two first cut roasts from the blade that are excessively wasteful:



The meat cutter would remove the chuck eye from the roast (bottom portion) and separate the meat from the fat on the rest and add to the stew and cube platters (as you cut, you tray up stew beef and on another tray, paper cube steak material (place on the tray with butcher paper between the layers to keep them from touching, causing brown spots)).  Save the chuck eyes as you process them and then tray them up 2 per tray for sale.


It also can come from the large end of the rib if that is wasteful too (where the rib ends the blade chuck begins).



From the Arm Shoulder:


The arm shoulder section:



Years ago, the stab'n'slab method would be to remove steaks or roasts from the face of the arm shoulder:


remove the rib bones with meat on them for flanken or short ribs and tray them up:


then, the bone turns into a large knuckle bone with little meat on the bone, and you can cut off a Boston roast off the long end:


and process the trim, and that's that!  Well, now things have changed!   The arm is boned out:



as well as the top blade section (on the right).  Then it is cut into Arm cut roasts and steaks:



That can be a pot roast, or a thick cut arm steak for London Broil!  or:


beef boneless arm shoulder steak:




The Beef Brisket:


The beef brisket is not often viewed as a 'steak', but it actually is, as it is a flat piece of meat much like a London Broil.  However, the cooking method is like a pot roast; low and slow until it gets into the 180° - 205° range, then sliced or shredded.


Full Brisket:




Beef brisket trimmed:



Beef brisket parts:



you can separate the flat from the point and cook separately, the point having more fat, the flat tending to overcook trying to render down the point fat.


In some ethnic areas you can purchase slices of beef brisket with the bone, all the fat and the meat on them, usually cut between ½" and 1½" inches.




There are two shanks: fore shank and hind shank: (legs)


Fore Shank:



Hind Shank:


both provide center cut cross slices:




and knuckles:


with meat:



without meat:



beef neck:





The center cut slices provide meat and a small marrow bone; enough however to provide good flavor and stewed long enough, will break apart into good beef soup stock.   The knuckle bones with or without meat provide even more flavor through more marrow (innards of the bones).   You can smoke the bones for dog treats or to get a smoky flavor to your soup or stew, too!  The meat will break down, but without braising in some kind of liquid it would be quite dry as there is not much fat at all on the center slices.  Also for o soup or stew you can use neck slices, also.


This is most all of the roasts and steaks in the fore and hind quarters.  I may have forgotten some, but these are the major ones.  There is constant changes to the myology of the animal; new ways of merchandising and new muscles separated out.  I will update with anything new or just PM me for anything!

post #2 of 7

LOL---When I was a kid, my Mother used to buy the cheapest Round Steak she could find & broil it until well done. That's why I was only 170 pounds when I went in the Army, and I hated Steak!!!




post #3 of 7


Edited by Black - 10/16/13 at 5:17pm
post #4 of 7

More great information Pops.  Are all of your informational things going to be made into a "Sticky" here?



post #5 of 7
Thanks. Saved to my evernotes file
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Like I did with the roasts, I'll copy them into an Article.

post #7 of 7
Originally Posted by Pops6927 View Post

Like I did with the roasts, I'll copy them into an Article.


sounds great....when newbies ask...we can send them there.



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