If you’re like us - you’ll probably catch yourself thinking about the next steak you’ll be cooking and where you’re going to get it from. And while you’ll almost definitely know the basic difference between a rump and a fillet - you might be a little out of your depth if asked to identify a topside from a silverside.
As more unusual cuts find their way into your local butchers, you might find yourself looking for ways to cook them - from slow cooking to a quick pan fry.
So without further ado - we’ve outlined some of the UK’s most popular cuts of beef - alongside the more unusual ones - to try and make your life a little easier when it comes to cooking your next steak dinner. Oh, and if you’ve found yourself here while sitting in a Smith and Wollensky somewhere trying to decipher the US take on beef cuts - keep an eye out for our American lowdown.
A go to choice for many and while it’s often one of the cheaper cuts of meat due to it’s tougher nature - it’s still regarded as a ‘prime’ cut.
Simply put, the rump is cut from the backside of the cow, meaning it comes from a muscle that gets more exercise than other parts of the animal - and this exercise creates more connective tissue within the muscle.
What it lacks in tenderness though it certainly makes up for in flavour and that comes down to that same connective tissue - creating intermuscular fat that produces deep, mouth-watering tastes.
Rump steaks are still tender enough to be fried quickly and served rare (if like us, that’s how you cook your meat). They make for a perfect choice when adding marinades too, as the rump cut takes on new flavours well while still holding its own flavours deeper in the meat. Plus, it handles itself well when cooked fast at a high temperature - so it’s regularly used for stir-fries or minute steaks.
The fillet is regarded as the granddaddy of all steaks, and as a result you’re probably going to find it at the top end of the scale when it comes to price.
The fillet comes from the lower middle of the back of the cow and is an under-utilised muscle in comparison to other cuts of meat. As an under-utilised muscle, one of the biggest benefits that comes with the fillet is the tenderness of the meat, and it's the large, more central pieces of the fillet steak that are used for creating a chateaubriand and beef wellington.
Not to mention, the fillet steak is very lean, which means that you don’t need to cook it for a long time to render the connective tissue in the same way that you do for the sirloin as mentioned.
So how do you make sure you get the best of such a regal cut of meat? Simply put - you cook it quickly.
Take a large pan or griddle and lightly cover it with oil (I prefer butter), and wait until the pan gets very hot. Then, sear it in the pan as quickly as possible so that you can prevent the meat from drying out (due to the lack of fat).
In my opinion, when it comes cooking time - if there’s no red meat on show you’re good to go. When it comes to the larger pieces, you’ll need to cook it in the oven - and to do that means just cooking it low and slow after a quick sear in that very hot pan.
This is a steak that sits somewhere between a rump and a fillet, which is why we’ve sandwiched it between the two!
More tender than a rump steak, this cut comes from between the fillet and the rib, with the wider sirloin of the cow also used to create a T-bone (with the fillet on one side and sirloin on the other). It’s often expertly rolled and tied, making it THE perfect joint for your next Sunday roast.
When it comes to frying the sirloin, you want to give the fat and sinew that runs down the centre of the cut time to render. This is why most people will recommend serving the sirloin medium - allowing the meat to fully cook through.
If you’re roasting a sirloin, the most important thing to look for is a thick cap of fat on top which will prevent the meat from becoming dry while roasting in the oven. Plus, if you want to make sure it’s as juicy as possible, I’d also recommend basting it as it goes - and regularly pouring the juices (and probably a little bit of butter) back over the top of the meat - to make sure that you really bring the flavour out as it cooks.
Beef brisket has become one of the most popular things to cook, with pitmasters like Aaron Franklin and Rodney Scott helping stoke that proverbial fire of popularity.
Hailing from the chest/breast area of the cow, it’s an area that’s worked a lot during the lifetime of a cow and as a result has a large amount of connective tissue that means it needs to be slow-cooked over many hours to become tender.
One of the very unique things about brisket, is it also has plenty of marbled fat which adds a huge amount of flavour to the meat when it melts over heat.
So, how do you conjure up your inner Southern mindset and cook such a luscious cut of meat?
Well firstly, it’s normally sold as a full joint, which means it’s a heavier cut in comparison to others that we’ll mention - and that comes with an extra long cooking time. Anyone in the US will tell you that pit-smoking is the only way to make the most of the meat - with 12-16 hour cooking times being considered normal.
If you’re thinking that’s a long time - some people will take it one step further, recommending a 22-24 hour extended cook to create an incredible, bark-like crust while the meat remains melt-in-the-mouth tender.
In short, you need to cook it until the meat is falling apart and away from the bone and while many recommend pit-smoking, others will recommend pot-roasting it with one of your favourite beers to create a nice gravy.
The Onglet - known by those in the US as the hanger steak - is something that’s appearing more frequently on menus in restaurants across the UK.
Back in the day it was often a cut that was taken home by butchers because it needs to be treated in the right way to avoid becoming tough and sinewy.
It’s a cut that’s often confused with the flank and skirt because they all look very similar - cuts with long muscle fibres that you can normally see. The muscle fibres also give it a very chewy texture in comparison to other steaks we’ve mentioned on this list.
There are two ways you can go about cooking the Onglet to get the best results.
The first is to give it a quick sear, and serve it quite rare. When serving it, you will want to slice the meat against the grain - the long fibres that you might get stuck in will be shortened, yielding a more tender bite.
The second is to slow-cook it for a long time.
Onglet comes from a region not too dissimilar to the brisket and as a result, it’s a cut that takes on marinades very well making it perfect for a BBQ.
One very important thing to consider when deciding if you want an onglet steak is the flavour. The onglet steak has an intense offal-like flavour - different from just about every other cut of beef.
Speaking of offal, we’re now moving onto the cheek - a criminally underrated cut of the cow. We thought it important to include this particular cut - largely because we need to try and do everything that we can to make the most of the animals that we rear for eating.
Fortunately - the cheek is becoming increasingly popular - and some of the top chefs around the world are cooking more regularly with offal than they were a decade ago.
In fact, Chef Daniel Hannigan - one of the chefs you’ll learn from on our Irish course shows you how to butcher, braise and enjoy pig cheeks.
When it comes to cooking ox cheeks, it’s important that you clean and trim them - particularly if you made the brave decision to butcher them yourself (this is harder than butchering a pig’s head - so act accordingly).
Once you’ve got the separated ox cheeks, they just need to be simply and slowly cooked. You can’t go wrong with braising them in red wine and creating a rich gravy served alongside some creamy mash.
Rib-eye steaks come from the fore rib (just above the ribs), which is an area that doesn’t have to do much work, resulting in an incredibly tender cut.
You’ll also find ribbons of fat marbled through the meat, adding plenty of beefy flavour and making the steak a premium cut. It’s no surprise then, that it’s becoming one of the most popular cuts of meat offered in restaurants.
Now - I know it’s your choice as to how you like your steak cooked, but like a sirloin, it’s better to cook it to at least medium as it gives the steak the time required for the eye of fat in the centre of the steak to render down - preventing any chewiness.
Also similar to the sirloin, a rolled rib makes for a brilliant centre piece at dinner. If you want to really blow the crowd away, consider a côte de boeuf or a tomahawk steak (FYI, they’re the same thing - just the tomahawk has the full bone attached). The best way of cooking one of these showstoppers is a quick sear in the pan with some butter, garlic and rosemary, followed by a cook in the oven until cooked medium rare.
No points for guessing why we call a T-bone a ‘T’-bone. Hailing from the area of the cow between the sirloin and the fillet is this wonderful cut of meat - often known in the US as the ‘Porterhouse’ - half of this piece of meat is made up of sirloin, while the other, smaller piece is a fillet.
Unsurprisingly then, you’ve got plenty of flavour and texture on the plate, with an extra hit of flavour coming from the fact that we cook this meat on the bone.
So what is the best way to cook a T-bone steak?
The first thing to note is that the fillet will always stay slightly rarer than the sirloin due to the fact that they cook at different speeds. The best thing to do is to sear the meat and then finish it off in the oven to make sure that it cooks evenly across both sirloin and the fillet.
Alternatively, you can cook the T-bone on the grill, but keep the fillet further away from the flame than the sirloin. The finished flavour of a T-bone is a big, bold and buttery mouthful of meat that melts as you chew. Plus, due to the fact that it has a stronger flavour than a sirloin, you don’t need to worry about it getting overpowered by a steak sauce.
Chuck steak comes from around the shoulders, and as a result the meat is worked heavily while the cow is alive, meaning we end up with a very tough cut of meat comparatively.
It has an incredible flavour once cooked, but because the meat is tough, it requires a considerable amount of cooking time so that the fat and tissue has time to break down.
The best way to cook a chuck steak is to use the meat in braises or stews that are cooked for enough time to allow for the breakdown required - while still making sure that the meat remains moist thanks to the cooking liquor.
Due to the fact that this is a meat that requires a long cooking time - it’s an incredibly economical cut of meat.
Sitting just above the back of the leg is the round, which is made up of three cuts - the top rump, silverside and topside.
Due to the fact that there is very little marbling of fat with these cuts they’re perfect for roasting as they’re so lean. The silverside can be used to make a perfect Sunday lunch, but it can also be used to make salt beef.
If you’re roasting the silverside, I’d recommend that you cook it slowly with some stock/wine in the base to make sure that all the flavours come out, which are perfect for creating a gravy base once the meat has been cooking. If you can get your hands on a cap of fat, I’d also recommend tying that around the meat to make sure that you keep it moist (it’ll also add a bit of extra flavour).
This cut of meat is very similar to the silverside and comes from the inner thigh of the cow. The benefit over a silverside when roasting, is that it’s almost certainly going to have a layer of fat secured to it which will make it an easy to carve roast that requires very little attention.
This is another cut of meat that’s often overlooked, but shouldn’t be ignored as it can produce an incredibly tender meat as long as it’s given the time to cook.
It requires a long and slow braise as there are thick layers of connective tissue running throughout - but if you give it enough time to cook they’ll melt away, adding a huge amount of extra flavour, with the liquid around the meat becoming a rich and sticky stew, that is perfectly accompanied by some red wine and shallots.
Set yourself 3-4 hours while this cut of meat slowly melts away, and you’ll have yourself a very cheap, and incredibly delicious meal to enjoy with the family.
The skirt as mentioned earlier, is often confused with the onglet and the flank steak due to the fact that they're very similar looking. It’s a very thin steak that’s covered in a thick membrane that you’ll have to remove before cooking.
The skirt works best if you flash fry it, or slowly braise it in a liquid. It’s often used in Mexican dishes as the skirt steak is very good at taking on marinades and flavours.
So, there you have it. A complete guide to making the most of the different cuts of beef available - let us know what you end up cooking, and share any of your creations via Instagram using the handle @joinrassa.