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About Beef

Cuts of Beef, Marbling & Aging, Beef Grades, Buying & Storing Tips, Special Types of Beef

Tips for Buying Beef

Before buying beef, you should know what type of beef to look for and understand a few key facts about the cuts of beef.

Beef is muscle tissue. A section, or cut, of beef may be made up of just one muscle or parts of several muscles plus some bone. The part of the cow that a cut comes from has a lot to do with the tenderness of the beef. Frequently-used muscles, such as those in the powerful hind quarter, will produce tougher beef than less-used muscles, such as those in the midsection.

The cut of beef you choose will help determine how you will prepare the beef.


Different Cuts of Beef - Tender Cuts, Intermediate Cuts, Tough Cuts

Tender Cuts Intermediate Cuts Tough Cuts

The rib, short loin and sirloin sections provide the most tender cuts of beef. Tender cuts of beef are usually best cooked using dry heat methods, such as sautéing, grilling, roasting and frying. The rib cuts include delmonico or rib steaks and rib roasts. The short loin cuts provide the delectable porterhouse and T-bone steaks, tenderloin and filet mignon. The sirloin cuts include sirloin steaks.

The short plate and flank sections provide meat that is somewhat tough but has enough fat to help tenderize the meat naturally. Cuts of beef from these sections are ideal for cutting into strips and preparing for fajitas and stir-fries. The short plate cuts include skirt steaks, while the flank cuts include flank steak.

The toughest cuts of beef come from the chuck, brisket, round and shank sections. Tougher cuts of beef usually require slow, moist heat cooking methods, such as braising and stewing. The chuck cuts include shoulder and blade steaks and arm pot roasts. The brisket cuts are best for pot roasting. Round cuts include top and bottom round roasts and rump roasts.

Marbling & Aging

Beef Grades

A Cut of Beef with Marbling (Streaks of Fat Interlaced Throughout the Meat)

Often, beef cuts contain streaks of fat interlaced throughout the meat. These streaks of fat, referred to as marbling, can add flavor and help tenderize the beef as it cooks. The more marbling a cut of beef has, the better.

Aged meat is available in high-end butcher shops and some supermarkets. Aged beef has been stored in a controlled environment for up to several weeks. This storage tenderizes the meat and intensifies the flavor of the beef.

There are eight grading levels used to indicate the quality of beef.


highest quality beef. It has the most marbling and is flavorful and tender. Prime beef is usually only found in high-end butcher shops.


normally the highest quality beef found in supermarkets. Choice beef has some marbling and is quite tender.


has less marbling and is less tender than Prime or Choice, but is also less expensive.

Standard & Commercial

not usually indicated on the packaging and are often sold as generic, or store-brand, beef.

There are also three lower grading levels, but beef of these lower grades is not sold to the public.

Tips for Buying & Storing Beef

Special Types of Beef

Tips for Buying & Storing Beef

When you purchase beef, the meat should be firm, cold, moist, smell fresh and not look gray. Any fat on the edges of the meat should be creamy white. The packaging should be in good condition and should not contain much liquid.

Refrigerate fresh meat and use it within two days of purchase. You can freeze ground beef for up to three months or cuts of beef up to six months.

Angus Beef

Special Type of Beef - Angus BeefAngus beef comes from the Angus breed of cattle and is considered high-quality beef. Some people feel that Angus beef is more tender and has better flavor than beef from other cow breeds.



Special Type of Beef - VealVeal is meat from young male cows. Milk-fed veal means that the calves are fed a milk supplement which gives the meat a creamy pink color and fine texture. Grain-fed veal means that the calves are fed grain and hay, which gives the meat a darker color and more marbling than milk-fed veal.

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